Disciplemaking is like joining the Starship Enterprise

I’m a delayed Trekkie fan. I missed all the hype with the original Star Trek series but became a fan of The Next Generation. The captain’s voice-over opening to each show makes me sit up straight in my recliner (my command chair!).

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, it’s five year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!

What a clear and simple mission statement. You can’t miss the purpose of this crew of intrepid explorers. Their assignment was straightforward— explore strange new worlds and find new life. The Captain of our Starship is also calling us to a clear mission — one that is bold and full of new life. But first He models what it means to live on mission.

Our Captain, Jesus, shot out of the gate on a recruiting mission. Mark the gospel-writer records how Jesus started recruiting followers after his desert time (Mark 1:16-17). He challenges some fisherman brothers to “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (1:17). What’s the mission? Becoming fishers of men — making disciples. This was not an invitation to a self-help program but a challenge to live for others.

The brothers are hooked. They leave the fishing business and follow Jesus to Capernaum. They listen to his synagogue sermon, watch him exorcise a demon, and observe how his fame “spreads everywhere” (1:21-28). Then Jesus meets Simon’s bed-ridden mother-in-law.

Jesus heals the mother-in-law and she serves his little entourage (1:30-31). The story of His kind act spreads and soon a crowd forms outside the house. Mark writes, “the whole city was gathered together at the door” (1:33). We don’t know how large the city was but no matter the population, a lot of people showed up clamoring for Jesus’s attention. He engages the crowd, healing and teaching.

After a full night of ministry, Jesus leaves the house the next morning to find a place to pray. It seems he didn’t tell his friends because they frantically send out a search party for him. Finding Jesus, they plead for him to return because “everyone is looking for you” (:37). The crowds are still hanging around the house — like a full waiting room in a doctor’s office. They expect Jesus to return to the crowds and the fame.

Does Jesus hustle back to heal more people, exorcise more demons, and preach one more time to an adoring audience? It would seem to be foolish to walk away from such an amazing ministry opportunity — but Jesus did.

Our Lord assesses the situation and replies to the disciples, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (1:38). Did you catch that? Jesus wants to leave! His mission compels Him to move on.

The urgency of the moment did not cloud the clarity of the mission. Jesus had an inner compulsion about His mission that kept him pointed true north. He first called people to a mission and then he modeled how to live on mission; turning down the urgent for the important. We can learn from his example.

Our mission is pretty clear — make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)! Like good Starship explorers, we must boldly go, but, many turn down the mission. We stand at the Starship’s gate and wistfully watch the ship take off without us. We give up Jesus’s singleness of purpose for other interests and diversions. After five decades in the disciplemaking business, I’ve noted several reasons why people don’t embrace our Captain’s mission. Here are three.

I pay others to do it. It’s easy to task ministry professionals to go and make disciples — after all that’s what we pay them for. Vocational ministers like myself become paid mercenaries, fighting the ministry battles of others. This is so contrary to our Lord’s original intent. His design from the beginning was to recruit volunteers, everyday live-in-the-ordinary people who would go and make disciples (Acts 4:13).

I don’t have the training or the skills. This is becoming less and less of an excuse. There is no shortage of disciplemaking books or workshops available today. I’ve written two books myself! We fall into the error that making disciples is based on what I know or what I’m skilled in rather than WHO I know and the LIFE from which I minister.

I run into the brick wall. My friend Richard developed a metaphorical “brick wall” in his church’s disciplemaking pathway. The brick wall symbolized the barrier that keeps some from living on Jesus’ mission of making disciples. What bricks make up this wall? There are bricks of cost in personal energy and time, the brick of feeling uncomfortable, the bricks of fears and inadequacies. Instead of boldly going we remain tethered to the little world of self, walled in by excuses.

Why break down the wall? First, our Captain is truly amazing! (1:27) Who wouldn’t want to follow Him? Mission means living in obedience, accepting our assignment from the Lord; an assignment called the “Great Commission” not the “Great Suggestion.” Finally, there’s the thrill of exploration.

After fifty years of making disciples, I’ve been to places I never imagined, made friends with extraordinary people, and been enriched by experiences beyond my dreams. My Captain’s call to boldly go has made my life fuller and richer . . . and He gets the glory in the process.

Are you ready to boldly go? Disciplemaking is like riding on the Starship Enterprise. We have a simple straight-forward mission, inviting men and women to follow our Captain as His disciples and to make disciples. What a thrill ride! But, it means imitating Jesus’s example, resisting the lure of the urgent and choosing the treasure of His mission.

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Disciplemaking should not be reserved for ministry professionals or a select spiritual few. It should be practiced by everyday believers in the everyday routines where we live, work, or play. Whether you’re a church leader looking to build a disciplemaking culture or a beginner ready to get in the game of the Great Commission, Walk with Me is for you.

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