Participation

After someone chooses to follow Jesus, turning from their old ways and being filled with Jesus' Spirit, a new priority enters their life: making disciples of Jesus. In Matthew 28:19-20, just before he ascends into heaven, Jesus says to his followers, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." This 'making of disciples', however, is not something that we make like we would 'make' dinner or 'make' a bed; these things we simply choose to do and then do them. 'Making' another person a  follower of Jesus is essentially an act of participation. This is the significance behind Jesus' words, "I am with you always, to the end of the age". We cannot simply choose to make another person follow Jesus, but we can participate in the process.

There is a helpful story in Luke 5:1-11 where Jesus takes Peter out onto the lake to go fishing. Peter had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing, yet Jesus said to him, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch". Peter did so and they caught so many fish that their boats began to sink. After this Jesus said to Peter, "from now on you will be catching men." The point to note in this story is that Peter was unable to catch fish; it was only as he went out with Jesus that he caught fish. We must assume then that Jesus expected things to be the same when Peter started fishing for men; it would only be as Peter went with Jesus that he would catch men. This 'making of disciples' then is not something we can do on our own, rather it is something that Jesus does and we join in with.

Prayer

If this idea of participation holds true, our primary task in making disciples becomes one of listening to Jesus through prayer. He is no longer with us in physical form, rather his Spirit dwells within us. It is through prayer that we can listen to where Jesus might be calling us to 'put out into the deep'. Both individually and as a church we are to bring our lives and resources, our 'boats' as it were, before God in prayer and listen to where he might be calling us. To return to Jesus' command in Matthew 28, it is not simply a matter of 'going' but of  'going with Jesus'. To make disciples is essentially an act of participation through prayer.

If there is someone in our life that we want to see follow Jesus, a person that is on our heart, we are to pray to Jesus and ask, "What are you doing in this person's life and how can I join in?" It is in this way that we participate with what Jesus is already doing rather than trying to make disciples on our own. This is why the practice of prayer is such an important part of following Jesus, for it is as we listen to him that he takes us along with him.