And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
At the very center of this passage is the main verb “make disciples.” The other action words like “go,” “teach,” and “baptize” are participles that support the main action. In other words, if the main thing Jesus wants us to do is to make disciples, then we should know what that means.If the main thing Jesus wants us to do is to make disciples, then we should know what that means. #intentionalevangelism #committeddiscipleship Click To Tweet
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MAKE DISCIPLES?As a church, we’ve tried to simplify the concept by stating that discipling is helping other people follow Jesus. But maybe a more thorough definition could help. Alan Hadidian in his book Successful Discipling gives a definition that combines all the elements of discipleship we see in the New Testament.
Discipling others is the process by which a Christian with a life worth emulating commits himself for an extended period of time to a few individuals who have been won to Christ to aid and guide their growth to maturity and equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation.
According to this definition,
- Discipling others is not completed in a few simple steps. It is a “process” that is going to take time, just like raising children. The Bible uses this analogy to describe growth in the Christian life (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 3:1-3). We don’t expect babies to grow up in a few days and we don’t expect believers to become mature saints quickly either.
- The person doing the discipling should have a life worth copying. Discipling is not merely having a Bible study, it is modeling the Christian life in the context of a relationship. When you disciple someone, you are showing them how to follow Jesus. That means your life should be worth copying.
- Discipling others takes time and commitment. Just as a mother gives of herself for the sake of caring for babies and training her children, discipling means rearranging your life in order to pursue eternal priorities of helping others follow Jesus. You will give up time, privacy, finances, etc. in order to help another person follow Jesus.
- The wonderful thing about discipling is that every believer can do it! The reason is that it is built on simple, yet intentional relationships. It can be done one-on-one or in a small group of 5-6. Jesus, as the creator of the universe, limited Himself to 12. The point is not so much the numbers. The dynamics of discipling require the ability to foster close relationships.
- The aim of discipling is to help others grow. Just as it would be very odd to see a 40-year old man acting like a baby, so it is in the life of Christians that have failed to grow. The desire is for all believers as new creations in Christ is to grow and mature in Christ.
- Ultimately, the final goal is to see a believer repeat the process with someone else. Discipling is really not complete until the person you are discipling is actually discipling others.
Typically, the question is in terms of curriculum or process. But, Jesus put it this way, “teach them to observe whatever I have commanded” (Matthew 28:20). The curriculum for a disciple is as simple as reading the Bible and obeying what God tells us. The best starting point would be to sit down, read one of the Gospels, seek to identify the commands of Jesus, and prayerfully obey them. There are over 240 commands of Christ in Gospels that we should be seeking to obey. It is these imperatives that form a basic curriculum for discipling.
If you are looking for something more systematic, we have recommended some guides to assist you in your helping another person follow Jesus. These are available through the church Resource Center.
- You, Me, and The Bible (an interactive study guide to help a non-Christian understand the basics of the Gospel and key themes of the Christian faith)
- Just For Starters (7 short Bible studies on the basics of the Christian life, designed to establish a new Christian in the faith.
- One To One Bible Reading (a simple guide to learning how to read the Bible with non-Christians and other Christians)
*Illustration by Rick Linewebber
The content for this post was taken from Paul Seger’s session on February 18, 2018 at Lebanon Baptist Church. Contact the church office to receive an mp3 recording of the session.