This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.
By Dr. Doug Nuenke
Robert Coleman’s classic book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, highlights the central strategy of Jesus’ disciple-making: Jesus invested in the lives of a few to reach the many. Coleman writes, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with people whom the multitudes would follow.”
The key to Jesus’ investment in His disciples was His trust that they would be able to invest in other people, creating a ripple effect that would incrementally grow outward. This type of disciple-making is what occurs when we pursue Christ, and it’s something I call “generational disciple-making.”
God’s design for generational disciple-making rests on foundations from Scripture. In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God using people to further His Kingdom. In the Scripture, God’s heart for disciple-making is revealed. His vision of making disciples doesn’t only involve what’s happening today, but it considers the future.
The Promise to Abraham
God’s heart for discipleship always includes a vision for generations and the nations, undergirded by His purpose and promise:
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me,” (Genesis 22:17-18, NIV).
The Great Commission
Jesus saw the answer to a chaotic world in His disciples and their disciples. He modeled how to live a disciple-making life for the three years He was with His own (Mark 3:14). He imparted the vision to them and prayed for them to continue the same pattern (John 17:20; 20:21). Finally, He gave them this mandate:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age,’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV).
Generations of Grace
In 2 Timothy 2, we are given a beautiful picture of four generations of disciples that took years, even decades, to fully evolve. We must never forget that verse two can only happen because of verse one; disciples are made by other disciples.
“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others,” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV).
Spiritual generations are God’s answer to a broken world, as represented in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20 (NIV): “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” Generational disciple-making is God’s plan for the world.
Believers who know the heart of Jesus and pursue Him will participate in these ripples of Jesus’ grace. I hope and pray your pursuit of Christ will lead you to join God’s mission to see generations of disciple-makers living and discipling those yet to know and grow in Christ, and help others do the same.
Prayer: Jesus, help me to model Your example and become a positive leader for everyone I influence. Amen.
About the Author:
Dr. Doug Nuenke has served as U.S. President of The Navigators since 2008. He and his wife, Pam, came to faith at Texas Christian University through the lives and words of a group of friends. They now live in Colorado Springs and enjoy time with their three adult children, two sons-in-law and six adorable grandchildren. Nuenke received his doctorate from Denver Seminary in 2007. In his free time, he loves fly fishing, hiking with his wife and grandkids, and building a community within their neighborhood.