Make disciples, not duplicates

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Editor’s note: Dr. Paul Chitwood’s column features a guest article from Nathan Bishop, Kentucky Baptist Convention First Vice President and senior pastor of Forest Baptist Church, in Louisville.


Nathan Bishop

If you know my father, you would know I am my father’s son. I talk like my father, have the same mannerisms as my father, and have a similar work ethic. Though his goal in life was not to make me his “mini-me,” his faithfulness and godliness has definitely been a tremendous influence. Sometimes when we set out to make disciples for Christ, we can have the idea that good disciples should look like, talk like, and act like us. In many ways this is true, however, in Christian discipleship, the goal should be Christlikeness over and above “my likeness.”


As we are engaged in the disciple-making process, we must ask if we are more concerned with making disciples for Christ or making duplicates for ourselves? Within our gospel communities there is the temptation to believe that assimilation or conformity to one’s cultural ideas of piety and moral rightness equate to faithful obedience to the Lord. This unfortunate error occurs when we place unbiblical expectations on individuals as they come into the faith, e.g., dress, speech, or other cultural norms. From our personal conversations and convictions, we can mistakenly create an environment that says if you don’t always agree on the practical application of the gospel or vote for a particular political party, then you can’t be a faithful Christian. Apart from the grace of God working in our own lives, we will always create false gods in our own image and expect others to take part in our false worship.


How can we guard against this temptation?


First, by asking God to search our own heart for sinful motivations: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Continually ask the Lord for His divine perspective in order to see the blind spots in your own life. Before, we can make disciples for Christ, we must be faithful disciples of Christ.


Second, we must guard ourselves against the temptation to make duplicates and not disciples by asking God to make us others-focused: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). If we genuinely put others before ourselves then we will be looking for ways to help those we disciple realize their full potential in Christ instead of trying to make trophies for ourselves. May God get all the credit for the “good works” for which He has saved us.


Third, to guard ourselves against the temptation to make “mini-me’s” in ministry, let’s ask God to help us to not settle for less: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”

(Romans 8:29). When we try to make duplicates instead of disciples, we are actually settling for a lesser image of righteousness. We need to be so overwhelmed with the grandeur of God that we would want nothing less than conformity to Christ within the lives of those we disciple.

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