After His resurrection and before He ascended to heaven, Jesus left his followers clear instructions. Known as the Great Commission, the instructions were to:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.19-20
So what are we to do, as Christ followers awaiting His return two millennia later?
1. The WHAT
The first thing to note is that the exact word for “discipleship” as a noun never occurs in the Bible. The Greek term μαθητής (mathētēs) means disciple, as in a student or apprentice. The verb form μαθητεύω (mathēteúō) means to make disciples, as in to help others become a disciple or to be a disciple oneself. Over time, adding the suffix -ship to the original word has led us to believe that discipleship is simply having the characteristics of a disciple, or perhaps a program which leads to it. However, the linguistic nuances tell us that discipleship is meant to be an action, a process, and a journey.
Discipleship is therefore two-fold. In maturing in our own faith and becoming more like Jesus, we can then help others mature and become more like Him too. As our calling is the latter, to make disciples of all nations, we then move on to the why and how of this important mission.
Discipleship is therefore two-fold. In maturing in our own faith and becoming more like Jesus, we can then help others mature and become more like Him too.
2. The WHY
Aside from the obvious, that we should obey God’s command, it is important for us to realize why making disciples is so important in our Christian walk. Pastor A.W. Tozer once said, “Only a disciple can make a disciple.” In helping others, we are challenged to mature and rise to another level closer to Jesus.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13.35
No one can see God, but people can see God reflected in His disciples who bear His image. When discipling non-believers, this is especially important. For many, their first encounter with God is through a helping hand or a praying friend. You, my brothers and sisters, can be that person who leads someone to Christ.
People can see God reflected in His disciples who bear His image.
3. The HOW
Many of us may feel inadequate and unready to make disciples. In order to make disciples, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. Here are some common misconceptions:
“I don’t have enough Bible knowledge”: Making disciples is not about teaching, preaching, or even giving advice. Every believer is called to make disciples, but not all are called to teach (James 3.1). Although Bible knowledge is absolutely important, discipleship is relationship-focused. We are meant to serve as a model for others on how to think and feel and act as His followers, and that can be done with a heart for Christ and thirst for His knowledge.
“I’m too young”: Young people are in fact in a strategic position to minister to peers. If you are a university student or young adult reading this, you are experiencing a unique set of challenges to your particular season of life. So who better to walk with a fellow Christian or a seeker friend? Do not let anyone, including yourself, look down on you because you are young (1 Timothy 4.12).
“Discipleship is for more senior people in the church”: If you’ve read this far, you probably already realize that all believers are called to make disciples. Pastors and elders have authority and responsibility to lead and cast vision for the rest, but as the body of Christ, we each have our own part to play in advancing God’s kingdom (Ephesians 4.16).
Young people are in fact in a strategic position to minister to peers. If you are a university student or young adult reading this, you are experiencing a unique set of challenges to your particular season of life.
Making disciples calls for doing life together in unity, connecting and meeting with other believers, and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10.24-25). We have been blessed with spiritual gifts to serve one another and His church (1 Peter 4.10). At its heart, making disciples is a radical act of loving and building each other up in order to grow closer to each other, and above all to God.