Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions When We Say “Make Disciples,” What Do We Really Mean?

When We Say “Make Disciples,” What Do We Really Mean?

To be a disciple of Jesus is the highest honor to which we can aspire. Yet even though discipleship is one of the hottest topics in Christendom today, it’s also one of the least understood.

Perhaps when most people hear the word “discipleship,” they visualize a curriculum. That would make a “disciple” someone who knows a lot about their faith. And that is partially true. To excel at anything, you need to have the right information. But discipleship is a much deeper, richer and fuller concept. It is also a lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus. It starts with salvation, matures through learning, and fulfills by loving and serving our neighbors.

What is a disciple? A disciple is someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ and sent to live “for” Christ. “Calling” includes salvation and abiding in Christ (John 8:31–32). “Equipping” includes spiritual formation and growth (2 Timothy 3:16–17). “Sending” includes discipling others, good work, bearing much fruit and neighbor love (Matthew 28:18–20, John 15:8, John 13:34–35).

What then is discipleship? Discipleship, then, is anything that calls someone to live in Christ, equips them to live like Christ or sends them to live for Christ. Authentic discipleship is to raise up men and women who love above all else the God who loves them above all else.

Making disciples is God’s designated way to release the power of His gospel on every problem we face. That’s because however a person got into their current situation, the only solution is to disciple them way out.

Evangelism without discipleship is cruel. It’s like enlisting a man in the Army and issuing him a rifle that he never learns how to clean and shoot. The risk when we don’t “fully” disciple new believers is that they will almost always become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior and hypocritical in witness. For this reason alone, anything less than a plan to disciple every willing person is a catastrophic moral failure.

Not everyone wants to be discipled, but who’s responsible for those who do? Of course, the Holy Spirit does the work, but he has chosen to do that work through us.

So how do we do this? What’s our part? When God puts someone in your path who is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping them solve that problem. Who has God put in your path who is stuck? Get to know them. Find out where they are in life, on their spiritual journey, and what’s holding them back. It’s the “making disciples” thing to do.

The first step to every great outcome is to imagine its possibility.

Until every church disciples every man …  

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Patrick Morley’s mission is to help men grow as disciples and disciple makers--starting at home. In 1991, he founded Man in the Mirror, which consults with churches in all 50 states to help them more effectively disciple their men. He teaches a weekly men's Bible study to 10,000 men and is the best-selling author of 20 books, including "The Man in the Mirror." Learn more at www.ManintheMirror.org and www.PatrickMorley.com.