Disciplemaking Learning Communities: An introduction to following Jesus together

[This post introduces our series about Disciplemaking Learning Communities, which we believe are crucial to becoming a disciple who makes disciples who makes disciples. These are not meant to be definitive or exhaustive, but simply indicators—to help you begin to wrestle what a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community looks like for you.]

At the tail end of his earthly ministry, the resurrected Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples and commanded them to make disciples.

I know. You’ve heard it a thousand times. But this time, I dare you to stop and ponder it for a moment.

How would Jesus’ eleven disciples have understood his command to make disciples?

How the disciples heard the Great Commission

If you’ll graciously allow me more than a little poetic license here, I’d like to take a shot at answering that question.  When Jesus commanded his original eleven disciples to “make disciples,” I suggest that they would have heard something like this:

“Guys, you know what I’ve done with you for the last three and a half  years? Repeat that in the exact same way over and over again! As you go about your lives, do exactly what I did with you…with others…and help them do it with others without ever stopping. When you tell others about me, some will believe and follow me. Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Be sure to pull them close—like I did with you—and show them how to love God, love people, and make disciples…until every ethnic group in the world has disciples who are making more disciples. As you live my disciplemaking way of life, you can have full assurance of my presence, power and provision—for I am always with you.”

So how did the eleven disciples respond to Jesus’ command to make disciples?

Imitate me

Did they understand? Better yet, did they obey? The Bible is clear. Together, as they went, they sought to live and replicate Jesus’ pattern for disciplemaking…in the exact same way as Jesus…over and over. And a Jesus-like disciplemaking movement was born. About 25 years later, the Apostle Paul (not one of the original eleven disciples) wrote about his Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life this way:

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

It started with Jesus, who showed the original eleven disciples how to make disciplemakers. In the pattern of Jesus, these original eleven disciples made more disciples of Jesus. Later, this Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life transformed Paul. It was precisely because Paul was imitating Jesus’ disciplemaking way of life that he could say to others, “I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul passed this Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life on to many others including Timothy, the church at Corinth, and “everywhere in every church.” These cadres of Jesus-like disciplemakers were the very first Disciplemaking Learning Communities—the disciplemaking genius of Jesus at work.  And they changed the world.

Jesus’ disciplemaking pattern today

Stop and think about this for a moment:

Would you say that the disciplemaking pattern exemplified by Jesus, his disciples, and Paul is clear and primary today?  Of course, Jesus-like disciplemakers and communities of disciples learning together have been present in some way, shape or form in every age since Jesus. But somewhere along the way—over the years—across the cultures, have we drifted away from the clarity and primacy of the disciplemaking genius of Jesus?

Let’s get personal. Have you lost sight of what Jesus means when he commands you to “make disciples”?

Dream with me for a minute.

What would happen if you became obsessed with loving Jesus and living a Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life?

What could God do if you gathered together with just a few others who are passionate about living a Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life?

It’s this gathering together with a few others who are passionate about living a Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life that we want to explore with you. We call this gathering of aspiring Jesus-like disciplemakers a Disciplemaking Learning Community—or DLC for short.

Why Disciplemaking Learning Communities are so critically important

The life of Jesus shows us that the delivery conduit for disciplemaking is a Disciplemaking Learning Community. STOP! Go back and re-read that sentence again. It’s really important. Think about it. A Disciplemaking Learning Community is not simply an ingredient for making disciples like Jesus—it’s how Jesus made disciples. (See Mark 3:13-15.) Let me say it again: The life of Jesus shows us that the delivery conduit for disciplemaking is a Disciplemaking Learning Community.

But what does a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community look like in our 21st Century, Western culture?

Now that’s a great question. Short answer: I don’t fully know. I know it’s not likely that we’ll all quit our day jobs and travel around for miles on foot together–like Jesus did with his disciples. My wife and seven kids would prefer a van.  While I don’t fully know the answer to that question…I know it’s the right question and I am learning. For years I’ve been prayerful and intentional about doing life in a Disciplemaking Learning Community. And I’m constantly failing, reflecting, and tweaking as I go. From time to time, I experience some aspect of a 21st Century equivalent of a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community. These have wrecked my life…in wonderful ways. I’m hungry for more. Way more.

The adventure of following Jesus together, today

So I invite you to join me on an adventure of trying to wrap the arms of our hearts and minds around what a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community looks like in our 21st century Western culture.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing with you eight leading indicators that you could be experiencing a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community.  I offer these not as definitive or exhaustive, but simply as indicators, to help you begin to wrestle what a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community looks like for you. Note: It takes a minimum of two people to wrestle. And a real wrestling fan knows the best wrestling matches have more than just two people in the ring at the same time. So put a few people into the ring with you and dig into this…together…with Jesus.

Pause, Ponder and Discuss

How do you understand Jesusʼ words, “make disciples”?

In your own words, explain why a Disciplemaking Learning Community is required for making disciples like Jesus.

In your opinion, what might be some of the essential indicators that someone is a part of a Jesus-like Disciplemaking Learning Community? Make a short list. Discuss.

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