We’re supposed to make disciples. What is a disciple, really? Is it a convert, a follower, or one who is obedient to Christ? How do we really make disciples? ◊
I’ve been hearing about making disciples since I became a professing Christian many years ago. I used to understand this to mean that I was supposed to “witness” to others so they could become Christians too. If I did so, then God would be happy with me and I would be considered a “good Christian.”
Over the years, any imposed pressure from others, or myself, to sell Christianity to other people dissipated somewhat to a slow simmer. I shared my faith when it was natural, but I didn’t go out of my way or feel compelled to proselytize the known world.
To me, the whole discipleship thing was a compilation of a spiritual conversion mixed with trying to “follow Jesus” while trying to be obedient and trying to be a good guy.
It was pretty fuzzy at best.
It became enough for me to just try to work my day-job well, raise a family, coach my kids’ sports teams, go to church, even go to a mid-week Bible study. The so-called Great Commission to “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” (Matthew 28:19-20) seemed a little beyond my pay grade.
At a basic level, what I failed to fully understand is that being a Christian goes way beyond hearing and knowing about Jesus and God. That’s just the starting point, and certainly a good place to start. But while learning, even studying, about God and giving intellectual assent is one thing, a statement of faith and conversion acknowledgement and confession of Jesus as Lord/God/Savior is quite another. This latter step when publicly declared before God and Man via baptism is the first step of obedience of a new Christ-follower.
And just a side note on baptism: Baptism is the symbolic washing away or remission of sins and identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. This act does not save us, but like a wedding ring, it’s an outward symbol of our new life and commitment to Christ.
But it is obedience that is the operative word going forward for a true disciple of Christ. The life of a disciple is a growing process of becoming more like Christ through obedience to His teaching and Godly precepts. It is not a perfect life as we are sinful people forgiven and restored and prone to our own humanness. Nevertheless, there should be manifest growth, maturity, and fruit that spawns from our obedience as we experience this spiritual growth.
4 Keys to Making Disciples
True fruit-bearing disciples replicate other fruit-bearing disciples. Here are 4 summary keys that highlight the ways to make disciples that replicate disciples:
1a. Share the Gospel (Good News) Message – Communicate to another person or small group about the true story of Jesus as God’s manifestation of Himself on earth for the sake of all mankind in accordance with the Scriptures. The 1st century Church did not have a published New Testament to distribute. Very simply, here’s the crux of the Gospel that was communicated: 1) Christ died, 2) Christ was buried, 3) Christ was resurrected, and 4) Christ appeared physically after death to many people. We too should know this and communicate it.
By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:2-6)
1b. Share the Life and Teaching of Jesus – The Bible contains the life and stories of Jesus, specifically in the first 4 books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These eyewitness testimonial accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings in parables and sermons are excellent ways to develop knowledge and an understanding of Jesus Christ and His Deity, purpose, and accomplishment. Beyond that, the Book of Acts and the Epistles (Letters) of Paul the Apostle provide further foundation for understanding the context and growth of the Christian Church.
2. Facilitate Discovery of the Bible – People can learn through their own questioning and exploration of the Scriptures. Sharing this experience with others one-on-one or in a small group can augment the experience. It’s important to encourage people to allow Scripture to illuminate Scripture rather than rely too heavily on outside commentaries and experts. The Bible is the Word of God for all of us to experience and study and apply to our changing lives. No one should sit back and passively be told by others what it says. We should all dive in and experience the Scriptures ourselves.
3. Encourage Life Application and Obedience – Hold each other accountable in areas of our lives that call for adjustments and obedience to the Word of God. Support each other in prayer and encouragement. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1). We are all sojourners who have been touched by the full grace and mercy of God. Encourage one another in love and fellowship as a Church that engages and disciples each other to full maturity in Christ.
4. Model a Life of Prayer – Christ modeled a life of prayer for His disciples. We should also demonstrate a life of deep and consistent prayer in our own lives and encourage the same in the lives of those we disciple. Like the Bible, prayer is an offensive weapon that is available to all of us as believers. We’re not to take it lightly as a rote procedure but as an empowered discipline with impact for generations. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)
Are you a true disciple? Are you making disciples?
“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