A Case for Discipleship and Spiritual Multiplication

Jesus before the Ascension

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:18-20

And then He was gone. This is called the Great Commission, Jesus’ final words to His Apostles before ascending into heaven.

So now what? How do we actually share the Gospel with all nations? If you were going to brainstorm ways to do it, what would be some of your suggestions? Use modern technology to share a viral Youtube video or create some sort of website? Go on a worldwide preaching tour everywhere for the rest of your life? Drop bibles from planes? Put up signs and tell people where you’re having your discussion group and then hoping that everyone shows up?

It’s easy to see how ridiculous a challenge Jesus gave us as Christians. If we didn’t know any better, we may have even given up. But thank God that Jesus actually left us with a model for how we are to carry out the task of evangelization!

What did Jesus do? Sure, he preached to thousands and thousands of people all over Israel, but He spent most of His time with His 12 Apostles. Jesus spent 3 years with these men, teaching them not only by His words but by His examples. See, as great as it was that thousands of people heard at least one speech by Jesus, there needed to be people who could do what Jesus was doing when He left, as hearing one speech didn’t make one a disciple capable of leading others to God. There actually was a tradition that the Apostles were familiar with that Jesus was modeling: the apprenticeship of young Jewish men to Rabbis. These young men who dreamed to be Rabbis would do everything that their mentor would do, speaking the same way, studying the same way, eating the same way, etc. These disciples would follow their Rabbis so close that it was said that they were covered in the dust of their Rabbi. With that in mind, it becomes much easier to see why Jesus’ Apostles were so quick to understand what Jesus was doing. One of the most famous parts of the Gospels becomes even more interesting with this in mind: Peter followed Jesus when He was walking on the water, out of faith in Jesus’ ability to allow him to do what Jesus was doing!

Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, and then the Apostles followed the model that Jesus gave them in their ministry. They still preached, as Jesus did, but they focused on building up disciples who could carry on the work of evangelization when they themselves died (this was a rushed process, as all of the Apostles were martyred sooner or later). St. Paul’s letter to his disciple Timothy gives instruction in this:

“What you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

St. Paul’s disciples were Sts. Titus and Timothy as well as Barnabas, St. John the Evangelist’s disciples were Polycarp and St. Ignatius of Antioch, and St. Peter’s disciples were St. Mark and St. Linus, the second pope. These disciples would be bishops and leaders in the Christian communities and help instruct the next generation.

By following this model of investing in a handful of disciples each, the amount of Christian disciples exponentially increases. Instead of one “super-evangelist” travelling everywhere hoping that a one time speech will influence people for the rest of their lives, this model leads to a deeper conversion and a more sustainable method of growth so that the whole world can not only hear the Gospel once, but have a profound personal experience of it through their friends.

Let’s demonstrate the power of spiritual multiplication in an ideal situation where every disciple from the Apostles on has 2 disciples every 10 years and then sends them out to do the same:

1 Jesus to 12 Apostles to 24 Disciples in 10 years.
24 to 192 new disciples in 30 years.
192 to 1536 new disciples in 30 years.
1536 to 12288 new disciples in 30 years.
12288 to 98304 new disciples in 30 years.
98304 to 786432 new disciples in 30 years.
786432 to 6291456 new disciples in 30 years.
6291456 to 50331648 new disciples in 30 years.
50331648 to 402653184 new disciples in 30 years.
402653184 to 3,221,225,472 new disciples in 30 years.

That’s nearly 4 billion disciples alive within just 280 years of Jesus. Think about it.

An Ordered Life

Greetings from Ave Maria, Florida!

FOCUS New Staff Training has been a blast! It’s been a two week grace bomb from God for us all, with so many new friends to meet, things to learn, and things to do! During the week, we literally have our schedules from 8 in the morning to 10 at night filled for most days. It’s insane. We basically have no time to relax, so I’ve had to be very careful to schedule sleep into my day… because I got sick when I didn’t!

I’m really excited our daily holy hour, which I’ll be doing for the next two years as a missionary. I’ve only been doing it for about a couple of weeks now, but it’s already been a fantastic part of my daily schedule! I’ve had an active prayer life especially since the end of high school, but I’ve never committed to a daily holy hour before. During it I do some mental and contemplative prayer as well as reading some scripture and a spiritual book in between segments of prayer. It’s usually in the morning, which is a great way to start off my day and helps me to keep Jesus in the forefront of my mind for the rest of the day. We also have daily mass, but I’ve pretty much been doing that for the past few years, so that’s not as much of a change. With both, it’s been important to get enough sleep, because when I’m tired or sick, it’s really hard to have fruitful times of prayer.

The liturgy of the hours is another way to live a more ordered life. They are prayers that are said at certain parts of the day, morning, noon, evening, and night. The Apostles themselves followed this Jewish custom as you can see in the book of Acts (10:3,9; 16:25, etc.). I can tell that there is a lot of wisdom in this because of my experience that the more that I pray during the day, the more open and aware that I am for the rest of the day of God’s presence.

In addition, I’m finding ways to remind myself of God’s presence through the rest of my day so that I can make room for silence in the midst of all the hustle and bustle- for me, just putting my hand over where my scapular is is a good reminder, maybe some of you have a similar experience with a cross or ring. When we feel inclined to pray, take that opportunity! Don’t let those opportunities pass!

How we live our days is how we live our lives, so make sure to find time to make Jesus not just a part of your life, but the center of it.