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What It Takes to Make Disciples

Black and white photo of a diverse group of men and women standing together wearing lanyards

In this season of returning to “normal,” maybe it is time to remember our commission and align our activity and focus on Christ’s mandate and priority for us. Over the past years’ gatherings, big and small efforts have been challenging for everyone, but making disciples has remained our call. Many times, I believe that our challenge is not that we do not want to make disciples but that it gets put on the list with everything else. I recently talked to a youth pastor who moved his primary discipling plan into the homes where he became focused on equipping and discipling parents to then disciple their kids. Wow! If this season would move us to return to God’s priorities for the family and church, then those years of “non-gatherings’ would be an alignment time.

So, what does it take to make disciples of Christ?

#1: You cannot reproduce what you do not have or know.

Disciple-making is not a formula or program, but it is a relationship with Christ as Master. It is a relationship where He is dictating our focus and direction in life. As we are following Jesus in our daily life, we are able to model and help others follow Jesus. But if we are not walking with the Lord, there is little to reproduce.

One key phrase in disciple-making is: “More is caught than taught.” Walking with a new believer and modeling a Gospel-centered life is vital in their growth and understanding of what it takes to be a follower. Seeing the challenges and struggles in our Christ-living is key in showing the grace life we live by faith.

Unfortunately, sometimes we preach and teach something we do not live and do. This stops the growth of the new believer as they look at a disconnect between the ideal and the living factor. We have reproduced a Christianity that is many times consumer-driven and not necessarily Biblical.

Key questions for us as disciple makers: How deep is our personal walk with Jesus every day? How does our Bible reading/study and prayer time impact our “drive time”? Are we still growing in our intimacy with the Lord, or are their sin areas in our own lives that are blocking the flow of the Spirit? This year, what are your spiritual goals for growing more like Jesus and sharing Him with others? (Romans 8:29)

#2: Disciple-making involves an older/obedient follower guiding another believer to walk closer with Christ – but one step at a time.

We tend to over- or under-feed our disciples and forget the process and steps of maturity that must take place. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 talks about spiritual babies needing milk. A new believer needs to be given regular and simple spiritual milk in order for him to grow. Growth is not knowledge or information; it is when truth is discovered and applied into one’s life. Obedience is the mark of maturity, not knowledge. Ezra 7:10 presents the pattern of study, obedience and sharing as a mark in Ezra’s life. This is vital today as we live divided lives with church/God in one place and our work/family in another. Integrating faith into learning, doing and sharing in all areas is vital for the growth of a disciple.

Key questions for us as disciple makers: Where is the person God is calling me to guide into maturity (spiritually, emotionally, etc.)? What is their next step in the basics (prayer, Word, fellowship, surrender, sharing, etc.)? What are the truths they need to apply into their lives in order to grow? How would I model this for them, teach them and help them discover these truths?

#3. Discipleship must be evaluated by transformation and reproduction.

As I thought about this statement, I realized that most of us feel uncomfortable with this truth or that we avoid it as much as possible. An effective discipleship focus is not measured by our delivery or Bible study but by us participating with the Holy Spirit in seeing a believer take on his faith and live it. As that happens, we can then guide the believer rather than pull them to follow Christ. Yet reproduction is the foremost marker in effective discipleship. I remember in college when I began to see young men not just growing with me but leading others to know Christ and grow in Him. The vision and call to reproduction must be present in all we do in the church as we make disciples.

Key questions for us as disciple makers: Who is your Timothy? Are you praying regularly and intentionally for and with the life of the person you are discipling? Have you shared a clear challenge with your disciple that God is calling him to reproduce his faith in the life of another? If we focused on transformation and reproduction of disciples in our churches, what would we need to stop doing in order to grow this focus? How can reproducing disciples be a norm in your congregation?

In this new time, may we move to more effectively live and serve like Jesus.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19 (NIV).

State Missionary Brian Harper serves as lead church planting strategist at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2332, or (334) 613-2332,

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