Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Be careful before you answer. I’m not asking if you call yourself a Christian. I am not asking if you attend church. I am not asking if you read your Bible. I am not asking if you pray. I am asking if you are a disciple, and that is a very different question, because a disciple always makes another disciple. Disciples make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
One of my hobbies is propagating plants. I’ve been doing it since I was a child. Growing up in the tiny town of North Adams, Michigan, my family lived in a two-story brick home that was built in the 1800s. My brother and I shared a bedroom in the upstairs. I remember taking slip cuttings of house plants and rooting them in soil in little pots in that bedroom. I loved watching them develop from a single cutting, slowly developing roots, and then growing to maturity. I continue to be fascinated with the process today. I now live in Southwest Florida, and my back patio is filled with potted plants in various stages of development. I started most of them from seed or cuttings from other plants.
One of my favorite plants in my yard is from a family of plants called Bromeliads. One of the interesting aspects of bromeliads is that when they mature they birth new baby plants from the base of the mature plant. The babies are called pups. Once a pup grows to about half the size of the parent, you can cut the pup off at the base and transplant it to another area of the garden. The pup will have the same characteristics as the parent. Then, when the plant grows to maturity, it will also produce pups from its base. I started with one plant, and today I currently have dozens scattered around my property. They just continue to multiply. It is part of their DNA.
But here is where it gets interesting. Did you know you can buy fake bromeliads? You can. They are artificial plants. They look like the real thing. They are very similar in appearance to their live counterparts. They have a beautiful looking flower. They have long slender leaves just like the real ones. Some are so realistic that you could put them in your garden, and from a few feet away most people wouldn’t even notice they were not really bromeliads. The only problem with the fake bromeliads is that they never reproduce. They just sit there looking pretty, but they never make another copy of themselves.
I propose that you and I could learn a lot from the humble bromeliad.
This tropical plant shows us why discipleship matters. If you have never made a copy of yourself, at some point you need to ask yourself if you are really a follower of Jesus or just a fake follower. The real one always reproduces. Disciples always make more disciples. It is part of the DNA of a disciple.
Fake disciples look like the real thing. They are very similar in appearance to their live counterparts. They have a beautiful looking appearance. They dress the part. They may attend church regularly. They may give money to the church and other good causes. Some are so realistic that when they plant themselves in a pew on Sunday you would swear they are the real deal. The only problem is that they never reproduce. They just sit there looking pretty, but they never make a copy of themselves. They are artificial disciples.
You could argue that only the mature bromeliad produces pups, and that is true. But if the issue is maturity, why do we find it acceptable that ninety-nine percent of the people in our churches are so immature that they have never made even one disciple?
Recently I was reading the end of the gospel of Matthew where he tells about Christ’s final instructions to his disciples. This is what Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19, ESV). Notice he did not say, “Go and build churches…” No, he had already established that he himself would build the church (Matthew 16:18). So let’s be clear about the responsibilities. Jesus’ responsibility is to build the church. Our responsibility is to make disciples.
I return to the original question with which I opened this article: Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? If so, there should be evidence of that in your life. If you are really a disciple of Jesus, you should be making more disciples.
Perhaps as you are reading this, you look at your life and acknowledge there is no evidence that you are making any disciples. You are not alone. What do you do? I suggest that you begin with prayer. Talk with God about your relationship with him. Acknowledge there is no evidence that you are a disciple of Jesus. Ask him to guide you through the process of becoming a real disciple of Jesus Christ. Let him lead you to Scripture that will speak to where you are in your relationship with him. Seek out a true disciple of Jesus Christ and ask them to disciple you. When you do this, I am confidant God will bring you to maturity in Christ so that you too can duplicate yourself.
After all, disciples make disciples.
This article was originally published in the May 2015 Newsletter.