The Purpose Of A Tree / by David Campbell

I was having a discussion with a close friend and mentor of mine this weekend.  We were discussing the nature and activity of disciple making and church planting.  He told me a story that happened to him many many years ago in India.

He and his team had heard of this old Indian man who had planted over 60+ churches in a span of a few months.  It became known throughout the region and mission workers so they made a time to go and meet with this man.

After some pleasantries they got down to the business at hand - what was this man doing that was yielding so much fruit?  The man said that he did not focus on church planting or even try to plant churches but rather only focused on disciple making.  Making disciples was the activity and church planting was the result.  This response was not necessarily strange.  There is no command in the bible to plant churches but there is a clear command to make disciples.  Yet this statement leads to an obvious follow up question - "How do you make disciples?"

The man responded by asking a question of his own.  He said, "Sir do you know the purpose of a tree?"  My friend responded, "I suppose it is to clean the air and provide oxygen.  Perhaps to provide shade and refuge for certain types of wildlife.  Also the roots prevent landslides and mud slides.  The trunk can provide wood, etc."  The older man responded, "these are benefits of a tree, but do you know the purpose of a tree. Do you know what a tree's primary task is?"  My friend, knowing that this story was going in a direction he had not previously consider, said that he did not know the purpose of a tree.

The old man said, "The purpose and primary task of a tree is to reproduce.  To make other trees.  When you have more and more trees all of the benefits you have mentioned are suddenly possible.  The purpose and primary task of a disciple is to make other disciples.  From this the whole world receives benefit and the glory of God is spread to the ends of the earth."

I have been pondering this story all weekend and thinking through it's implications.  It seems like in modern western style discipleship we emphasize doctrine or teaching but seldom obedience.  If we do emphasize obedience we focus on doing good works and other noble activities.  Yet perhaps this is like trying to teach a tree to clean the air, hold the soil together, etc.  Simply benefits the world gets from having disciples in it.  Jesus said to follow Him and He would make us fishers of men.

This has been our conviction from since before we got to Berlin yet this story crystallized it in a way that I had not seen before.  We make disciples by teaching people how to teach people how to make disciples.  In short we teach them to reproduce.  We teach them to share their story and Jesus' story and we teach them how to  follow Jesus by listening to what He is telling them in the bible and to faithfully obey what they hear and read.  If they are in the hands of the savior they are in great hands.  

How many people will hear of Jesus today because of your story?  If you would like practical help in being able to tell your story and Jesus' story let us know, we are always glad to help.