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The Pragmatic Disciple

A mature disciple is one who walks by faith, communicates their faith, and multiplies their faith. For many, they think that God saved them and now they should just go to church and maybe stay away from the big sins. They are unintentional in tending to their spiritual growth. Sadly, we have not done much to change this.

Given our culture’s pragmatic bent, the modern discipleship mantra is “make disciples who make disciples.” This mantra is pragmatic and reproductive. Is pragmatic reproduction Jesus’ chief concern? When He came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, did He give an inspiring message and then move to three action points on how to make disciples? Certainly, He did model, instruct, and send (Luke 9–10). The kingdom of God is embedded with reproductive DNA (reflected in some of Jesus’ agricultural parables). But the kingdom of God is also slow and deep. It stretches across arduous lifespans and into the depths of the human heart.

Instead of focusing His training on the how, Jesus relentlessly got to the why. This is why so many of His sayings are unnerving. As a master teacher, He provoked reflection, not just action:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57–58)

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (vv. 62–63)

Jesus forces us to reflect on our motives for following Him. If we live for comfort and ease, we won’t give up our beds, money, and entertainment to follow Him. If idyllic community is what motivates our decisions, we won’t give up close friends and family members. Jesus is clear. If we want to be His disciples, we must be motivated by something greater than comfort. His kingdom must motivate us, and the kingdom comes with a cost.

True disciples will consider and embrace the cost over and over again. They will endure because, in finding the kingdom, they have found a King worthy of their sacrifice. Searching for the why of their existence, they discover a pearl of great price. Disciples motivated by pragmatism alone may consider the cost and embrace the cause of making disciples who make disciples, but when push comes to shove, they will walk away from Jesus, not after Him.

Being a disciple that makes disciples happens in two ways. First, we’re called to evangelize. Evangelism is telling people who don’t follow Jesus what it means to follow him. We do this by proclaiming and portraying the gospel in our neighborhood and among the nations (Mt. 28:19-20). We must never forget that God has placed us in the families, workplaces, and circles of friends that we are in so that we can proclaim the gospel of grace to those who are destined to hell apart from Christ.

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