Disciple-making is the main thrust of every sincere and meaningful attempt to fulfil the ultimate command of our Master, Jesus Christ. The church in our day has continued singing, dancing and celebrating while neglecting this commission. This is a big omission. It is a bigger omission that even when we choose to go, we only go selectively to the plains and regions of convenience, instead of the uttermost parts of the earth as commanded by our Master. However, the biggest omission of all is to go and do something else, other than making disciples.
The need for all involved in going, missionaries, evangelists, pastors, etc., to remain focused on making disciples can never be overemphasized. For anybody to forsake all and go to the mission field to do something else is not just a waste of his own life but also a waste of kingdom resources and opportunities.
There are many things that can distract us on the mission field. These are webs spun by the enemy to entangle any missionary or gospel worker who is not focused on this main thrust of disciple-making. If the church in our generation will work towards fulfilling the great commission, we must not only go but also go into all nations and concentrate on making disciples.
Let us attempt to look at things that distract us from making disciples on the mission field and how to handle them.
a. Inability to settle down on the field
Many missionaries and field workers sometimes feel that they will be forgotten if they don’t keep coming out to the cities and urban centres. Some spend most of their time organizing mission awareness and preaching from place to place to raise financial and material support instead of concentrating on raising lives and allowing God to send their allocation to their location.
We once had a friend, while we were working among a tribe, who could hardly spend two weeks on the field without travelling out. Disciple-making requires our concentrating on lives as God brings them our way in our field of labour. The same God that fed Elijah by ravens will meet all our needs right on the field. Did He not say that a labourer is worthy of his wages? (Matt. 10:10)
b. A desire to make money on the field
‘Mission’ is gradually becoming “attractive, lucrative and profitable”. Just as people open churches in the cities as money-making ventures, so do missionaries also get distracted on the mission fields by various attempts to make money.
A friend went to one of the hardest tribes of northern Nigeria in the early 1990s. I had the opportunity to visit him then and was amazed and challenged at the rate which he was learning the local language. We all rejoiced that a sharp instrument in God’s hand was in the making. Not long after, he got distracted by a desire to make money. Today he is still in that tribe and in that location but as a businessman making money instead of making disciples. Missionaries have often been advised variously to do tent making: a small farm, poultry, etc. However, a situation where a missionary begins to spend all his time, energy and anointing on the farm, competing with the natives on how many bags of grains he harvested, is a very serious distraction. The reason for your being on the mission field must not be overshadowed by anything.
c. A desire for a quick and impressive result
Disciple-making takes time and it could also be very tedious. In a bid to impress their mission agencies, sending church, sponsors and friends most missionaries are not patient enough to labour in obscurity on lives until Christ is formed in them. Instead, spurious and exaggerated statistics of outreaches and conversions are the order of the day. This has resulted in a lack of depth and superficiality in our missionary efforts.
d. Lack of Practical Discipleship for the Missionaries
We appreciate the sincere attempt to teach discipleship and disciple-making in many Christian institutions and Schools of Missions. However, we have come to discover that discipleship is not a classroom affair. It is a transfer of the life of Jesus from a more mature believer to another growing one. To this end, every missionary should not just study discipleship as a course but must be inactive continuous discipleship under the hand of a competent human discipler. If you are already on the field but you omitted practical discipleship, please pray and seek for an opportunity to be practically discipled. Even if you have to withdraw for a while, your return will be marked by greater effectiveness. Remember that your only reason for going to the nations is to make disciples. You cannot give what you don’t have.
Jesus gave us a pattern before giving the great commission. As soon as He began His ministry, He chose disciples.
And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach (Mk 3: 13-14)
Although multitudes kept following Him everywhere, He went. He was committed unto raising these disciples that He had chosen. He exposed them to His life and the secrets of His kingdom He spent most of His time to teach, train and raise them, and finally committed His eternal purpose to them. At the end of His three and a half years of ministry, He did not win the whole world. But he has raised 120 disciples unto whom He could commit the task of teaching the whole world without fear that they would disappoint Him. The work of God cannot be established and perpetuated by admirers, praise singers or mimickers. Only disciples can perpetuate the work of God. We cannot ignore this pattern that Jesus showed us and think we will go far in ministry.