Following Jesus includes making disciples. The path of discipleship includes the joy of helping others to become disciples. Some have mistaken the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) as a call to evangelism while others have mistaken the Great Commission as a call to personal discipleship without regard to the welfare of others.
Of course, we should share the good news of Jesus’ substitutionary death—he paid the price for us to be reconciled to the Father. But the good news also includes the promise that anyone who turns to Jesus should be taught how to obey everything he commanded. How many of us have considered evangelism in the light of raising up obedient followers of Jesus?
It’s no surprise that our example is the Lord Himself. His proclamation that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the here and now also included “Come, follow me.” When we encounter these words it’s easy to think, “Of course, everyone should follow Jesus,” but Jesus of Nazareth was an unknown teacher from the hill country of Galilee. In effect he told others, “I can demonstrate the good life.” His message was more than information, it included the invitation to imitate his way of life. The Apostle Paul understood the implications of the Great Commission when he boldly asserted to the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). How many of us are comfortable making the same claim: “Imitate my life, and in so doing you will learn how to become like Jesus.”
Pointing to Jesus is not enough. Our personal growth as followers of Jesus is not complete until we lead the way for others. It’s part of Jesus’ plan for us. Demanding obedience to God is not enough. Real discipling is about paving the way for others to approach the Father. Jesus not only insisted upon obedience, he showed his disciples how it was done. May God give us the grace to do the same.