What is Disciple Making?

Disciple-making is the wholistic process of developing disciples who can make other disciples. This process includes steps such as conversion, baptism, and obeying the commandments of Jesus. This process was outlined by Jesus when he commissioned his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them, and teach them to abide by everything that he had commanded them. It is on this command that the Apostles went out to the cities and started preaching to make disciples. Disciple-making considers both evangelism and teaching to obey the word.

The concept of disciple-making can best be understood by reviewing the Ministry of Jesus. Jesus spent time with his twelve disciples whom he had chosen to carry on the Ministry works. The strategy that Jesus used was based on raising leaders whom He would later send out to make more disciples. He started the simple process by carefully selecting the twelve and telling them to follow Him and He would make them fishers of Men. From this statement, from the start, Jesus’ plan for the chosen twelve was for them to learn the process of disciple-making. Jesus led by example.  Jesus showed and demonstrated His love through his actions and teachings.   

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The first invitation of Jesus to his disciples was to those who showed interest. The calling to disciple-making is not just limited to the physical following but involves ensuring a radical turning around on their lifestyle, worldly perspective, and spiritual orientation leading to transformation of the self. Paul stated that whenever someone is in Christ, there is a new creation. This involves a transformation where the old things pass away and everything become new. Being a disciple-maker, therefore, requires one to be transformed as the journey involves sharing the calling and lifelong transformation of others.   

Disciple-making is defined by some as the natural process of reproduction where through the process of Christ-like living, one attracts and brings forth new life and new discipleship in others. Willard indicates that disciple-making is all about discipleship and transformation into Christlikeness. Willard makes a call to the churches which he identified as being mainly tasked with the responsibility of making churches to have a plan for making disciples of Jesus and a means of evaluating whether the plan is working. To this effect, Dallas noted that the greatest challenges facing churches is getting authentic disciples of Jesus. Christians need to consider whether the gospel that they preach and teach has a natural tendency of motivating those who hear it to become full-time disciples of Jesus. This helps them understand the concept of disciple making.

Importance of Disciple-making in the 21st Century Church

The church today has set apart the role of disciple-making to the so called full-time ministers. This a great disservice to the body of Christ. Spreading this notion has caused the wrong message to be sent to the followers of Jesus. In a way, the church has marginalized most believers and denied them a chance of participating in the Great Commission. Paul states that the ministers and Church leaders are supposed to equip the disciples for the work of the ministry. This implies that every believer is called to ministry. It is, therefore, important for the 21st Century Church to understand the process of disciple-making and ensure that every member is part of the process.

Neil Cole noted that every church would be evaluated on its disciples. This leads to the concept that a church is only as good as its disciples. A church may be very good in praise, preaching, and programs, but when the disciples are passive, needy, and not adhering to the radical obedience, the church is still lacking in its ways. Dallas Willard noted that the main task of the church is to make disciples. In achieving this, Dallas indicates two main issues that churches need to consider; the presence of a plan for making disciples, and an evaluation of whether the plan is working.

Churches in the 21st Century have focused on acquiring more converts and new believers while putting little emphasis on the concept of discipleship. A believer is a born-again Christian who believes in Jesus and may not necessarily be very committed to living a Christ-like life. A believer lacks the full transformation to help him emulate the life of Jesus. This contrasts a disciple, who is a product of disciple-making, and is fully committed to obeying Jesus in every aspect of their life. A disciple is a learner or student who gives up everything to live a Christ-like life. It will, therefore, be important for churches to understand the process of disciple-making as this will help them have more disciples as opposed to mere believers and who can be fully engaged in the Great Commission. 

Events where Jesus Dealt Personally with His Disciples

During His Ministry Jesus spent time with his disciples as He traveled the regions preaching good news to the crowds. He often took time off and just focused on teaching his disciples in seclusion.  Jesus would often use their erroneous thinking as a chance to reveal greater truths about the Kingdom of heaven. During one incident, the disciples approached Jesus and asked him who was greatest in the Kingdom.  Jesus responded by stating that anyone who wanted to enter the Kingdom of heaven needed to be transformed and be like little children. This example shows Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom’s greatness is measured by humility, and that the wonders of heaven are offered to all who believe and accept Him as their personal savior.  

While in some secluded place alone, Jesus upon the request of one of the disciples, taught them how to pray. During this time, He taught the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for prayer. At the same time, He used a parable to teach them on the need of being persistent in prayer. He elaborated this by telling them to ask and it will be given, to seek and they would find, and to knock and it would be opened. 

Another event when Jesus dealt personally with the disciples was after He taught the crowds using the parable of the Sower. The disciples later went to him and asked Him why He taught using parables.  Jesus explained to them that the seed represents the Gospel and anyone who believes in it, and the sower is anyone who proclaims it. The seed that falls into good soil will grow and produce which is like us as Christians who will be given the Kingdom of heaven while others will not.  

Another example when Jesus dealt directly with His disciples was when He was preparing them for His death. After teaching the crowds, he took His disciples to teach them in seclusion and taught them how He would face death but would resurrect on the third day. This shows how Jesus used His time wisely to teach His key disciples who were destined to reproduce His influence, teaching, and ministry. Jesus was aware that His death was important and necessary for man to receive salvation.  He knew it was the only way to save man-kind.  Jesus took three of the disciples up the mountain where they witnessed the transfiguration that gave them a deeper understanding of some of the events that would befall Jesus. 

The Last Supper was the last event when Jesus was personally engaged with His disciples before His arrest. Jesus took this time to continue His teachings to the disciples especially on disciple-making. He taught them on humility and servitude in leadership by washing their feet. He also taught them on the requirements of being an effective follower by making them aware what they would experience for His disciples. He further promised to send them the Holy Spirit as the helper in the journey of disciple-making.

Discipleship Principles

The goal in discipleship requires believers to become mature disciples of Jesus and be able to lead others into discipleship in Christ. Jesus set this example during His Ministry where He called His twelve disciples, taught them, and commanded them to go and do with others what He Himself had done with them. Discipleship has several principles.  

Discipleship is about an unconditional decision to follow Jesus. Jesus only called His disciples and they accepted the call and left everything behind. The act of following Him was unconditional and without coercion and in love. They followed Jesus even when they did not know the nature of the mission ahead. Jesus promised them that He would make them fishers of men and He did.  

Discipleship is a process to be followed and not an event. Discipleship requires frequent fellowships and becomes a way of life. It is indicated that Jesus called His disciples to be with Him. He had an open relationship with His disciples where He taught them, challenged them, and commissioned them. The disciples stayed with Jesus for a period of three and half years where they continuously received instructions from Him.  Jesus not only taught publicly, but He also practiced those teachings in all aspects of His life.  Jesus walked His talk and led by example.  Jesus’ disciples lived with Him and were able to learn from His actions about the meaning of true transformation. 

Prayer is an important component of discipleship. Before He called the twelve disciples, Jesus had gone to the mountainside to pray and seek guidance from God. On several occasions, Jesus took time off and went in solitary to pray which demonstrated the importance of having a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Jesus at times took the disciples to a secluded place to pray and taught them how to pray.  This indicates the importance to living a life of prayer as a disciple.

Discipleship should be based on the word of God. Jesus was the perfect example of the importance of the word of God as a foundation of faith. In many occasions, Jesus referred to the word of God by stating that “it is written”. Whenever he attended the Synagogues, Jesus would always make sure that He read the scriptures. He also quoted the scriptures to defeat Satan during the temptations in the wilderness.

Discipleship should help others to become disciples of Jesus. After Jesus was finished with training His disciples, He gave them the Great Commission and commanded them to go out and make disciples of others. This therefore indicates that discipleship is not complete without reaching out to others and making them disciples. 

Speaking from my own personal experience, my education at Southeastern University and volunteer work in my practicum in ministry has shown me see the value of disciple making and understand its importance.  I have improved in my prayer life and believe that having a close and personal relationship with Jesus Christ has helped me grow in my faith and to feel more secure in sharing my beliefs with others.  Also, to practice and demonstrate consistent love is a discipline and characteristics of a disciple.  I have also learned that discipleship it is not an event but an on-going way of life.  I am grateful to my professors at SEU and pastors at Christ Fellowship Church and The Church of Esther for mentoring me and showing me how to be a true Christ-follower and disciple maker.   

In conclusion, discipleship is a vital component to the growth of the church and spread of the gospel. Christians should strive to make disciples of everyone.  Disciples should also be people who are willing to forego everything else for the sake of spreading the word and love of Jesus.  Jesus taught the concept of discipleship by creating disciples and teaching them to be leaders and disciple makers like Him. The concept of disciple-making should be based on the word of God, should involve unconditionally following Jesus, and should be a process rather than an event. Through this way of life, not only is the individual transformed but is also used to share the word of God and make other disciples.  We are human and are born sinners.  We are not perfect but, in our salvation through Christ, we are made whole again.  Discipleship is hard but as Christians we are commanded to follow Him and to live a Christ-like life.  People are constantly watching us, and actions speak louder than words.  As Christians, we should continue to strive to live a life of obedience, humility, and of service in love and discipleship.        

Bibliography

The Anglican Consultative Council. Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making: An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation. London, 2016.

White, Jordan. “What is Discipleship & Why is it Important?” 2015. https://revolution.church/sermon/what-is-discipleship-why-is-it-important/.

Willard, Dallas. The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s essential teachings on discipleship. Zondervan, 2006.

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