by Daniel Rieke
In my last post on discipleship, I discussed the importance of "last words" as we examined Jesus' final command before ascending into Heaven in Matthew 28:18-20.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20[i]
It’s clear that Jesus wants us to “make disciples,” so I think a logical question stemming from that is “what is a disciple?”
We could spend hours discussing the nuances of what all goes into the biblical term “disciple,” but for the sake of time and space, the working definition I’ll use for “disciple” is: one who follows Jesus Christ – one who observes all that Jesus has commanded. So a disciple of Jesus is one who follows, or obeys, Jesus.
By that token, then, a disciple-maker is one who makes and equips followers of Jesus. Disciple makers teach others how to follow Jesus, so that they are able to go out and teach others to do the same.
How did Jesus make disciples?
We see that in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus brilliantly made disciples. Since it is Jesus who has given us this command to "make disciples" and since disciples are followers of Jesus, I think the important question we need to consider is “how did Jesus himself go about making disciples?” It’s probably a good idea to look at how Jesus made disciples and then follow His model in our attempt to make followers of Him.
And how did Jesus make disciples? Essentially, He lived life with a group of guys for several years. He taught them all time, not simply in formal classroom settings (although there certainly was some of that in His ministry) but also in how He modeled life for them in their day to day interactions. He shared ministry with His disciples, empowering them to minister alongside Him. He focused on going really deep with a smaller group (of 12) and especially with an even smaller group (of 3) and even perhaps especially focusing on one disciple in particular to really pour into (John). He certainly taught large groups, but the bulk of His time seemed to be spent pouring into the Twelve, and Peter, James and John in particular.
Jesus didn't simply seek for His disciples to increase in knowledge (although He did seek for their increase in knowledge, while simultaneously critiquing the Pharisees for their love of knowledge at the expense of love for God), but He also sought for His disciples to live transformed lives of love and submission to God.
And ultimately, Jesus made disciples who multiplied. Jesus’ followers multiplied from several dozen men and women meeting in a room after His death to a global movement spanning 2000 years and millions of people.
In that, we have adopted an approach for discipleship at Hope Church which attempts to model itself after what we see Jesus do in the New Testament. We focus on discipleship happening in small groups and in individual (or 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 relationships).
So in my upcoming blog posts on the topic of discipleship, I want to suggest some very practical ideas for how we might go about making disciples in this way – specifically in these individual relationships. My hope is to cast a vision for ways we can tangibly go about pouring into each other through 1-on-1 or 1-on-2 relationships as we seek to make disciples at Hope Church who go and make more disciples.
Good books to check out on discipleship:
The Trellis & The Vine by Marshall & Payne
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman
[i] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.