The Art of Disciple Making

Go therefore and make disciples. . .

Matthew 28:19, ESV

I once read in a leadership book that the most introverted person will influence 1,400 people in his or her lifetime. When teaching discipleship and leadership classes, I often use these terms “leadership” and “discipleship” interchangeably. Most definitions of leadership revolve around “influence.” I would say that discipleship is also centered around “influence.” ¬†Some definitions of “discipleship” involve the passing on of values, teachings, and traditions. Leadership essentially is the same concept.

In Matthew 28, Jesus gives insight to disciple-making: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Here are some quick thoughts about leadership and discipleship (Again, I use the term “leadership” and “discipleship” interchangeably):

1. For a leader to raise up other leaders, there must be a clear vision and common goal

Jesus said we are to “baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There must first be a recognition of the disciple’s part that he or she must first want to be a part of God’s Kingdom. Salvation or having a born again experience is the beginning of this journey in discipleship. If you are looking to disciple someone or raise up a leader, the first question to ask: “Are they bearing fruit of salvation?” or “Are they on board with the vision?” Many times, as the saying goes, we try to fit square pegs through round holes. We must first find the person that is bearing fruit of genuine desire for God.

Not only are they on board, but are they headed in the same direction? I’ll never forget a water baptism service I was conducting on a public beach in Pensacola, Florida. My wife and I baptized about 25 teenagers at the end of a youth retreat. It was quite an awesome experience–especially since I have a great distaste for water. It was amazing to watch the beach area clear as we began baptizing these students. By the end of the water baptism service, even though we had done our best to not make a scene, everyone cleared out. The story even gets better. One of the teenagers on the retreat had been set free from a homosexual lifestyle. The student returned home to share the great news with the family and how they had experienced salvation followed by water baptism. The family rebuked the student for the decision. It was as if the family could cope easier with a lifestyle of homosexuality versus a radical Christian teenager.

The point Jesus is making here with water baptism is this: People can say a lot of things, but when it comes time to draw the line in the sand and make a public declaration, will they really live out the talk? When raising up other leaders and making disciples, is the person committed and are they bearing genuine fruit? Another great passage of scripture for this is John 15.

2. Then Jesus gives instruction as to what baptism: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

My point here is to not focus on doctrinal views of how we baptize (even though this is pretty clear directive), but rather notice the next crucial point for raising up other leaders. First, they have to be on board and bearing genuine fruit. Next, they must understand spiritual authority. As a leader, we are all submitted to God’s authority. He’s one God, expressed in three persons. Just as unique as each person of the Godhead is, this same authority is delegated within church leadership. Disciples or leaders that cannot submit to pastors and church leaders, will never submit to God.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Heb 13:17).”

Throughout my experience in ministry, I’ve encountered those who had trouble with this verse. Most people say things like, “I submit to God, but not to man.” Throughout Scripture, God gives clear instruction about His delegated authority.

Look for those who are willing to submit to God and fall in love with the unique persons of the Godhead, but also those who bear Christ’s calling as delegated authority. Even Christ made this point clear in Matthew 28, when He said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go…” He delegated His authority to His disciples.

3. When raising up leaders, look for those who are teachable.

“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Disciples must be teachable and willing to learn and grow. John Maxwell talks about the Law of the Lid. In summary, a leader’s effectiveness will be limited by his or her leadership ability. In order to expand in effectiveness, he or she must grow as a leader or surround themselves with leaders with a greater leadership ability. The same is true as a disciple. Disciples must grow daily through Bible reading, worship, prayer, fellowship with other believers, etc. Disciples must also be committed to fellowship in a community of believers that will challenge and stir them on to growth in God. Those who desire to grow in leadership and grow in God must be teachable.

Another interesting point about this statement, is that Jesus was commanding the disciples to share with others what they had been commanded. Leaders must learn the art of communicating truths they have learned themselves. An even greater task is to be able to communicate these truths to people who actually want to hear them. This again goes back to finding people who are teachable.

Will every potential leader or disciple want to hear what I have to say? I would be kidding myself to think that would be the case. But I will find those who are around me that want to know the truths I have learned, who are teachable, and we will run together.

Jesus found the 12 who were willing to leave everything to hear His teachings and experience life with Him. If you can find 12 who will do likewise with you and God, the possibilities are limitless. I once read a quote that applies here. “People who don’t believe in their leader can be hindered by anything. People who believe in their leader cannot be stopped by anything.”

4. Don’t leave anything out.

Jesus said “all that I have commanded you.” Whatever you do, do it with someone. If you are raising up leaders or disciples, take them with you. Lead a small group together. Do hospital visits together. Pray for the sick together. Evangelize together. Baptize other converts together. Teach together. Worship together. Give opportunity for those you are raising up to experience all that you have received.

Many times people feel inferior when challenged to make disciples. Lack of education, lack of experience, fear of rejection…there are so many hinderances. If the most introverted person can influence 1,400 people in a lifetime, surely you can find someone to make an eternal investment into!

Blessings in your journey!

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