Almost every Tuesday and Thursday, I meet with a few other men for the purpose of making disciples.  We hang out, talk about life, ask accountability questions and think through certain points of the Bible together. 

We’re not looking to create a mini-country-club.  A club of three is admittedly a sad club.  We’re not striving to solve the problems of our community or create the perfect church.  We’re simply trying to be – and make – disciples.

You may not think of a two or three people gathering at a local BBQ as the epitome of disciple-making, but regardless of what your discipleship process looks like, it has to have an end goal.  Whether you think of discipleship in terms of classes or in terms of life-on-life interaction, you have to define your discipleship target before you can truly make disciples.

So, let’s define the goal of discipleship.

But before we jump to the center of the target, let’s clarify a few things that we are NOT shooting for (these seven things may get you some points on the religion target, but they are not the primary goal):

  1. It’s NOT about living a good life and helping others to conform.
    If the goal of discipleship was to train people to act appropriately, Jesus did not need to come.  The law already existed.  The Pharisees spent more time studying the law than we spend studying Facebook (and that’s a lot of time)!  They had rabbis and they were already producing disciples.  Beyond that…the cross (hello?).  It’s not about increased knowledge.
  2. It’s NOT about increasing attendance or participation in the church.
    Although this is a natural consequence of making disciples, it is not the goal.  If the church was the ultimate goal for Jesus, He would have given it a little more attention.  But, as it is, He only mentions the church three times in the gospels.  So, while the church is critically important, it is not the goal of discipleship.  The goal is not the church.
  3. It’s NOT about more money for God’s kingdom.
    There are times that all of us feel like we need to help God push this effort forward.  And to be fair, God does allow us to participate in advancing His kingdom.  But, He doesn’t need more “money for missions.”  He owns it all.  I don’t recall any points of serious concern for Jesus because of a lack of money in the pot.  It’s not about more money – even if you are funding a great cause.
  4. It’s NOT about joyfully proclaiming the glory of God.
    In Revelation 5:13, John sees an amazing sight as all of creation joins together to proclaim the glory of God.  He says, “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

    ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’”

    What an amazing time of worship that will be!  But…worship is not the goal of discipleship.  Much like participation in the church, worship is one of the fruits of discipleship.  It is not the goal of discipleship.

  5. It is NOT about obtaining specific spiritual gifts.
      See 1 Corinthians 12:11; 19-20 and 28-31.  (Or just read the entire chapter for the full effect.)  God wants us to utilize the gifts that He gives us, but spiritual gifts are not the goal – or proof of – discipleship.
  6. It’s NOT about dragging as many people as possible into life-after-death heaven.
      Don’t misunderstand me - evangelism is commanded by Jesus.  In Acts 1:8 He tells us, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Evangelism is part of the disciple’s life, but it is not the goal of discipleship.  On top of that, life after death is not the goal.
  7. It’s NOT about dwelling in the kingdom of God.
      It’s not about experiencing “life that is truly life” or “abundant life” or “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”  It’s not about entering the fullness of kingdom-life today.  In fact, even though Jesus taught extensively about the kingdom, He indicated that we will not fully experience the kingdom while we are on earth.  He was quick to remind His disciples that while the Spirit would help them to “overcome the world,” they would still “experience trouble” in this life (John 16:33).  He also noted that “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30 – bold added for emphasis).  Therefore, experiencing the kingdom of God is not the ultimate goal for disciples.

So, if knowledge, the church, money for missions, worship, spiritual gifts, heaven and the kingdom of God are not the goals of discipleship, what is?   What is the aim of a disciple’s life?

Paul summed it up pretty well when he said,

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:8-11). 

When Paul said he wanted to “know Christ,” he used a Greek word that was sometimes utilized to describe sexual intimacy.  Before we strike up a LBGT controversy, let’s be clear: Paul was not speaking of sexual intimacy here.  But, he was making a powerfully charged statement that he wanted a deep, personal relationship with God.  And he went further than that.  At the end of that statement, he noted that deep intimacy with Jesus would result in an all-encompassing imitation of Christ.

That’s the goal of discipleship: true intimacy with God that results in an everyday imitation of Jesus.  As we aim at that goal, all of the other items (knowledge, the church, the kingdom of God, etc.) will be thrown in.  But, if we make the other items our focus, we cheapen both that item and the process of discipleship.

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