Disciple Making

In the New Testament, the word “disciple” occurs 269 times but he word “Christian” is found only 3 times (and was first introduced to refer to the disciples). The New Testament is a book about disciples, by disciples and for disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciple Making is process of seeing people come to faith in Jesus Christ, grow in their relationship with Him, and then being equipped to go back and help others repeat this process. (2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”)

False Concept vs. Biblical. I have often asked churches this question: “If the Lord would bless your church with ten new converts, how would your church disciple these new believers so that they would delight in God and declare the gospel?” The response is usually the same: they would have the new believer attend church and hopefully they would become a disciple. The reason this is so common is because most believers in Jesus Christ think discipleship is attending church meetings and/or events. The reality is that majority of believers have never been “discipled” by another believer. Disciple Making is not complicated… it is a relational process of helping people to “follow Jesus”. When Jesus walked among people there was a simple approach to being a disciple. It was mainly to go with Him, with an attitude of obedience and love. Disciples had to be with Him to learn how to do what He did. That is why Jesus consistently said that we are to “do what He did” (John 14:12), “walk as He walked” (I Jn 2:6), think as He thought (Phil 2:5), serve as He served and love as He loved. Paul understood this as he said,imitate me as I imitate Christ” (I Cor 11:1). Discipleship is growing in the likeness and knowledge of one’s teacher. A disciple is a “learner” in New Testament terminology. The disciples of Jesus were shaped in faith, character, and actions as they spent three years following him around the countryside. Jesus modeled how to make disciples and we need to do the same. But Disciple Making is also a life-long process of becoming more like Him and helping others do the same. It is an ongoing process of “delighting in God”,  “declaring the gospel” and multiplying the “disciple making” process.

Multiplication Example. I will always remember this being lived out in a youth in our church when I was pastoring in Florida several years ago. This teenage (disciple #1) had accepted Christ and the youth pastor was discipling him to walk with Jesus. As he began to grow in his faith, the youth began to pray for several of his friends who did not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Several months later this youth (disciple #1) led one of his friend’s (disciple #2) to saving a faith in Jesus Christ. This new disciple (disciple #2) immediately began to join his friend (disciple #1) in the discipling Bible study with their youth pastor. The three disciples (disciple #1, disciple #2 and youth pastor) meet for Bible study, prayer and accountability each week. After several months went by, this new disciple (disciple #2) began to pray for his friends who did not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. He (disciple #2) proceeded to share his testimony and the gospel with one of his friends, and that young man (disciple #3) accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. This excited youth (disciple #1) met me after church one Sunday and introduced me to his friends (disciple #2 and disciple #3) and told me their salvation stories. I joked with this teenager (disciple #1) that I have a new nickname for him and that I am going to start calling him “grandpa.” He asked me, “Why?” I responded, “You (disciple #1) led one of your friend’s (disciple #2) to faith in Christ that makes you a daddy. Your spiritual son (disciple #2) led another friend (disciple #3) to faith in Christ-that makes you a grandpa (disciple #1).” He laughed and I will always remember what he said to me, “I have a new nickname for you! I am going to start calling you my great, great, great grandpa! Because you have led others to faith in Christ, who have led others to faith in Christ, who have led others to faith in Christ, who have led others to faith in Christ.”

If disciples would make disciples who would make disciples, we could fulfill the Great Commission. I heard a speaker at a national convention say that the church is losing ground today because we’re adding people to the kingdom of God while the population of the world is multiplying. For example, if you were to lead one person to Christ every day for the next thirty-two years, by the end of that period there would be 11,680 people in the kingdom of God as a result of your witness. But, let’s say you led one person to Christ and then spent an entire year helping that person grow to maturity. You showed that person how to walk with Christ each day and to lead others to Him. By the end of year one, there would be two of you. If you each won a person to Christ and trained him or her to be a disciple, by the end of the second year there would be four of you. Continuing this pattern, by the end of year three, there would be sixteen and so on. Now the staggering thing is this: If this process continued with no broken links in the chain, at the end of thirty-two years, there would be 4,294,967,296 of you.

A partial listing of the Biblical Examples of Discipling Relationships in the Bible:

Discipler Disciple Bible reference
Moses Joshua Deuteronomy 31:1-8, 34:9
Moses Caleb Num. 13, 14:6-9, 34:16-19, Joshua 14:6-15
Naomi Ruth Book of Ruth
Samuel Saul 1 Samuel 9-15
Samuel David 1 Samuel 16, 19:18-24
Jonathan David 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1-7; 20:1-42
Elijah Elisha 1 Kings 19:16-21; 2 Kings 2;1-16, 3:11
Barnabas Paul Acts 4:36-37, 9:26-30, 11:22-30
Barnabas John Mark Acts 15:36-39; 2 Timothy 4:11
Paul Timothy Acts 16:1-3; Phil. 2:19-23; 1 and 2 Timothy
Paul Titus 2 Cor. 7:6, 13-15; 8:17, Titus
Priscilla & Aquilla Apollos Acts 18:1-3, 24-28

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