Learning from the Past

Too many people in the Western World believe ANYTHING OLD IS OLD-FASHIONED.  But this is not true for disciples of Jesus. This generation of disciples, as with every generation, has a fresh opportunity to reclaim the pattern of ministry that Jesus laid down.

  • For example, we are here because the first disciples took Jesus at his word.  They made Jesus’ last words their first work.  What would happen if we did the same?  I believe we would rediscover what it means to be a New Testament church.
  • Jesus and his disciples kept the main things the main thing.  We also need do this, and stop majoring on the minors, so we become far more effective in our ministry efforts.  Until disciple-making becomes the ministry of the church and not a ministry in the church, we will never see our efforts impact the world the way that Jesus envisioned.
  • Jesus could have told us about the Great Mission, something he would do alone. Instead, he enlisted us to join him in what we call the Great Co-Mission.  As believers, we cooperate with him in a synergistic manner – working together.
  • Jesus taught incarnational principles, not duplicate processes for people to implement. Jesus’ plan for reaching the world was not through massive evangelism conferences, though they have their place, but by investing in people who would then invest themselves in discipling others.

Today’s church leaders can‘t be like the generations immediately preceding them. Church in a box is out-dated, canned sermons are frowned upon, and leaders need to understand and apply a comprehensive disciple-making strategy – the crux of the Great Commission. 

IN the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, British prisoners of war in Burma during World War II are building a bridge for their Japanese captors.  They devote enormous amounts of time constructing a bridge that serves as more than a channel for passage; it becomes something beautiful and wonderful for them.  At the end of the film, there is a challenging moment when another group of Allied commandos force the captives to consider blowing up the bridge to keep Japanese trains from using it.  It’s a very difficult decision for the men because of the extraordinary effort they have expended in building the bridge.  The men have become so focused on the intricacies of their effort that they have forgotten the larger mission of winning the war.

In John 14:12, Jesus explained to his disciples the extent of their ministry: “I assure you: The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.  And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Some have wrongly interpreted this verse to mean that the disciples would do greater works in significance than Jesus.  Yet this is clearly not the case, for nobody can do anything superior to what God has done. What Jesus meant was that the scope of their ministries would be far-reaching.  The works Jesus has in mind were of greater quantity, not quality.  He was referring to the expansion of his ministry beyond the reach of one man.  While Jesus’ ministry was essentially restricted to the regions of Judah and Galilee, those after him would go separate ways and proclaim the gospel to all nations of the world.  Discipleship is a means to expanding the ministry of Jesus.

This would and did happen because the providence and presence of God bookend the Great Commission: “All authority has been Given to Me”…”I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


After a lifetime of making disciples and raising up leaders, I’m enjoying applying my experience and insights to the area of discipling especially in the current postmodern context. I have always tended to experiment with different ways of discipling but have become aware that greater adjustment is needed as we relate with potential disciples in the 21st century.

The aim of our blog articles is to continue the process of looking at the area of discipleship through the lens of the major contextual changes confronting us in the 21st century. If this spikes your interest, you can go to the above URL and register to receive regular blog notices via email (click on Blog Subscription).

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4 thoughts on “Learning from the Past

  1. Hi Col, absolutely wonderful. I hope I don’t ever forget, “they made Jesus last words their first work.” It so encapsulates our hearts. Thank you Ian

    1. Thanks Ian. When I’m coaching/training leaders I often ask them to explain, in one or two word if possible, why their Church exists. It would be nice to hear the words of Jesus “Make Disciples”. Unfortunately it seems that almost no one “makes Jesus’ last words their first work.” Colin

  2. Blessings Col,

    For once I now understand Jesus words “And he will do even greater works than these”.
    As with most – I wrongly assumed it related to the significance of event greater ‘miracle-like’ events, but as you say – ‘not so’…..
    As you point out then it is with respect to, through discipleship, through many others we take the gospel to – who ‘go and be disciples’, that this ‘greater works’ then takes the Word throughout the world!

    1. Hi John,

      As I pointed out in my last blog “The Authority to Interpret the Words of Jesus” we now live in a world where everyone can have their own interpretation of what Jesus said instead of staying true to what the Church (as a whole) has believed from the beginning. Glad the blog was helpful.

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