Sterile Christians are Contradictions: On The Art of Discipleship

Sterile |ˈsterəl|


  1. not able to produce

Contrast “sterile” with this…

A Christian is a disciple of Jesus who re-produces.

He produced us, and we are to reproduce ourselves.

Jesus said,

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit” (John 15:1-5, NLT)

Jesus’ mission strategy was to reproduce disciples

Robert E. Coleman noted the unique relationship between Jesus and his disciples saying, “The purpose of both the vine (himself) and the branches (believers in him) was to bear fruit” (The Master Plan of Evangelism, 789). Jesus’ entire evangelistic strategy was to persuade his followers to make more followers. Yet we sometimes downgrade biblical fruit to include various works, effects, and other general successes, e.g. “I had some great conversations with my co-workers at lunch, there was much fruit,” or “my church has a bumpin’ singles ministry—so much fruit,” or “We just had a very fruitful smoothie outreach.” Eh…you get it.

But we’re being dishonest if we cheapen Jesus’ strategy to comprise anything less than freshly-made disciples! Jesus was calling us to reproduce disciples, not just get busy and productive!

Jesus devoted 3 years to only 12 guys

He was teaching them to reproduce themselves! This is so foreign to our culture’s motivation for numbers and crowds. His unswerving commitment to a few would result in over 20,000,000 disciples by 310 A.D. (Hirsch. The Forgotten Ways. p.18). This was how Jesus planned to build a church that would terrify hell itself (Matt. 16:18), by creating a few disciple-making disciples. It was what he staked his life on.

It is not enough to rescue the perishing, though this is imperative; nor is it sufficient to build up newborn babies in the faith of Christ, although this, too, is necessary if the firstfruit is to endure; in fact, it is not sufficient just to get them out winning souls, as commendable as this work may be. What really counts in the ultimate perpetuation of our work is the faithfulness with which our converts go and make leaders out of their converts, not simply more followers (Coleman, 826).

Jesus had no back-up plan

You’re looking at the best grassroots structure in the history of the world. The Lord of Heaven and Earth sought to win the world to himself by making twelve disciples, who would make more disciples of Jesus, who make more disciples of Jesus, etc. And this movement eventually reached you with the same basic plan—The reproduction of disciples. Fruit.

This means if we are not reproducing disciples, we are living lives that are inconsistent with what we believe and who we follow. We are sterile Christians….which makes about as much sense as a football bat.

The future of the church is largely affected on whether or not we make more disciples.

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB where he is committed to challenging Santa Barbara's independence by calling the city to follow Jesus. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting Peoples, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on June 23, 2011, in community, discipleship, mission and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I completely agree. The term Christian means “little Christ.” If making twelve disciples was so central to the ministry of Jesus, how Christ like can we really be if making disciples isn’t central to our ministry as well?

    • Yes, and his method reverses our typical way of evangelizing, making converts and moving on, or even spending a few days “following up.” That Jesus not only spent his time with the 12, but spent his entire earthly life with them says something. Thanks for the comment bro.

  2. This makes sense, I totally believe it, but it seems so overwhelming. There are so many people in the world! It takes time to invest in people and there are so many people surrounding us that haven’t even heard the gospel. Ahhh it seems like so much. I guess it just takes each of us individually to be obedient, and God will do what He wants with the bigger picture.

    • Lisah, so true. That’s one of the biggest hangups for me, is the sheer overwhelming number. But if we adopted Jesus’ approach, it might actually alleviate that burden….Jesus didn’t concentrate his efforts on the crowds, but on twelve people. What if our whole life revolved around only a handful of people?

      • It more than just alleviates the pressure. It solves the problem of the masses. The 12 followed Jesus for 3 years. Lets say we invested in 12 people for three years, and then they each invested in 12 people for three years and so on:


        What you start with 12 people can reach nearly 3 million people in 15 years. I won’t even meet 3 million people in my entire lifetime. But I can effect 3 million by being faithful with 12. Producing disciples who produce disciples is the only truly effective method of reaching the lost.

  3. It’s easy to “Let’s say,” but difficult to commit to such an involved relationship for 3 years, much less twelve of them. Do you know anyone who’s been doing this successfully besides Jesus? It is effective, but not easy. This takes a person’s whole life….a little bit more rigorous than a weekend brunch with chips and punch.

  4. So I totally agree. It has just been my experience that many Christians love to talk about discipleship, but not actually live that out.
    I personally love it and have been super blessed with all of those that I have been able to disciple over the years.

    One thing that I have noticed is that….
    Discipleship=Time investment. Both ways.

    Many people are not willing to give up there time though.
    Don’t want to sound bitter because I am not. This is just what I have seen over the years.

    • I hear you on the time investment, and commitment. This is something that’s convicting me more and more. Making “converts” is easier than making disciples.

      • What I think is important is that we don’t feel the pressure to disciple everyone. We really need the Holy Spirit to lead as to who we are to disciple and then begin ro pour into their lives. That has really helped me over the years.

  5. Discipleship begins in the nursery. Intentional, individualistic discipleship of children is my passion. It entails walking through life with kids.

    Sunday Plus is a philosophy of ministry that gets the entire church involved in the discipleship of the children.

    We are developing a Children’s Ministry curriculum, however one pastor said, “Wanda you can’t call this Children’s Ministry, it gets the entire church involved in discipleship. Adults who don’t think they need to be discipled will be because they will get involved for the children.”

    Disciplers commit to five children to walk through life with. they have little preparation for Sundays or other gatherings (Specialists do the preparation) so they will have time to connect with the kids during the week.

    Take a look and let me know what you think.

    The first year they go through the Old Testament and the second year The New Testament.

    We believe in whole-istic ministry, so for instance there is a Bucks and Banking component through which kids, Lord willing, develop a Biblical worldview of finances.


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