Sowing and Reaping Articles

How To Make Disciples

By Larry Guido

When the risen Christ commanded His disciples to “Go and make disciples,” He left them with no plan or program, no method or manual, no game-plan or guide-book. He simply and straight-forwardly said, “Go, make disciples…and I’ll be with you.”

Recently, I discovered a startling fact. Google “discipleship” and you will find 8,910,000 results. Google “disciple-making” and you will find about 4,200,000 results. Obviously, there is much that is being said about discipleship, but there is only half as much interest in making disciples.

What might be the reason or reasons for this? Could it be that we, after all is said and done, do not know or understand what “being” a disciple is? Or could it be that making disciples is something left to “professional disciple-makers? Do we neglect to make disciples because it is too difficult or that we feel or think or believe that we are not prepared to make disciples? Is it all of the above? Perhaps we have never understood the full meaning of what a disciple actually is.

During the time of Jesus, a disciple was someone who imitated both the teachings and life of the master – or the one who they followed – the “disciple-maker.” This one who was in training to become a disciple today would probably be called an “apprentice who was going through an apprenticeship” – much like an intern would be going through an internship. It was a “training process” which equipped the “fully-formed” disciple to be a “copy” of the master they surrendered their lives to. At the conclusion of the apprenticeship they would think like, speak like, work like, do like, dress like the one whose role they one day would fill. 

Jesus’ disciples knew and understood this. They had completed their “apprenticeship” and understood the cost and paid the price. It didn’t come without sacrifice and self-denial. It cost them everything they had: family, friends, and fortunes. So, I’ve often wondered what may have surged in their hearts and surfaced in their minds. They had been “discipled” by Jesus for three years. Were they now to do as He did: see strangers working on their nets next to a boat and say, “Let’s go! I want you to be my disciple. You’re trying to catch the wrong kind of fish.” Or, might they have encountered two or three men having a conversation about the Roman Empire and call out to them and say, “You need to let go of this empire and work on a new kingdom that will arrive at any time. We need your help to get it started. Come on and join the movement!” Or, did they go to the nearest synagogue and find a few men who had heard Jesus teaching the Gospel and say, “You’ve had enough time to think about what the Messiah said. Now it’s your turn to share His message. Come on. What are you waiting for?” They understood and knew the price. Others understood and knew the price. Would they have any “takers?” 

Jesus did not leave a formula for us to follow to make disciples. Nor did he leave a plan for us to follow to make disciples. And, He did not leave a lesson guide or curriculum that we are to follow to make disciples. There is no program in the New Testament to follow to make disciples. Search as long as you will, and you will not find any classes on disciple-making in the Bible. Formulas, plans, guides, programs, and classes do not make disciples. You see, disciples make disciples. It was a costly venture. 

We don’t know what the disciples thought at that moment, but we do know the results of what they did. They obeyed His command and began making disciples and initiated a process that re-birthed people and made them new creations. The disciples, through the power of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, liberated lives that were controlled by sin, healed people who were suffering from all kinds of sicknesses and cared for those who were neglected and needy, alone and abandoned. All this as a result of having been with Him in training to be a disciple-maker.

I often think about a simple statement Jesus made in John’s Gospel. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “obey my commandments.” (John 14:15) It’s one of the “if/then” facts in Scripture. If you love me – the “what is” – then  what you will do is “make disciples.” It’s an undeniable reality that has within it the power of the Creator of the universe. For example: if we trust the Lord to forgive us of our sins, then He will forgive us of our sins. Obedience to the Word of God will result in the gifts of God. The disciples loved their Lord, and they were “willing to be willing” to be obedient and accept the results of their disciple-making obligation. 

So, to state it as simply as possible, if we love Jesus, then we will make disciples. Can we then say that if we love Jesus, making disciples begins by loving those for whom Christ died? If Jesus said, “if you love me…you will obey what I have commanded you to do.” And, in His final charge to His disciples, He said “with the authority given to me by my Father, I command you to go make disciples.” It is obvious that disciple-making is a test of our love for Jesus and our willingness to obey Him and proclaim the Gospel we find in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”  

It becomes rather obvious, then, that love is at the very heart of disciple-making – love for Jesus first and foremost and then love for those whom He died. Love becomes the motivating factor and force that will compel us to want to make disciples. If there is a Jesus-love in our hearts that has changed our lives,  given us a purpose to live, provided a hope to walk us through life’s tragedies, a peace that passes all understanding, an unceasing joy in the midst of life’s most difficult times, then we will want others to have what we have. We will want them to know our Savior because what He has done for me He can do for anyone. “If you love Me and know what My love can do to you, for you, and through you, you will love others and want them to know that I can do the same for them!” If we engage in disciple-making because we love Jesus, and then naturally love others, we will keep on keeping on when the challenge to make disciples becomes difficult, and we face discouragement for more reasons than we can identify.

However, loving Jesus and others is simply the beginning of the process of disciple-making. If my life is not different from those who are not His disciples, and if my life is not a reflection of who Jesus is and doing the things He did that I can do, and demonstrating what Jesus has done for me, and being an example of what He can do for others, why would they want to be one of His disciples? What difference will it make?  There must be reasons to want to be a disciple of Jesus and those reasons must be an example of what He has done in my life. Otherwise, why bother. So, being a “model disciple” for others to “imitate” is essential. It’s a natural part of human behavior: people want to be like others if what others do makes sense to them and elevates them above the average person.

Of course, the other elements of disciple-making are similar to other forms of training or having an apprentice as an “understudy” of who I am and want them to become. There is teaching the Scriptures and being faithful to the truth contained in Scripture, correcting inappropriate behavior, demonstrating and equipping the “disciple-in-training” the “fruits of the Spirit” and how to live them in everyday life – again – by being an example of Jesus, and of course, demonstrating the effectiveness of prayer.

Someone once said, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” Maybe we can rephrase it and say, “If I could see a disciple, I may want to be one.”