Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Discipling for the Church is to be a worldwide activity that focuses on the individual. This is in obedience to our Lord's command: to go and make disciples of all the peoples. I have used the word "peoples" instead of "nations" for two reasons.
From antiquity through the 16th century rulers and kings determined the religion of their subjects. The word “nations" (KJV, NKJB, NASB, NIV) is therefore somewhat misleading. Nation is a modern concept, that is, the word has connotation that does not apply to the Great Commandment.
The stress should be placed instead on “all the peoples”as the focus of disciple making, and these disciples are called out ones. They are chosen out of people groups. This harmonizes with the Greek meaning of Church: ekklēsía (from 1537 /ek, "out from and to" and 2564 /kaléō, "to call"), people "called out from" the world and to God and into His eternal kingdom.
While God works with nations, such as Israel and with churches as groups, in the final analysis spiritual responsibility rests with each individual. Further, His commission extends to every human being. Discipleship is a personal affair because the one making disciples reproduces himself. Such reproduction is more than bringing the individual to pray the Sinner's Prayer or even to spiritual rebirth. The disciple maker cooperates with the Triune God in the rebuilding of personalities into His image and usefulness (Rom 8:28, 29; 12:1, 2; 2 Cor 5:15, 17). The Apostle Paul explains this impartation of one’s own spiritual life this way:
“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.. . . 11. just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, 11 NASB)
I have been a missionary and ministered God’s Word half way around the world. My concern is that mass methods without personal discipleship rarely lead to multiplication. Discipleship involves compassionate multiplication through one–to–one reproduction, through small groups where there is commitment to the individuals present, and through the ministry of the local church. Discipleship of this more personal nature also often parallels the efforts of the Christian nationals who tend not to use mass methods.
Related reading: The Process of Salvation; The Grammar of Discipleship; The Importance of Follow-up in Discipleship