Phrases like disciple-making can carry a lot of baggage. Everybody has an opinion or an idea of what it means to disciple someone and what it looks like in practice. Sometimes it leads people to say “Disciple-making? Oh, I could never do that” or “It's not my role to make disciples”. But the call to make disciples is a direct command from Jesus Christ himself (Matt 28:19). If we are serious about obeying Jesus then we need to be serious about disciple-making. It is vital that we work out what making disciples looks like and how we can do it.
There are so many misconceptions out there about what disciple-making is and isn’t. To help clarify the term, I’ve decide to explore some examples:
Disciple-making is not just meeting up one-to-one. Some people make the assumption that when we talk about “disciple-making” what we are really describing is the act of two people getting together to read the bible with one another, with one mentoring the other and imparting all sorts of fancy biblical wisdom upon them. Disciple-making is all about helping others to understand the word of God. However, it is not limited to a one-to-one setting, and its success is not reliant on you having a wealth of wisdom and understanding to provide. Disciple-making is about learning from the word of God and helping another to grow in their walk with Christ. The best way we can help someone to grow in their faith is to point them to the Bible. And we can do that with one other person, with a few people, with a small group like a home group or bible study, and from the pulpit.
Disciple-making is not just evangelism. When many people hear the phrase “go and make disciples”, they instantly think of evangelistic activities and events. Who can I make a disciple today? Who isn’t a disciple yet that needs to be? Evangelism is important gospel work. We need to be telling others about Jesus and calling them to repent. But once they’ve decided that they will follow Christ, we can’t just leave them where they are. It extends beyond simple evangelism. Disciple-making involves continuing to help them grow to maturity in Christ, as Matthew 28:19 says, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you".
Disciple-making is not just growing Christians. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some who believe that disciple-making is a separate activity from evangelism. The Bible doesn’t leave room for this to be the case. Discipleship is never just taking someone who is already a Christian and caring for them alone. Discipleship is all about helping people to know Christ and to grow in Christ. To actively make disciples we must do both. When we are making disciples, we are constantly moving a person towards maturity in Christ. For the non-Christian, this means sharing the gospel with them, or meeting up with them to read the Bible (You, Me and the Bible is a great resource specifically designed for this). For the young Christian, this may mean working through some foundational bible studies with them, such as Just For Starters. For the mature Christian, it may mean training them to serve and teach others, encouraging them to lead a home group or even urging them to consider ministry as a full time vocation - all the while reminding them of the gospel.
What comes to your mind when you think of "disciple-making"? Let us know in the comments.