Should We Stay or Should We Go?
How Effective Discipleship Leads to Multiplication
By Dr. Ed Love (Director of Church Multiplication for The Wesleyan Church)
Let me take you back to a crucial moment in church history… the moment where it all began.
A few days ago, Jesus was buried in a grave, but miraculously he came out alive. Jesus’ disciples are huddled together, still a bit dazed and confused as to what just happened, but they are elated because Jesus is with them again and his hope-filled vision seems to be unfolding. For 40 days, Jesus continued to share his vision of the kingdom of God with his disciples. Boldly, Jesus declared this final missional mandate:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV)
Then there was a great pause… and Jesus was taken away into the heavenly realm.
It’s interesting to note how Jesus’ missional mandate looked more like a pebble thrown in a pond than a temple on the corner. For Jesus, it was important for his disciples to know that God’s Good News must have a ripple effect, traveling from town to town, country to country, and continent to continent.
However, within the time period between Acts chapters 1-7, we don’t see the apostles, who received the missional mandate, multiplying or sending missionaries in any way. The church is still stuck in and enamored with Jerusalem. We don’t see the church scatter into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth until Acts chapter 8:
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all accept the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1 NIV)
Take note of these two observations: 1. Why did the church scatter into Judea and Samaria? It wasn’t because of their passion to reach the unreached—it was because a great persecution broke out and they were forced to scatter. And 2. Who stayed in Jerusalem? The apostles stayed put, didn’t they?
Let’s just say it how it is: It’s not natural to go and multiply. Our natural tendency is to stay put.
It was a struggle for Jesus’ apostles to see themselves as sent ones or even a sending agency. Even though the early disciples of Jesus were delayed in their missional mandate, I’m glad we have this picture of the Early Church. I’m glad because I need to know that multiplication isn’t my natural impulse. I need to know that I can come up with every excuse in the book to stay put. I need to know that I can convince myself into thinking God is pleased with how well I reach Jerusalem.
In Acts 11:19-21, it’s fascinating to watch the disciples who were scattered into Judea and Samaria report back to the apostles in Jerusalem as to how the Good News about the Lord is spreading and disciples of Jesus are being made amongst the Greeks and the Jews.
It’s difficult to tell when the Jerusalem apostles understood themselves to be sent ones and function more like a sending agency, but eventually Jesus’ missional mandate did sink in. Church history describes most of the apostles dying in foreign lands as missionaries. Even Peter, the great Jerusalem leader dies a martyr’s death in Rome.
It’s good to know that my natural tendencies are to stay, but I want to fight those tendencies and end up like the apostles. I want to do my part and contribute toward Jesus’ original missional mandate.
Jesus’ Acts 1:8 missional mandate wasn’t a new concept for his disciples. Jesus had informed his disciples, even when he first called them to follow him, that they would become disciple makers and multipliers. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will make you into a fisher of people.” From the outset of their relationship, Jesus made sure that his disciples didn’t just see themselves as a disciple, but they saw themselves multiplying disciples.
Being a disciple and being a multiplier aren’t two separate roles or goals. Jesus called us to be both in his every expanding kingdom. If you long to be a part of a movement of disciples multiplying disciples and churches multiplying churches, take a moment and reflect on these two ministry-altering questions:
- What would happen if every disciple measured his or her discipleship to Jesus by how well he or she multiplies disciples and sends them into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth?
- What would happen if every church measured its discipleship to Jesus by multiplying other faith communities in Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth?