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How Many Disciples Do You Have?

July 9, 2014

This is an excerpt from John MacArthur’s sermon on John 7, in regards to what Jesus and the disciples were doing during the seven months between John 6 and John 7. You can read the full sermon here.

I currently have zero disciples, but now that my eyes have been opened, I’m going to be asking the Lord to help me everyday to carry out what’s most important to Him.
“”That’s a tremendous truth, folks, that is a tremendous truth. When those seven months were over, He was ready to go back to Jerusalem, but not until. Now mark this, would you please, it’s a great principle, mark it, listen. Remember this, in chapter 6 Jesus spent two days, you get that?, two days with a multitude of 15 to 20 thousand people. That’s all, two days. He spent seven months with twelve disciples.

You say, “So what’s the lesson?” The lesson is this. Discipleship is the priority. Did you get that lesson? Discipleship is the priority. Jesus Christ came to make disciples. Jesus Christ before He left said, “God into the world and have mass meetings.” No. He said, “Go into the world and…what?…make disciples, teaching them.” That’s what it’s all about. This is what God wants. God is not merely so concerned with mass meetings as He is with reproduction among disciples. That’s the whole point.

You know, a lot of people get a lot of excitement out of the size of a certain thing. And it’s important that there be size in some things. I mean, the more people you can have, the more people you’ll reach with the gospel. We understand that, obviously. And as I’ve told you before, I have never yet in my life in this ministry, nor will I ever, prayed for God to send one more person to this church. I would never be so bold as to pray that. I don’t feel I have the right to ask God for one more till I have begun to make disciples out of the ones He’s already given me. The success of any church, folks, is not how many bodies are jammed into the building. The success of any church is what is the depth of their discipleship. That’s the key. That’s what it’s all about. Anybody can get a crowd. That’s the easy part. All we have to do is have free peanuts and balloons and striped giraffes running around on the grass and we could have crowds. No problem. Easy, it only takes money and a little bit of ingenuity.

But you know what is very difficult? To make disciples cause it takes a life poured into another life. That’s how you make a disciple. The Bible never says get a crowd. The Bible just says make disciples. Of course, sometimes a mass meeting is important to initiate the gospel. Of course it is. But Paul told Timothy the essence of what it’s all about when he said, “Find some faithful men, Timothy, and teach those faithful men that they in turn may teach others also. And you know what will happen? You’ll set off a chain reaction of reproductive disciples who will just keep reproducing themselves.” That’s what it’s all about.

There is a ministry to the mass, my friend, but the ministry to the mass is never and can never be a substitute for your personal ministry in reproducing yourself in the life of somebody else. Listen to me. If you’re a Christian, if you’re a Christian…watch it…you by the very virtue of your Christianity are responsible to be reproducing yourself in somebody else’s life. Incidently, before you start reproducing yourself, back up and find out what you are before you want to reproduce yourself. Start where you are. When you are what you should be in the sight of God, then begin to reproduce yourself. That’s why you’re here. If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you are responsible to make disciples. You’re not responsible to go to church. You’re not responsible to go to Sunday School. You’re not responsible to give your money each week. You’re not responsible for that, the Bible says not one thing about that. But you are responsible to make disciples.

Now, of course, you’ll want the fellowship of believers and you’ll want to share what God has given you. That’s a basic principle. But nowhere is there a list of commandments…go to church, put your money in the offering, go to Sunday School…that’s not there. That’s understood because you want the fellowship and you’re committed. But what is there is make disciples, make disciples, make disciples.

Ask yourself this? How long have you been a Christian? In the years that you’ve been a Christian, who are your disciples? Where are the ones that you reproduced in the faith? Oh not somebody that you led to Christ and then wandered away. I mean a disciple that you can look at and say, “Look at that life.” You say, “Well that’s…that’s really kind of taking the credit, isn’t it?” You know what Paul said to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:6 he said this. “Do you know why you’re such a wonderful church?” This is what Paul said. He said, “Because you were followers of me.”

You say, “Paul! What kind of an egotist are you?”

Paul says, “You have followed me as I have followed Jesus Christ, that’s why you are what you are.” Nothing wrong with following somebody as long as they’re following Jesus Christ. That’s the divine pattern. Also to Timothy, “Be thou an example to…what?…to the believers.” A pattern, a copy, tracing paper, reproduce yourself, reproduce yourself. Tragically and sadly this is the great hindrance in the work of God today is we do not reproduce ourselves. We expect mass things to do it for us. Listen, as Christians in this world today we are suffering because we do not have any depth. I thank God for those that have that depth and I know that many of you are moving into the area of learning how to become a disciple and then to produce a disciple, and this is exciting. But for the vast majority of the organized church, quote/unquote, there’s no such thing as reproduction. We’re suffering from that very fast and God has to use a mass evangelism often to compensate for the failure of a person to do an individual work.

Listen, we need Christians who count, you know. We need Christians who matter. We need Christians who confront the world, those who really know the Word of God and can reproduce themselves. But what we have are mostly Christians who know nothing, do nothing and cannot reproduce. And that’s the tragedy of the church.

And so, Jesus knew that the whole world needed His message, right? He knew that. He knew the whole world needs this message and He could have gone around the world fast by divine power and whoosh….just like that and told everybody. But He didn’t. He spent seven months with twelve people. One of them was a waste. He spent seven months with them.

You say, “Well why didn’t He spend seven months going around the world preaching the gospel?” I’ll tell you why. If Christ had done it all and left, that would have been the end of it, right? If you ran an organization in which you had all kinds of people under you and you did all the work, what would happen if you left? It would be the end of your organization. They always say that the great…the great character of a successful administrator is his ability to walk away and know that everything will function when he goes. Listen, if Jesus Christ had done everything, He would have come and gone and that would have been it. So Jesus Christ had to reproduce His life in the lives of twelve people. When He went away He could say to them, “It’s your job, men, and I know you’re going to do it.” And they turned around and reproduced themselves and you and I are living reproductions from those original twelve. But for the most part, they are the authors of the Word of God, the New Testament.

Christianity is the heritage of eleven people, and added later a twelfth, Matthias, because Jesus poured His life into twelve who would be around to pour their lives into twelve more, and twenty-four…whatever. That’s what the church is all about, folks, the church is a discipleship station where we are to reproduce ourselves. That’s why we emphasize teaching, knowledge of the Word of God.

Some people have the idea that all the church is supposed to do is evangelize. No, no, no, no. In fact, really primarily the pulpit is not a place of evangelism. We were talking about it the other day the fact that shepherds don’t beget sheep. Sheep beget sheep, right? We’re not to spend all our time evangelizing the world. We’re to make disciples who will reproduce themselves. And I’ll tell you, somebody was saying to me, you know, a lot of people change churches. People have come into our church maybe from another church and somebody thought that maybe that wasn’t a good thing. And I said, “Well, I would never seek people from other churches, never. Never will do that. But I’ll tell you one thing, if a person is in a church where they are not learning the Word of God, where they are not being nurtured in the Word of God, where they’re not studying the Word of God, where they are languishing in ignorance of the Word of God, consequently are non-reproductive, then I praise God for putting them in a place where they can become productive.” I think this is happening. I read an article where I saw the 75 largest churches in America and out of 75 of them I think 74 of them were evangelical. Today people are gravitating to places where they can learn the Word of God. And I think it’s exciting because if ever we do need people who are productive, we need them today. We need rule of discipleship. “”

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