This is the process of moving a convert from initial follow-up to being a mature follower of the Lord Jesus. "Disciples are made, not born" (Matt. 28:19). Disciples are made by other disciples.
It is the Lord's command: "Go you into all the world and make disciples" (Matt 28:19). It is called "The Great Commission," and it goes beyond sending missionaries to foreign fields. It is for all believers wherever they are and for all churches to follow its directives. It involves the assisting of other believers to grow and become productive.
It is exemplified by the Lord Jesus and His work with the Twelve. It is seen in the ministry of the Apostle Paul and Timothy. It is seen in the Apostle John and his disciples. It is seen in a man named Polycarp. It is seen in the Old Testament in Moses with Joshua, Elijah with Elisha, Samuel in his schools of the prophets, Paul and his young disciple Timothy. "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witness these entrust to faithful men in who will be able to teach these also" (II Timothy 2:2).
What is a disciple? He is a learner, a follower, an imitator, one who passes on what he believes to others that they might also be Jesus' disciples. It was a common term used by the Greeks for those who followed certain philosophic schools. It was used of the followers of John the Baptist (Matt 9:14). It was even used by the followers of the Jewish sect, the Pharisees (Matt 22:15-16). It was natural to use the term in reference to those becoming Christians (Acts 11:26). Thus, it was used broadly of all who professed to follow Jesus (Matt 5:1-2) including even false disciples (John 6:66). Narrowly, the word describes those who meet strict requirements by the Lord. He called these "true disciples" (John 8:31). These are
the real disciples. The
terms for true discipleship go beyond, and are not the same as, the
terms of salvation. These terms are:
1. No Rival: Complete loyalty to Christ (Luke 14:26).
2. No Refusal: Habitual obedience and submission to Christ (Luke 14:27).
3. No Return: Persistence in following Christ without turning back (Luke 14:33).
Why should anyone wish to accept such strict terms? Primarily because they fully love our Lord Jesus and appreciate the sacrifice of His life for us (II Cor. 5:14-15); these things motivate them, not self-indulgence or complacency. There are also many benefits.
1. Spiritual blessings in this life a hundred fold (Mark 10:30).
2. Future rewards beyond this life. (I Cor 3:14; II Cor. 5:10).
What is essential to begin becoming a real disciple?
1. You ought to be living a consistent Christian life yourself. Be committed to living a God-pleasing life (I Thess. 4:1).
2. You should not be having besetting sins over which you have not had victory (Heb.12:1, I John 1:9). Examples are temper outbursts, harsh or impure speech, drinking, pornography, or sexual problems.
3. You should have a consistent devotional life (effective daily quiet time) with a steady diet of the word and regular prayers.
4. You should be sharing your faith with others in your immediate circle (witnessing, confessing).
Here are some suggestions for effective discipleship sessions.
1. The candidate he disciples should make himself dependably available to the discipling process.
2. There should be a regular weekly meeting time of at least one-hour. Extra time can be arranged for needed social fellowship and joint ministry activities, such as calling on others.
3. Share at each meeting, both of you, your personal applications from the Word. Discuss them. Decide why God has brought these to your attention. What will you do about these specifically?
4. Pray together audibly, perhaps even on your knees. Include evangelistic prospects, character needs or problems, and of course worship. Encourage and give hope.
5. Review your goals and specify items of progress. Consider progress in character development, ministry skill needs, and problems being faced or overcome.
6. Institute a scripture memory plan beginning with basic gospel verses then adding growth or other key verses.
7. Pursue a well chosen reading program supplementing but not substituting for time in the Word. Even Paul was not a "Bible-only" man but a widely read man who quoted non-Biblical sources. Biographies of godly men are helpful, also a basic grasp of Biblical and extra-Biblical history. How else could you appreciate the prophecies of Daniel or other prophets?
8. Prepare thoroughly for the weekly meeting. Do not just show up and talk. Make sure everything is understood. Repeat often, especially anything basic. God does repeat key commands. Try to demonstrate.
Never assume anything. Look up for careful definition any words used. Keep a dictionary handy; also a concordance of Bible words with their meanings in Hebrew and Greek supplements.
9. Keep emphasizing the Lordship of Christ in every way, especially in matters of decision and action (how will this serve Christ and His purposes?) Remember, "Not my will but Thine be done." Take up the cross daily in self-denial and personal sacrifice.
The following suggestions are for the person doing discipling ("Make Disciples").
1. Select with care a faithful person who will voluntarily make himself available and approachable. Use great care that you do not spend time on an unfaithful person. Begin with a few initial meetings to check his response. Promise nothing beyond this. If there is a lack of effective response, continue no further; other than pray for them.
2. Check progress on all steps outlined above; adjust where necessary, spending more time where it is most needed.
3. Show them how every step of the way, from effective devotional time to witnessing.
4. "Speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), admonishing firmly yet courteously with courage (I Cor. 4:14). Don't avoid this just to be well liked at all times. Often people do not want to listen to this. Still you are not seeking to win a popularity contest, only to please God and help them.
5. Get them involved in some ministry in the church, starting even with simple things (serving others) then perhaps to pre-school, Sunday school and assisting with youth and other small groups. Keep in mind the development of spiritual gifts by serving broadly where God will bless others the most. Teach them to be others directed, just as our Lord modeled it. Give attention to good management of relationships.
6. Give assignments, including areas of need or skill, reading, memory work, witnessing, and developing contacts. Do not coerce (force) people to do things. That should not be necessary in a willing disciple. Remember they are Christ's disciples not yours. You are not a lord over God's heritage. (I Peter 5:3).
7. Expect growth: some growth is gradual (character or skills) (I Peter 2:2, II Peter 3:18),
some immediate (temptation, impure thoughts, bad habits, incurring needless debt) (Eph. 4:22).