How Do You Make Disciples?

“How Do You Make Disciples?”I love asking pastors that question. Not long ago, I sat around a conference table with several pastors, professors, and denominational leaders. We were all there to talk about discipleship. When the question was asked about how disciples are made, the thoughts were pretty vague and varied. Most said that getting people into small groups made disciples. In these groups men and women were “being discipled.” But when pressed to give specifics of how they knew discipling was taking place or what the end product looked like, the room got pretty quiet. In most cases, church leaders are running long-standing programs with little thought to whether these programs are actually contributing to the formation of passionate, reproducing disciples. If more people are in these programs year over year, it is a success. If attendance is waning, it is time for an overhaul or a new program. The question of whether or not the program is actually producing disciples is seldom asked. So, how do you make disciples in a local church?

I have to confess, I have a personal frustration regarding this issue. Most of the finely-tuned disciple-making ministries are found in the para-church world, not the local church, and that really bothers me. Great organizations like The Navigators, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, Student Mobilization, Christian Businessmen’s Committee, and others have a laser focus on making disciples and producing disciple makers. They have boards and leaders committed to making disciples. They have staff that spend every waking breath leading people to Christ and helping them grow in their faith. They see rapid rates of multiplication and they deploy people into other campuses, cities, and countries to make disciples for Christ. But when I look at the average church, I don’t see any of that. I see churches gathering for worship and running programs with little thought or intentionality other than for numerical growth.

Jesus loved the church. Jesus started the church. Jesus gave the Great Commission to the church. The early church was a disciple-making machine. Yet the local church today has almost abandoned Jesus’ heart for disciple making. Like Esau, we have sold the birthright Jesus gave us of building disciples for the promise of church growth and immediate success. We are now discovering that those methodologies are porridge, ineffective to reach the next generation. We have been duped into thinking that large numbers equate to successful ministry. We have failed to play the role of the farmer who cultivates, plants, and waters, patiently praying until the fruit comes.

My heart’s desire is to see pastors in the local church reclaim their God-given legacies of disciple making. Call me crazy, but I think God designed the church to be the perfect place for making disciples. And I do think that as the church makes disciples, it becomes the hope of the world. For that to happen, we have to go back to the example of Jesus and replicate Jesus’ disciple-making model.

This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book “BOLD MOVES”, which you can purchase here.

Photo Credit: Nik MacMillan

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5 thoughts on “How Do You Make Disciples?

  1. Discipleship beGins with knowing God. Knowing God begins with correct doctrine upon which our faith is practiced. God has created us with an intellect, emotion, and will. Many engage one or two of those but when only one or two are engaged they are not engaged about having a full knowledge of God but rather what is convenient or easy. Discipleship is not about what the people want but about what God wants I would contend that very few church leaders know how to lead people who have a variety of gifts, a variety of ministries, and a variety of effects. The try to lead people as though they are homogeneous.

  2. i wonder if the difference between the para-church organizations and the local church is the fact that few pastors have the time or spend the time gathering and developing disciples in their local church. What i mean is leadership development, but not exactly as we commonly see it done. generally, we see local church lay leaders slotted into the areas of their ‘passion’ and left to lead that area. it seems like more of a ‘command and control’ structure rather than a group of christ-followers sharing their lives with one another and allowing that dynamic to grow versus merely being a group of individuals over specific ministries. could it be that others in the congregation look and see that all slots are taken and either become ‘workers’ or opt out believing that that’s how the church works?

  3. The 1st issue as a church to begin either discipleship and leadership development is the heart and mind of the people to desire to become a disciple and become passionate for the body of christ. Many church have congregants that do not see the need to enter into a life of discipleship. in that case it has little to do with the process.How can churches like this have a successful discipleship process when it appears the spirit is not moving people in that direction.

    1. I’ve been praying for an Awakening in my city and in my church for over 2 years and it’s beginning to happen. Pray, and get others to join you.

  4. Not a mention I can see of DMM’s who are demonstrating every day worldwide the answer to this question, based upon the disciple-maker par-excellence: Jesus’ model & method in matthew & Luke 10! It was one of the primary reasons he came to teach us [in accord with the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34)] during 3 years ‘how to make disciples, before comanding us to ‘make disciples that make disciples’, ad infinitum. It was the holy spirit who inspired his disciple-maker Paul to give us the uniquely-meaning ekklesia (not church – wrong word!) with instructions how to gather in 1 corinthians 14:26ff (N.B. even to teach one another in the ekklesia!). Instead, we prefer to sing frank sinaTRa’s song “i’ll do it my way’ & fail to follow jesus’s design! Lord, please forgive our stubborn pride.

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