How to Make Disciples
How to Make Disciples
Multiply: Reaching & Teaching Others
As we wrap up this ten week study on discipleship it seems fitting now to discuss the “how” of all we have discussed. How do you actually make a disciple of Christ? That’s an important question to ask. It’s a question we should ask. After all, we are commanded by Jesus to “make disciples.” So how do we do it? Let me offer first a guiding principle and then four practical steps to take.
A disciple is made through the power of the Spirit by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not the result of our efforts.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 tells the story of the Prophet Ezekiel standing over dry bones. God instructs him to Prophesy over the bones.
4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
This is how disciples are made! Through the power of the Spirit. The preached Gospel raises the spiritually dead to life. It’s a supernatural work. Making a disciple first and foremost does not entail teaching someone principles to live by it starts with dead men coming to life. And so if you want to make disciples preach the Gospel.
With our guiding principal in place we have a good framework to put all our efforts into making disciples. Here are four things to practice in your life to disciple those God has entrusted to you.
(Taken from the article “4 Ways to Make Disciples” by Mark Dever)
At its core, discipling is teaching. We teach with words. We teach all the words Jesus taught his disciples, and all the words of the Bible.
Interpersonally, teaching occurs as people learn to have spiritually meaningful conversations with each other, which is something I as the pastor encourage from the front almost every week. It’s fine to talk about football or the kids’ school. But talk about Sunday’s sermon as well. Ask your friends what God has been teaching you about himself. Small groups can also be useful for facilitating these kinds of relationships.
Sometimes discipling requires you to warn others about the choices they’re making. People grow when you teach them general truths, yes, but also when you correct their particular errors. Part of being a Christian is recognizing that sin deceives us, and that we need other believers to help us see the things we cannot see about ourselves. Joining a church, I’ve often said, is like throwing paint on the invisible man. New sins become visible in the course of our discipling relationships.
In fact, you can lead in a discipling relationship by inviting others to correct you—and making it easy for them to do so. But you must fear God more than man by being willing to correct others when necessary—and risk their rejection of you for it.
Ultimately, the work of correction belongs to the whole congregation, which occurs when a member proves more committed to their sin than to Christ. After multiple rounds of warning, the person will be excluded from membership and the Lord’s Table (Matt. 18:15–20). The vast majority of correction in a church, however, should occur in the private context of discipling relationships.
It’s worth noticing Jesus didn’t just command his disciples to teach people. He told them to teach people to obey. The goal of discipling is to see lives transformed, which means it involves more than reading a book or even the Bible with another person. Ultimately, discipling involves living out the whole Christian life before others. Jesus is the ultimate example here; he “left you an example that you should follow” (1 Pet. 2:21).
We communicate not merely with our words but by our whole lives. And what happens in a discipling relationship requires more than classroom teaching. It requires the kind of instruction that occurs through an apprenticeship at a job, or with a personal trainer or coach. An apprentice learns by listening and watching and participating, little by little, with more responsibility being earned over time.
Most of all, discipling looks like what God designed for the home, where dads and moms teach in word and deed through all areas of life and then draw the children into the work of adulthood.
To add a final angle, discipling is a form of mutual love. Yes, there’s something of a teacher-student relationship, but there will also be peer-to-peer mutuality and love, such that the discipling often goes both ways.
I can say I’ve often been served and blessed and encouraged in the faith by those I’m discipling. Even as I work to do them spiritual good, they do me spiritual good. They help me better follow Jesus.
Together we learn what Paul means in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”
Together we work to fulfill Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
In discipling, my goal is to love younger Christians by helping them live in light of that final Day—but they typically recognize that my ability to do so depends on them helping me to do the same.