Making Disciples

  • Colin Marshall
  • 5 April 2018

How central should the work of disciple-making be in our daily lives and in our church culture? How do we get there? And what does it actually look like?

The 8 studies in Making Disciples will highlight the work of disciple-making as the very heart of the Bible’s vision for the life of God’s people. They will also:

  • guide you as you explore and discuss key Bible passages
  • show you what it might look like to be involved in this great work of God
  • forge the deep biblical convictions that you will need in order to commit to disciple-making
  • address the challenges and potential pitfalls around making disciples of Jesus
  • help you see disciple-making as both an enormous privilege and an attainable goal.

Table of contents:

  1. Why make disciples? (Part 1): Jesus is God’s Son and Lord over all
  2. Why make disciples? (Part 2): God’s long-term plan is to redeem a people for his Son
  3. What is a disciple? (Part 1): Learning that leads to life
  4. What is a disciple? (Part 2): Learning a new way of life
  5. How are disciples made?
  6. Who makes disciples?
  7. Where are disciples made?
  8. Making disciples in our church community and home

Conclusion: Final implications

Introduction

Making disciples of Jesus Christ sounds like a fairly daunting activity.

Do we really want to spend our lives urging those around us to make the most profound life change imaginable—to abandon their chosen idols and to worship Jesus as Lord of all? This doesn’t seem like the way to a peaceful, popular existence.

In the supposedly Christianized West, it’s now common for Christians to experience abuse simply for living out their convictions and being Christian, let alone inviting others to share our worldview and our beliefs. We are often accused of having a destructive effect on people and society. The mood in our culture is to let everyone choose their own path when it comes to matters of sexuality and gender, ethics, and religious beliefs, even when people make choices that are not for their own good or for the common good. Yet compared to others, what we face is mild. In many parts of the world, Christians are intimidated, locked up or worse for proselytising or even for suggesting that Jesus trumps other religions.

Then there’s the sheer busyness of life. So many things—some of them important and legitimate, some of them mere unnecessary distractions—compete for our energy and attention. Even if we wanted to do it, do we really have time to devote to disciple-making?

Making disciples of Jesus sounds like a hard road today, for us individually and for our church1 communities. We will need very deep, driving, life-shaping convictions to enable us to give ourselves to the task of teaching and persuading people to follow Jesus as Lord.

We should acknowledge that we approach the issue of making disciples from a range of perspectives and with a range of experiences. Maybe we have concluded that this is not something the ordinary Christian is called to do, which could be a relief. Maybe you’re desperately keen to be involved in the work of making disciples, but you’ve never been taught how and you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve tried, but you didn’t see the kind of results you were hoping for. Or maybe your church or ministry has drifted from this disciple-making vision, replacing it with all kinds of aims and activities that are more palatable to the surrounding culture.

How central should this work of disciple-making be in our daily lives and in our church culture? How do we get there, and what does it look like?

These studies are designed to show that the work of disciple-making is at the very heart of the Bible’s vision for the life of God’s people, and to help us see what it will look like to be involved in this great work of God. Making Disciples will forge the deep biblical convictions that we need to help us shape our lives and churches around disciple-making. It’s my prayer that, by the end of these studies, you won’t just see the challenges and potential pitfalls around making disciples of Jesus. Rather, I pray that you’ll come to see the task of making disciples as a central part of your Christian life, and as both an enormous privilege and an attainable goal.

We’ll follow a systematic pattern, unpacking the Bible’s teaching on various aspects of this issue. Each study will unpack the meaning and significance of Jesus’ ‘Great Commission’, delivered in Matthew 28:18-20. We will see that this call to make disciples is not just a handy proof text for evangelism and mission, but is resoundingly climactic in God’s long-term plan for his world.

Note for leaders: As the leader you will need to plan how to get through each study in the time you have available to your group, including how to handle some of the passages of explanatory text and ‘Extra input’ sections. For example, will you read all of the text in the group time or just pick out some key sentences and encourage people to read it themselves either before the studies (as preparation) or after the studies (as revision)? Also think through whether you will try to look up all of the Bible passages in a study or just the key ones. Or whether you might instead split into subgroups to look at different passages and then report back to the whole group.

1. While these studies largely presume a ‘church’ context, and so use that term, the biblical principles we’ll explore equally have application to parachurch and other ministry contexts.