Let’s go back up to the mountain in Galilee. Jesus is casting His global vision to His disciples. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28.18-20 NASB). As we have already seen, embedded in this vision statement, is the purpose of the church — make disciples. The church exists to make disciples. Also embedded in this statement is the process of how to make disciples. This is incredible and serves to underscore the brilliance of Jesus. In one sentence He summarizes the product and the process!
“So what’s the process?” Jesus taught that making disciples involves four clear steps.
The first step is to engage spiritual explorers with the Gospel of Jesus. As we have already seen, evangelism is the first step in the disciple-making process. An evangelist told me once, “You can’t spell Gospel without spelling go.” I like that. Jesus told his men to “go make disciples”. The word “go” is actually a participle and is better read, “as you are going make disciples.” As you are going along your normal life, your normal routine, make disciples. The Gospel in the early church ran clearly along relational lines. The Greek word oikos is used repeatedly in the New Testament. It is translated “household” but was also used in a broader sense to include extended family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. The early church grew rapidly because they took the good news of Jesus back to their Oikos. When Jesus healed a man possessed by demons, He told him to go back and share the good news with his family [oikos], (Mark 5.19 ESV). When Zacchaeus came to faith in Christ, Jesus declared that salvation had come to his house [oikos], (Luke 19.9 ESV). So, disciple-making begins with going to your established relationships and telling them about Jesus. See also (John 1.40; 4.53; Mark 2.14; Acts 10.1-2; Acts 16.14-15, 30-34).
The second step in the process is to connect new believers with a biblical community. Jesus said to baptize new disciples “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism not only identifies the person as a follower of Jesus, but also includes he or she in the new community of believers where the person can grow and be nurtured in the faith.
The third step is to grow disciples and disciple-makers by training them to walk with God. Jesus said these disciples are to be taught to obey Him in everything. “Teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you…,” (Matthew 28.20 ESV). In this phase, the disciple is trained to walk with God on his or her own and to begin to develop the character and competencies of Jesus. (1 Timothy 4.7 ESV) says, “train yourself to be godly.” Paul said that just as the athlete “goes into strict training” to get a temporary crown, the disciple disciplines himself or herself for an eternal reward (I Corinthians 9.25 ESV). This phase of equipping and training involves discipline. It includes learning to read God’s Word on your own and learning to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus through prayer. It involves learning to share your faith and reflect the love of God to the people around you. It involves learning to trust Jesus with every circumstance of life and put Him first in everything.
The fourth and final step is not clearly stated in this passage, but it is implied. Jesus said this new disciple is to obey everything He commanded, which includes the command to “make disciples.” Jesus intended for His disciples to make disciples. Therefore, the fourth step is releasing this new disciple to multiply his life in the lives of others. Before His death, Jesus told His men, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples,” (John 15.8 ESV). Things that are mature, multiply. A mature plant bears fruit. A mature animal produces offspring. And a mature follower of Jesus multiplies disciples. That’s what happened in the early church. (Acts 6.7 ESV) says, “…the Word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem….” So Jesus gave us a clear product: make disciples. He also gave us a clear process: engage explorers, connect believers, grow disciples, and go multiply. Jesus also gave us a wonderful promise. In essence, Jesus said, “If you make it your goal to make disciples, and you follow the four-step process I have given you then I will be with you. Always. To the very end of the age.” That’s an incredible promise for you and me. When you are committed to making disciples the way Jesus did, you will never lack His presence or His power!
Written by Craig Etheredge
Photo credit: Helena Lopes