Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Matthew 4:19 (NLT)
Following Jesus is never passive. A person does not accidentally begin to follow the Lord. God is never surprised by finding out someone decided to do so. Unless Jesus calls us, we will not come. We will not even hear. The condition of the human heart is so cold and dead that it will never come up with the idea on its own. If a person is hungering to know more about God, it is because of the activity of God’s Spirit within. You can be sure of it. The default mode for people apart from this activity of the Spirit is disinterest, if not outright antagonism to the Gospel.
For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me,… John 6:44 (NLT)
People will only come to Jesus if they are called by God the Father via the Holy Spirit, who is God’s agent on the earth calling those who were known by the father and chosen by him from before creation and for whom Jesus paid his life blood.
Not only does God use the inner call of the Spirit, He also employs the Gospel, which is described as the power of God unto salvation and which usually comes via the spoken words of a follower of Christ. Here again a deliberate choice is involved. No one accidentally relates the Gospel to another person, unless the hearer is secretly listening to a conversation directed toward another. It is always a choice made by the bearer of the Good News and often in the face of inner and outward resistance in the form of fear, misgiving, hostility, or even an obvious physical threat.
Not only must the sharer of the Gospel make a choice, but the hearer must as well. The words heard must be acted upon in some fashion or another for the Gospel to take root. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word, and faith is revealed by what we do. Faith that never does anything is no faith at all, according to James. The most common initial faith act is to confess that Jesus is Lord and obey the Lord by submitting to water baptism as a sign of complete surrender to Jesus. This begins the Discipleship Journey, which is comprised of countless successive acts of faith and obedience.
New followers of Christ pursue a Person named Jesus and seek to live by his teachings as recorded in the Bible. All this should be done in the company of other followers of Christ. This group of followers is called the Church. The members of a local expression of the Church are committed to Jesus and to one another. God never meant for his followers to go it alone. That is why he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell us and gave us other believers to accompany, encourage, exhort, and support us. The church is the means by which the Lord teaches and models how to follow Christ and fish for men. Those in the church must decide to take on the task of discipling new believers, and new believers must make the choice to let the church do this. Of course, the Holy Spirit is in the middle of it all.
A disciple is a disciple maker. Unless we pass on to others what has been given to us, we are not disciples. We may be church goers, but not disciples. The Great Commission commands us to go and make disciples, not church attenders. Being a disciple and a disciple maker is a choice. To make a disciple requires us to first learn how to fish. Jesus made disciples out of the people he “caught,” not out of people caught by others. He expects the same from us. As he was sent into the world, he has also sent us as fishers of men and disciple makers.
A disciple is made when he or she also takes on the responsibility of fishing for people and making them into disciples. The proof of discipleship is when it is passed on to successive “generations” of disciples. Disciple making is not primarily about imparting Bible knowledge; although, that is important. Mostly it is about teaching people how to follow (obey) Christ and go make disciples. This is where we as the church have largely missed it. We have focused on developing Bible scholars, people of moral excellence, church attenders, tithers, and servants of the local church instead of teaching and modeling the go and make disciples mandate.