Jesus’ Great Commission “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20) is the church’s primary purpose. Through 20 centuries, Jesus’ final challenge has stirred His followers to action. Discipleship is much more than “part-time Christianity.” Jesus’ preeminent passion, the focus of His ministry, His earthly delight—was His twelve disciples. It is certainly true that He ministered to the masses, but Christ poured His life into those twelve diverse men. “It is not without significance that the word disciple occurs in the New Testament 269 times, Christian only 3 times, and believers 2 times. This surely indicates that the task of the church is not so much to make “Christians” or “believers” but “disciples.” 1
Jesus modeled discipleship to His select band of followers. The Lord knew that if He failed to effectively train the twelve, His mission would ultimately fall short of its global objective. Jesus really loved His disciples—and they knew it. Discipleship was Christ’s sole weapon to win the world. He never mentioned “Plan B.”
Greg Ogden defines discipleship as, “… an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples to encourage, equip and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to teach others as well.” 2 Bill Easum explains: “A disciple is an apprentice learning a trade. For Christians it means growing to be more like Jesus and helping others to do the same. I prefer to translate the Greek word for disciple as ‘an apprentice’ rather than ‘a learner.’ We have too much of the head in Christianity and not enough of the heart.” 3
Rick Warren summarizes how to make disciples: “Discipleship is the process of transformation that changes us to be increasingly more like Christ through the Word (John 17:17), the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), and circumstance (Rom. 8:28-29). Growth is both mystical and practical; God has a part (‘Only God makes things grow’ 1 Cor. 3:7), but we have a part as well (‘…put off…and put on’ Eph. 4:22-23). Discipleship is based on continual repentance (‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ Rom. 12:1-2). It takes far more than Bible study to grow a disciple – it takes a balance of worship experiences, fellowship experiences, engagement with the Word, ministry experiences, and evangelism/mission experiences. Without balance there is no health, and without health, there is no growth. Jesus modeled both the method and goal of all discipleship, moving the 12 from ‘Come and see’ to ‘Come and die!’ over a period of three years.” Warren goes on to say that discipleship is, “a systematic, sequential catechism that moves people along the predictable stages of discipleship from unbeliever to believer to member to maturity to ministry to mission, based on Jesus’ model. If you don’t have a process, you aren’t making disciples, because spiritual growth is not automatic. Discipleship is intentional, incremental, relational, covenantal, habitual, and incarnational.” 4
After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, His disciples knew what Jesus expected them to do. They were to go and repeat with other believers what Christ had done with them. Did His followers succeed? Absolutely! Not too many years later, antagonists to the Gospel reported that Jesus’ disciples had “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). First and foremost, Jesus Christ calls the Church and every believer in the Church to follow His example and “make disciples.”
Discipleship Begins With Our Children
Discipleship is the one thing that kids really need. DiscipleLand’s family of Biblical resources forms a complete Children’s Discipleship System™ – an intentional, relational, and transformational process designed to help children know God intimately, love Him passionately, and to serve Him selflessly.
1 J. Oswald Chambers. Spiritual Discipleship. Moody Publishers. Web 2013.
2 Greg Ogden. Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time. Intervarsity Press. Web 2013.
3 Bill Easum. Web 2013.
4 Rick Warren. Exponential. Web 2013.