Making disciples

As part of my study on Disciple Making Movements, I’ve been reading through the gospels to see how Jesus approached making disciples.

Jesus invited people to become his disciples. In Mark 2:14, Jesus said to Levi (Matthew), “Follow me and be my disciple.” He didn’t tell him, “Follow me and when you’ve learned enough, you can be my disciple.” Too often, we make discipleship a teacher/learner process, whereas Jesus regarded anyone who followed (and obeyed) him as a disciple, right from the get go.

Our friend, Molong, in the Philippines has a very simple pattern of making disciples. He’ll say to someone, “You’re my friend and you believe in me, would you like to become a disciple?” Then he tells them about following Jesus. When they say “yes,” he baptizes them, and teaches them how to do the same for their friends. He now has disciples down to the 14th generation. If you follow him on facebook, you’ll come across posts like ” XXX (second generation) says they are going to baptize seven people today.” There are around 600 new believers who have become disciples in this way. Their “follow-up” consists of  living life together–not under the same roof, but as an everyday occurrence.

Within evangelicalism, one-on-one is a preferred method of discipleship . I have no doubt as to its effectiveness (wish someone had been there to disciple me as a young believer). However, recently I’ve been questioning this.

There were only two occasions I can find in the gospels where Jesus had a conversation with one of the disciples alone. One was with Peter over the paying of taxes (go and catch a fish) and the other, also with Peter, was about forgiving people seventy times seven times. As far as I can see, every other interaction that is recorded involves a group of them–of at least two or three.

There was one occasion where it specifically states Jesus was alone for a conversation with someone–the woman at the well. And we assume (although it doesn’t say so) that he was alone with Nicodemus in John 3.

Other than that, once he had chosen the twelve, Jesus worked with groups–groups of his disciples, the crowds, challenged groups of Pharisees and Sadducees. Other conversations where it appears he was talking to individuals, if you examine the context, were all within a group situation.

What can we learn from this?

Photo Credit: Travis S. via Compfight cc

  • Janet Maxim

    We learn to “not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think” – that we need one another in the Body to work together making disciples (and to always be disciple-learners ourselves). No single one of us has everything we need to meet the need of others – we need to be a community training and taking care of one another. Example – in December a couple in our little house group shared Christ with a waitress. Through the conversation they learned she’s a single mother and had told her kids there’d be “no Christmas this year.” As they shared this with our group, one guy piped up “well, I’ll throw in some money to buy them gifts!’ and of course everyone else chipped in too. So this couple was able to provide much more from the group than they’d be able to on their own. When they brought the gift card to the waitress, it led into sharing the gospel and asking her what was keeping her from putting her faith in Jesus? Nothing was keeping her…and she came into the Kingdom that day. I’m not saying the gift card tipped the scales (I don’t know) but just that as a group we had a lot more to give than even this godly couple could give on their own.

    • felicitydale

      Janet, what a great story. And what a great example of a group “making a disciple.”

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  • Roger W. Bullard

    I like this. I have been so focused on finding that person of peace, one on one. The waitress in Janet’s example might be that person of peace and maybe not. But, Jesus is the supplier of that anyhow. Thanks Felicity and Janet. Fort Carson here in the Colorado Springs is where we are called locally and this good advice certainly helps. There are possibilities of finding a family there or just off-base where a group can be started…

    • felicitydale

      Great to hear from you, Roger. It will be interesting to see who that person of peace turns out to be for you.

  • David

    I agree, I think that often one of Jesus’ teachings is sorely overlooked when it comes to discipleship: “But you must not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, Christ, and you are all brothers. (Mat 23:8 MKJV)”

    When we disciple others, we are not taking disciples unto ourselves, instead we are inviting others to be disciples of Christ with us.

    I love the story of your friend in the Philippines!

    • felicitydale

      David, I love this verse used in this context. Yes! We are brothers (and sisters) who are disciples of Jesus together.

  • jeff

    I was invited to meet with some high school seniors from a local Christian school for” disvipkeshop” any suggestions? We have been hanging out and discussing their life and future plans. Not real organized on this. Would like to be more intentional if possible? Any recommended reads?

    • felicitydale

      Sorry, Jeff, I only just saw this comment. We worked for quite a while with a group of high-schoolers. We found that they wanted to belong before they believed. Our kids were mostly not-yet-believers–friends of our kids from our neighborhood and from their public school. If your kids are from a Christian school, of course, they may already be believers.

      Here’s my suggestions:
      1. If these kids are already believers, then I would spend some time training them how to reach their friends. For this, I suggest Neil Cole’s “Cultivating a Life for God, or T4T by Ying Kai an Steve Smith. Both give valuable resources.

      2. If they are not-yet-believers, here’s what we did. Each week, following a meal we asked one of the kids to spend time telling us “the story of where you are on your spiritual journey.” It let’s you know exactly where they are. It might be appropriate to spend time praying with them at that point. (I remember the first time we did this, a girl confessed how she’d nearly attempted suicide–there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when she finished. And she met Jesus.)
      Then we spent time in interactive Bible study–no right or wrong answers. We let the word work in their lives. You might want to go through the 7 signs of John. Each time you read the story and answer 3 questions:What do we learn about God/Jesus, What do we learn about people. How is this going to make a difference in my life.

      Then we spent time praying for the needs they had.

      We watched their lives change. They stopped doing drugs or sleeping with their girl/boyfriend. When they asked us if they could be baptized, we made sure they had really committed their lives to Jesus. We didn’t baptize, but their friends baptized them.

      Awesome times. We often finished by playing crazy games til late at night.

      Hope this helps

  • Michael Fleming

    Spiritual (really emotional) maturity requires opportunities to die to yourself and live out of love. The environment of close-knit community provides the opportunities that isolation doesn’t. Even one-on-one mentorships don’t. I can sit and talk to my mentor all day, but until I have the opportunities to grow that community supplies, I’ll stay right where I am.

    • felicitydale

      I agree, and we see most of our discipleship done in the context of community.