16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In verse 20, Jesus says to teach others to obey what He had taught the original disciples. This is the second half of Jesus’ qualifier for what it means to “make disciples”. He tells us to baptize them (leading them to obedience of the Father) and then teach them everything Jesus taught them (i.e. help them become followers of the Kingdom of God). Jesus’ teachings were all about living in this new Kingdom which He had revealed to them (and us). His lessons would start out as, “the Kingdom of heaven is like…” and from there Jesus would teach Kingdom principles which were important to grasp.
Some of us (maybe many of us) are thinking, “But I’m not gifted with teaching. How could I possibly teach others these things?” If you remember, not one of the original disciples was a teacher, yet they wrote and taught and instructed and made disciples anyway. Most parents aren’t teachers either, but their children learn a great deal by observing what they do and listening to how they talk. Children learn from those around them who are more mature and set the example. Whether parents like it or not, their kids are always watching and listening and learning. It is the same with spiritual children. They are like sponges, anxious to learn more and discover how they can grow to at least the same level of maturity you are at, maybe even surpass it.
In my discipleship classes, the main point I try to drive home is that we can’t teach someone else to do something we aren’t doing ourselves. It’s counterproductive. It’s hypocritical. It’s against what Jesus taught His own disciples. So why do we do it anyway? Why do we approach teaching others with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude? Maybe we don’t consciously act that way, but it’s how we behave. We give bible verses, encourage folks to attend some services and programs, but we live with unchanged lives. Why would anyone want to follow you or look up to your example if your life is the same regardless if you gave your life to Jesus? We must first become disciples before we can make disciples. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect bible scholars or become a pastor before we can lead others to Christ or guide them in the discipleship process. It means we need to learn the ropes a little before we teach them to someone else. That’s why in my latest book, At The Feet of Jesus, it encourages readers to go through it on their own first to learn and experience the process before using it to teach others. How can you guide someone through fasting if you have never fasted before? How can you help someone increase their prayer life if your own prayer life is nonexistent? You can’t.
Let’s not get hung up on the word “teach,” because it isn’t about preparing lessons and speaking in front of a crown like Jesus did in His sermon on the mount. It’s about, as John Dickson states in his The Best Kept Secrets of Christian Mission, “To live a life worth questioning and when asked, give the appropriate response.” It’s about living in the Kingdom of God and showing others that they too can live in this new life and how. It’s about being an agent of the King of Kings and revealing the new life that awaits them in His Kingdom. It’s about making a difference in the world and guiding others in how to make a difference as well. It’s about being a follower of Christ so that others can be followers of Christ.