By Dr. David Bjork
After thirty years of missionary service in France, Dr Bjork and his wife are now ministering in Cameroon, Africa. Dr Bjork who holds Masters degrees in Missiology, Pastoral Theology, and History of religions, and Doctorate degrees in Religious Science and Theology, is professor of Religious Science at the state university of Yaoundé.
Mark’s gospel informs us that Jesus appointed the twelve – “that they might be with Him and that he might send them out …” (Mark 3:14, emphasis mine). Disciple-making does not happen in a classroom or in a conference. It does not take place without lots of time spent person-to-person, life-to-life. Where are the committed followers of Christ to find the time and energy to do the demanding and exacting work of learning with and from each other at the deepest level?
My hunch is that we are, in reality, more committed to recruiting lay men and women as members who support our church structures, programs and activities, than we are to discipling, empowering, and releasing them as ambassadors of Christ outside the confines of the church (kingdom work).
Several decades ago the veteran missionary to Europe, Bob Evans, had this to say about the importance of making disciples:
Discipleship both inside and especially outside the institution should be taking place on all levels. The question to be asked of the missionary is, “Where are your disciples?” (emphasis mine)[i].
I have been a missionary for 32 years. But I must admit that I have a hard time promoting missions as we have been doing it for so long. Do we really think that people will be motivated to pray for, support financially, and give their lives for missions that have been emptied of their essence?
Who wants to spend the rest of their lives planting churches and promoting programs that do not result in the deep transformation of lives that is Christian discipleship? Frankly, I am amazed that we are so committed to our endeavors that we won’t ask the question : “Where are your disciples?”
One year ago, in the December issue of Missions Frontiers[ii] the editor, Rick Wood, stated:
The dirty little secret of missions is that we are sending missionaries all over the world who have not demonstrated the ability to make disciples who can make disciples. Most have not seen or participated in effective models of church-planting or discipleship at home, but we send them out in the hope that going cross-culturally will turn them into effective church planters and disciplers. This is wishful thinking at best, and it has to change.
If I didn’t believe that we can reach our world for Christ I would have abandoned long ago! I fully believe that if we are willing to change our focus, so that we concentrate our energies on intentionally making disciples of Christ who will make disciples who will make disciples … etc., then, we can reverse the tide.
I am equally convinced that if we continue to do what we have always done, we will continue to get the same results we have always gotten. It is not in doing the same thing better, or with more intensity, or by employing greater means, that the results will change. It is time that we quit talking about disciple-making and begin focusing all our energies and ministries on doing it. We need to put disciple-making back into missions! It is the essence of the Great Commission.