Make Disciples At Work

– by Brett Johnson

The Great Commission is constrained because we equate “make disciples” with “make converts.” This holds us back from shaping the lives of those around us, particularly in the marketplace. Is the problem the way we define “make disciples”?

Conversions, multiplication, programs
Google “discipleship” and you will find definitions substituting “make converts” for “make disciples.” They infer, ‘Go into all the world and get people saved… converted.’ A second focus is on proliferating the teachings of Jesus. After someone prays “the sinners’ prayer” they are instructed in habits such as prayer, giving, Bible study, and more. If successful here, the emphasis shifts to getting new converts to recruit others, replicating the process they went through.

What’s wrong with this picture?
At one level, nothing is wrong with this progression: we are to lead people into a relationship with Christ. This, however, does not “make disciples of all nations,” as Jesus commanded. An emphasis on personal replication to the exclusion of broader system-wide discipleship is a problem. 

Integrating disciple-making into core business practices
If you run an organisation and want to remedy a curtailed view of discipleship, map out the core business process of your organisation, then identify ways in which staff (employees) and customers can be served, shaped, or influenced during the course of such processes. While organisations differ, nearly every entity has a four-part business process cycle: Design, Build, Market & Sell, and Manage. When you Design a product/program, you can teach people to listen to customers, each other, and God. In the design process, you can also discover ideas that solve problems God cares about. In the Build phase, skills can be taught, new habits formed, disciplines instilled, and the rationale for quality assurance reinforced, to name a few life-shaping opportunities. When Marketing and Selling, characteristics of God can be introduced: fairness, speaking the truth, keeping one’s word, and providing a fair return for work. When delivering a product, timeliness, serving and seeking the wellbeing of the client, meeting agreed expectations, and completing a job are all things that can be shared.

One can go beyond these basics
Making a disciple involves teaching them to work according to God’s original intent as believers teach workers to work as God works. Design can come from inspiration, not just calculation; building products can be done with divine empowerment, not just human effort; and the delivery of services can meet both apparent needs and the deeper underlying issues. In short, business processes are an opportunity for “ministry,” and showing colleagues how to work well is therefore equipping them, maturing them… in a word, discipling them. What’s the alternative? If discipleship is not integrated into work processes it means people must draw away from their day jobs and add “making disciples.” Jesus commissioned work, first, then commissioned His people to make disciples. When we reconnect these commissions—work and make disciples of all nations—we position ourselves for success in both.

JOY! Magazine (November 2017)

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