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Discipleship Essentials: Reproducible

January 20, 2020

All my life I have been haunted by my multiplication tables. When I was a kid my mom spent hours testing me with those stupid flash cards. Now I am haunted by multiplication in a different way. I am overwhelmed by the potential for spiritual multiplication through healthy discipleship. That is one of the reasons I do college ministry. Even a small college ministry that multiplies disciples can impact thousands of people in just a few years.

A familiar scripture that illustrates the biblical vision for spiritual multiplication is 2 Timothy 2:2:

“…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Imagine a continuous chain of disciples who are making disciples flowing through the students you’re currently discipling. The Great Commission baton has been passed to our generation. Experts believe there are 4.5 billion lost people and 7,009 unreached people groups on earth. If we as collegiate ministry leaders cannot figure out a way to make our disciplemaking process reproducible, we will be guilty of dropping the baton.

This could be the last leg of the race before Jesus comes back. The world has never been in more desperate need of the hope Jesus offers. As much as I pray for another Great Awakening or a sweeping campus revival like the Jesus Movement, I know even that would not be enough unless there is a movement of intentional, relational, and reproducible disciplemaking on every campus. Nothing is more important.

Let me plead with you to not be guilty of practicing what I call “dead-end discipleship.” Dead-end discipleship is when Christians meet with Christians to make them more Christian, but don’t ever break out of Christian subculture to engage lost people. My friend Brian Zunigha says, “Discipleship without evangelism is not discipleship. It’s actually recycle-ship.” Too often what passes as spiritual multiplication is nothing more than reorganizing Christians. True spiritual multiplication involves helping non-Christians become disciples of Jesus, learn to live like Jesus and in turn reach others who will do the same.

There are no shortcuts to true spiritual multiplication. We need disciples who have the faith, courage, and spiritual maturity to “labor” among lost people until God saves someone. We need leaders who have the same longing as George Whitfield, who prayed, “Oh God give me souls or I die.” We need disciples who believe Jesus wasn’t blowing smoke when he proclaimed, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:36-38). 

I believe God is working on hundreds of students on your campus who would be ready to follow Jesus if a “laborer” would simply and lovingly share the gospel with them. The problem is not with the harvest. The problem is with the lack of laborers.

Are you a laborer? Are you raising up laborers? We need disciples who lead others to Christ and then have the patience, wisdom and diligence to follow up with these new believers and train them to eventually become laborers themselves and repeat the process.

Remember, your time is extremely limited. You only have time to invest deeply in those who desire to likewise reproduce. If you are going to truly have a multiplying ministry, you must follow the principle of selection Jesus and Paul used. You notice in Mark 3:14 it says, “and he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” The key phrase is, “…he might send them out to preach.” If you are going to multiply, you must master the art of the “discipleship breakup.” If you are discipling a student who is unwilling to reach others, it is likely time to end or at least change the nature of the relationship. College ministry leaders have natural reevaluation times called semesters that are a perfect time to plug students into more appropriate environments to grow. This is a painful but necessary part of the multiplication process.

Here are some practical things you can do to ensure your discipleship stays focused on reproducing:

  • At the beginning of every discipling relationship, start praying together for the conversion of their lost friends and family. Keep expanding this prayer list.
  • Encourage disciples to choose a “pocket of people” on campus with whom to build relationships and begin broadly sharing the gospel as opportunities arise. Ideally you would be doing this together.
  • Take them with you when you do gospel appointments with new students who visit your ministry. If someone comes to Christ, you could have your disciple do the follow-up with the student. It’s important they gain experience in practical ministry.
  • Make sure the discipleship tools you use are easily accessible (free is best) and simple to use. You want them to say, “That’s it? Even I could do that!”
  • As you are training students in a particular spiritual discipline or essential concept, make sure to infuse the vision for reproduction into the process. I love the phrase, “When you are discipling someone, this is how you could explain this concept.”
  • Pray daily and specifically that God would grow your disciples into laborers and that He would provide them with someone to disciple soon. Pray together for this during your meetings.
  • Don’t bog down the process with too many resources, events, or even ministry responsibilities. It takes time to make disciples. Keep your ministry structure simple so students have time to disciple others.
  • Provide coaching and training for those discipling others. Spend time each meeting discussing how it is going with those they are discipling and what it will take for that person to begin discipling others.

Multiplication takes time. Don’t stress if you are not seeing a movement overnight. Focus on quality, and God may provide the quantity at the proper time. 

Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, reminded his ministry leaders, “It’s not how many men, but what kind of men.” Do what you can, and trust The Lord to do what only He can.  Ask God to use you to raise up the next generation of men and women who will change the world.

Let me close with this quote from John Wesley:

“Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”

This is the third article in a three part series. Read part one Discipleship Essentials: Intentional and part two Discipleship Essentials: Relational.