We are called to make disciples. It is the heart of our Lord’s Commission for His Church. Jesus said:
“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 28:19,20)
We fulfill the Great Commission as we develop students and adults into faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, many depart from the faith because they are not led to maturity and service in the body of Christ.
Bill Hull writes, “The crisis at the heart of the church is a crisis of product.”1 Jesus made it abundantly clear that this singular product is the mission of His Church—“Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) According to Jesus, every church’s mission is one and the same: make disciples of Jesus.
Discipleship is the key to effective ministry in the church. Nothing we can do has more potential to change the world than making disciples.
According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, “A disciple of Christ is one who: 1) believes His doctrine; 2) rests on His sacrifice; 3) imbibes His spirit; and 4) imitates His example (Matthew 10:24; Luke 14:26-33; John 6:69). In other words, a disciple is someone who is growing spiritually.
A disciple: 1) is obedient to God’s Word (John 8:31); 2) loving (John 13:35); 3) fruitful (John 15:8); 4) always prepared to share the hope of life in Christ (2 Timothy 4:2); and 5) lives the Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).
In writing to the Corinthian church about their not growing in Christ-likeness, the Apostle Paul wrote: “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)
Immature Christians are “worldly,” controlled by their own desires; spiritually mature disciples are in tune with God’s desires. A spiritually mature disciple wants God’s desires to be their own.
The goal of discipleship is to make disciples who can then make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded: “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15).
Jesus brought clear understanding to what it meant to be a disciple when He said: “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). The Apostle Paul echoed this way of life when he said: “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
Disciple-makers are to lead people to Christ and help them mature spiritually. Disciple-makers have an intense love, concern and lifelong care for those to whom they are spiritual parents. When we lead people to Christ, we are to stand by them, helping them grow until they are fully trained.
LeRoy Eims wrote, “Disciples cannot be massed produced. We cannot drop people into a program and see disciples emerge at the end of a production line. It takes time to make disciples. It takes individual personal attention.”2
Making disciples involves bringing people into a personal relationship with Jesus and staying with them until their whole lives are in obedience to Christ Jesus.
The Master’s plan of Discipleship includes the following:
• We are called to make disciples, not just converts.
• Disciples are made in intimate, accountable relationships.
• Discipleship is a process, not a program.
• Making disciples involves helping another learn to obey all that Jesus commanded.
• Making disciples takes place in the context of loving, safe, confidential, and personal relationships – transparency, community, and accountability are paramount.
• Making disciples occurs as each person assists others in their commitment and growth to one other and to Christ Jesus.
• Making disciples includes helping others grow in God’s Word, fellowship, communion and in prayer.
• Disciples must be taught the essential teachings of the Christian life in a systematic and sequential manner.
• Discipleship is the privilege and responsibility of every believer.
• Growth in Christ-likeness is the ultimate goal.
God bless you as you embrace His mission for His Church.
1 Hull, Bill. The Disciple Making Pastor. (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1988)
2 Eims, LeRoy. The Lost Art of Disciple Making. (Zondervan, 1978)
• The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (Harper San Francisco, 1998)
• Renovation of the Heart, Putting on the Character of Christ (NavPress, 2002)
• The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teaching on Discipleship(Harper San Francisco, 2006)
• The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ(NavPress, 2006)
• Choose the Life: Exploring the Faith that Embraces Discipleship (BakerBooks, 2004)
• The Disciple-Making Pastor (Revell, 1999)
• Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time (InterVarsity Press, 2003)
• Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1998)
• Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God (Zondervan, 2003)
• The Lost Art of Disciple Making (Zondervan, 1978)
The State and Challenges of Discipleship
• George Barna, Growing True Disciples (Issachar Resources, 2000)
• Lee C. Camp, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World ( Brazos Press, 2003)
Spiritual Formation and Discipleship
• Dallas Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines (HarperOne, 1991)
• John Ortberg. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People(Zondervan, 1997)
• Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us(InterVarsity Press, 2005)
• Richard Foster. Devotional Classics (HarperOne, 2005)
Classics on Discipleship
• A. B. Bruce. The Training of the Twelve (Kregel Classics, 2000)
• Robert Coleman. The Master Plan of Evangelism (Revell, 2006, first published in 1963)
• Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The Cost of Discipleship (Touchstone, 1995)