Robert Coleman’s classic, The Master Plan of Evangelism highlights the central strategy of Jesus’ disciplemaking: Jesus invested in the lives of a few to reach the many. “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with people whom the multitudes would follow,” Coleman writes.
The key to Jesus’ investment in his disciples was that they would be able to do the same with other people, creating a ripple effect that grew incrementally outward.
God’s design for generational disciplemaking rests on foundations from Scripture:
The Promise to Abraham. The heart for discipleship always includes a vision for generations and the nations, undergirded by God’s 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 NIV84).
The Great Commission. We follow in the footsteps of Jesus who saw the answer for a chaotic world in His disciples—and their disciples. Jesus modeled it for the three years He was with His disciples (Mark 3:14), imparting the vision to them and praying for them to continue the same pattern (John 17:20; 20:21), finally giving 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 NIV84).
Generations of Grace. 2 Timothy 2:2 is a beautiful picture of four generations that took years, even decades, to fully evolve. And we must never forget that verse two can only happen because of verse one:
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 men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:1,2 NIV84).
Spiritual generations are God’s answer to a broken world, as represented in Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20 NIV).
Believers who know the heart of Jesus will participate in ripples of Jesus’ grace, joining God to see generations of disciplemakers living and discipling among those yet to know Christ.