How Do You Make Disciples?

April 2018 Blog Theme: The Bold Moves of Disciple Making

“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.

Written by Craig Etheredge

This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book Bold Moves which you can purchase here.

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash


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3 thoughts on “How Do You Make Disciples?

  1. It seems the whole point of this post is to poiNt out that there is a theory of discipleship within the local church but there is no measure to determine if disciples are being made.

    Then the post fails to capatalize on its own main point- it leaves the reader without the answer how do do we make disciples Within the context of the local church?

    Please RESPOND.

    1. That would be a correct point. This post is small sample of content of a full work that addresses more completely how to make disciples in the local church. discipleFIRST also works personally with leaders and provide training, tools, and resources to help individual churches make disciples, navigate change, and help shift the culture towards disciple-making. Feel free to contact us via or visit for more information on our resources.

  2. If we believe that each person is capable of making disciples then we will communicate that and have that expectation. We will be driven and focused on leading them as Jesus did. If I hope the people will make disciples then I lead them hoping they will do it. When we come with a lack of boldness and expectation then we lead with weakness expecting little. When we expect little of ourselves and are afraid to be held accountable and hold others accountable then we do not help them to be bold and prepared. Jesus took a few men and taught them in such a way that after three years he left and they carried on what they were taught. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:2 to entrust to the faithful who will teach others so well that they are equipped to teACH OTHERS. tHE REASON WHY CHURCHES ARE NOT MAKING DISCIPLES IS BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT PASSIONATE ABOUT IT.

    If we believe quiet time is important then we should hold the people accountable. If we believe prayer is important then we should hold them accountable. Each group I lead I make it a common practice to have them share what God is teaching them. I tell them from the first day that I believe everyone is capable of leading at least one person. It is easy to identify leaders by how and who they are leading.I encourage the people to begin to pray that God will give them someone to lead. I have seen God answer that prayer in as short as less than 24 hours with an average of about two years. So while I meet with the group there are eventually people in the group who are leading another person. That is how you identify leaders. When a leader begins to lead another then that person begins to talk about how to lead another. Leaders come out of the groups I lead. When someone does not have anyone following them they are not a leader and so don’t tell them they are a leader because they are not.

    I fail to see where Jesus directed a program and appointed people to positions but rather led them in such a way that he passed on what they needed. THen he left them the holy spirit.

    Leaders lead. If nobody is following they are not leading. That is how leaders are identified.

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