Discipleship is More than Preaching to a Crowd


18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20

It’s called the Great Commission. According to Jesus in Matthew 28:19, we are called as His church to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” All of us, have been given this commission by Jesus Himself – both clergy and laity. A church without disciple-making does not represent the true church of Jesus Christ. You might argue that Jesus drew great crowds…Jesus did miracles and healings… and that Jesus wasn’t always making disciples. And you would be correct. But Jesus did spend much of His time with twelve men, making them into disciples who after Pentecost carried out the “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” command. The result was “they turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

I come from a family of pastors. I have been raised and surrounded by pastors my entire life.  My best friends are pastors. My brother is a pastor. My dad is a pastor. My son is a pastor. One thing I know about we pastors is, we love to preach. Someone once said, pastors will preach at the drop of a hat and they will drop the hat. Absolutely! Any pastor will tell you if ministry is the cake, then preaching is the icing. But please hear me when I say, preaching is not equal to making disciples. Not even close!

I will admit, preaching is a small part of discipleship. It is true, some folks do receive the word when you preach, but not all (see the Parable of the Sower). It’s hard for most pastors to admit that. We preachers take our craft very seriously. I like to say that preaching is sowing the seed, but discipleship is personally and carefully placing every seed into the heart of the hearer through an intentional relationship. This kind of ministry happens though mentoring and small group discipleship. It’s more precise. According to John 15:8, it is true discipleship that produces much fruit.

It grieves the heart of God that many churches could care less about practicing the kind of discipleship that Jesus modeled before us while on earth.  Sadly, many pastors and church leaders measure the effectiveness of a church by their statistics, or the compliments they receive from their congregants on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, most pastors think their job is to make converts through their preaching, but in reality salvation is just the beginning of the discipleship process.

Pastor, if I may, let me give you a few more reasons why your ministry should be centered on making disciples instead of preaching sermons. I am not making these up. I did not read them in a book. I have experienced them myself and found them to be true when you make disciples.

  • Your church will be more mature leading to lower maintenance people for you to pastor. You may have never heard that before, but it is true. People that are discipled and making disciples don’t have time to cause problems – for themselves or others. Not only that, but they are being corrected by the word through the Spirit of God as they feed on God’s word daily. Honestly, in my thirty-seven years as a pastor, the people that created the greatest problems for me transferred in from churches where they were not active in a structured discipleship program. Basically, they thought their self-acclaimed gifting as a “pew critic” gave them the right to call out all the problems of the church and the pastor and his family too. Real disciples of Christ have no interest in those kinds of things.
  • Your leaders will come from those that you or your church leaders have discipled. The modern church is not telling you this. They are telling you that if your train or equip people with leadership principles, they will become leaders. And yes, there is a time for that. But discipleship that leads to making disciples must come first. And honestly, if I have a disciple that makes disciples, that might be all the leadership training he or she needs. Just saying…
  • Multiplication comes through discipleship. I shouldn’t have to explain that. That’s how multiplication happened in the early church, and it’s no different today. Please remember, we are called to build the kingdom of Christ, not the attendance inside the four walls of our churches on Sunday morning. Not everyone you disciple will stay in your house. Read the book of Acts – they are not supposed to! The great commission is to “Go, and make disciples of all nations.” Stop preventing the great Commission from being fulfilled! Disciple them and send them! Trust God to bring you more…He will if you are making disciples.
  • One final great reason for you as a pastor to make disciple-making the main thing…LESS STRESS AND BURN OUT! I am not exaggerating! You and your wife, or your staff does not have to do it all. Christ did not set up His church that way! He spent two and half years making disciples, died on the cross, arose from the grave, and left it to the disciples and the Holy Spirit to do the rest. That was the plan! I know churches with bumper stickers stating that their church is to win their city. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one pastor and one congregation. We as the church are called to do one thing – make disciples. God didn’t call you to pack out your building every Sunday, set financial records, and build bigger buildings. He didn’t tell you to build a church that would win it’s city. He called you and the people you pastor to make disciples. That’s it! If you really believe that, it will lighten your stress load! I promise! You will sleep better at night. Be healthier, and even your dog might like you better!

Believe me, we do not have all the answers at Relational Discipleship Ministries. We have some tools that can help you be a disciple and make disciples. But it all starts with all of us understanding that more important than our gifts, talents, callings, and ministries, is the co-mission with Jesus to make disciples. Are you making disciples?

Randy L Ballard