What Is The Cost of Discipleship?
Joel C. Rosenberg
>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.
In the first session, we examined, “What is discipleship?”
In the second session, we considered, “How do I make disciples?”
In this last session, let us consider, “What is the cost of discipleship?”
Then, as we come to a close, we’re going to have a time of prayer, a time of worship, and we’re going to partake of the Lord’s Supper.
The Scriptures clearly teach that eternal salvation is the free gift of God — “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it. You don’t deserve it. God gives it to you for free because of the enormous price His Son paid on the cross.
That said, becoming a true and faithful disciple is not free. Nor is the decision not to make disciples.
Both are immensely costly.
The Cost of Becoming A True Disciple
When it came to talking about the cost of becoming a true and faithful disciple, Jesus did not mince words.
- “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
- “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)
What did Jesus mean?
What is holding you back from giving all of yourself to Jesus?
What else did Jesus say?
- “So, then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.” (Luke 14:33)
What did Jesus mean?
What is holding you back from giving all of your earthly possessions to Jesus?
What else did Jesus say?
- “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
- “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
- “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household….Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:24-26, 28)
- “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
What did Jesus mean?
Are you fearful of ridicule, rejection, persecution and/or death?
Is this what’s holding you back from being discipled? Is this what’s holding you back from making disciples?
What about the “great reward” our Savior promises to those who love Him enough to obey Him, not matter what the cost?
The Cost of Not Making Disciples
Yes, there is a cost to becoming a true and faithful disciple.
But there is also a cost in not becoming a true disciple – and cost in not making disciples.
First, let’s consider the big picture – then we’ll get more personal.
In the big picture, I see a real tragedy unfolding around the world, but especially in the American Church.
Many Christians seem to believe that “busyness is next to godliness.” They behave as if moving fast, thinking big, and focusing on the many is a more valuable approach to life than slowing down, thinking small, and faithfully investing in a few.
As a result, many Christians – including church leaders – are living lives of speed, exhaustion, and emptiness, not lives of quietness, contentment, joy, and lasting fruit.
They are not slowing down and going deeper in their faith. Nor are they slowing down and helping others go deeper in the faith.
They’re not really becoming more like Jesus. They’re not seeing the fruit of the Spirit develop in their lives. Nor are they helping others discover the joy of becoming more like Jesus. And because the faith of many “believers” is no more than skin deep, their lives are fruitless and defeated.
How much different is the typical American Christian from the typical American unsaved person?
Generally speaking, are American Christian really winning great victories over pornography, sexual promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, abortion, divorce, drug and alcohol addiction, dysfunctionality, and depression?
And I’m not talking about politics – I talking about winning victory over sin and temptation in our own personal lives.
Are American Christians significantly godlier and healthier from the society at large, a society that is increasing risk of moral, spiritual and fiscal implosion?
The apostle Paul warned us in 2 Timothy 3:5 (niv) of those “having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Yet, sadly, we see evidence of this within the church the world over.
This is the cost of not making disciples.
This is the cost of little churches when they operate like little neighborhood social clubs, not as warm and welcoming light houses trying to rescue desperate people lost in the darkness and helping them become new creations in Christ.
This is the cost of big churches when they move too fast, think too big, and cut too many corners on the things that matter most; when they operate as big institutions, rather than as warm and welcoming light houses trying to rescue desperate people lost in the darkness and helping them become new creations in Christ.
Please hear my heart:
I’m not against small churches – I grew up in one; Koshy led one – but I don’t believe smaller churches are better because they are smaller.
I’m not against big churches – I’ve been a member of one for 22 years – but I don’t believe big is necessarily better.
- The first Church in Jerusalem was healthy and pleasing Christ on the day before Pentecost when it was small, just 120 people.
- It was healthy and pleasing Christ on Pentecost when 3,000 people suddenly received Christ and needed to be baptized and disciple.
- It was healthy years later when James told Paul that more than 20,000 people had come to faith and been baptized and were being discipled.
Why was the Church healthy in each of these different sizes? Because its leaders and its member had a Supreme Love for Christ.
Several years ago, I had the joy of preaching throughout India with Dr. Koshy. One day we spoke at a church in Chennai that I believe was the first congregation God used Brother Bakht Singh to plant. There were 4,000 people there. The service lasted nine hours. No air conditioning. No chairs (except for the most elderly). No cafeteria. There were four sermons. I preached two. With two translators. People worshipped on their knees. Every person had their Bible with them. Nine hours. They were hungry to know Christ. They were hungry to be found faithful disciples. Should the pastor have been criticized because there were too many disciples there? Of course not.
The issue isn’t size – the issue is heart.
- the condition of the pastor’s heart
- the condition of the congregation’s heart
- the faithfulness of the people to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves
- the faithfulness of the people to the heart of the Great Commission
- the faithfulness of the leaders to following the model of the early church
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about the personal cost of not making disciples.
- We miss opportunity to experience the joy of Jesus Christ because we’re disobeying the Great Commission
- We miss the opportunity to make life-long friendships with those we’re investing in
- We miss the joy of seeing younger believers grow and mature and bear fruit in Christ Jesus
- We miss understanding a deep and powerful level what the Body of Christ – the Church — is really supposed to be
As we close, let’s turn to Acts chapter two.
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
What a beautiful picture of the early Church!
Those first disciples in Jerusalem were gathered together:
- to study the Apostle’s teaching/doctrine – and apply it to their lives
- to have deep and rich fellowship – to encourage one other to grow strong in the faith and share their faith with others
- to break bread together – that is, to partake of the Lord’s Supper and worship Christ for His sacrificial death on the cross
- And to pray – for each other, for their leaders, for the lost, for the people they were sharing the Gospel with, for the people they were discipling
They were full of the Holy Spirit and full of joy.
They were expectant to see God move in great power, and unashamed of the Gospel of His grace.
They were living the abundant life, and they were experiencing the invested life.
They were seeing the fruit of the Spirit grow in their own lives, and they were seeing people come to Christ day by day.
The Church was growing – in depth and in numbers.
This is a true culture of discipleship.
This is the standard.
This is what Christ tells us to aim for – and the good news is that by God’s grace it is reachable. So let’s reach it.
Gentlemen, I realize there is so much more to be said.
But I hope you found today helpful in beginning to discover what it means to live the invested life.
I hope the book is helpful – it just one of many resources, but my prayer is that you find it a useful guide in unpacking what the Scriptures have to say about being a disciple and making disciples.
Let us close now where we began – with two simple questions:
- Who is investing in you?
- Whom are you investing in?
Sadly, most Christians have no answers. Indeed, most Christians have never asked these questions of themselves or others.
The Church today is currently experiencing an epic failure of discipleship – and this is why so many people who say they are following Christ are so weak, so unfruitful, and so discouraged in their faith.
But that doesn’t have to be you. Maybe it is today, but the good news is that God wants to invest more in you, and help you invest in others, if only you are willing.
Jesus Christ is looking for a few good men to surrender all and follow Him.
Are you in?