Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth and at the age of about 30, chose 12 men and challenged them to follow Him and become His disciples. He spent roughly three-and-a-half years discipling these men and then left.
Jesus’ model for making disciples was simple, relational, and life-on-life. He didn’t hold classes, workshops, seminars, or conferences. He simply spent time with these men walking all over Israel. They spent a lot of time together in a boat. He spent time with them in all kinds of situations.
And wherever He was with His disciples, He drew on what was at hand or what was going on to show them what it means to follow Him, love God and love others.
In my own experience, discipleship is more caught than taught. A man whom I spent several years with told me that he learned more about making disciples from me on our hikes than in any of the classes I had held.
And I must confess, even recently I’ve been scheming ways to improve on Jesus’ model for making disciples, and I know very well that I’m not alone in this. Countless churches have devised complex models for making disciples.
But hey, we’re Americans. We’re entrepreneurial. We’re always looking to making things better, faster, more efficient—so why not with discipleship?
The problem is that when we try to mass produce disciples, we lose the life-on-life, relational, more-caught-than-taught aspects that make Jesus’ model so effective.
I believe our problem today is not lack of a better model. Our problem is that too many Christians have relegated disciple-making to the so-called professionals—pastors, missionaries, and other paid church staff.
This was never Jesus’ intent. We so easily forget that Jesus’ first disciples were ordinary men and women. It is also abundantly clear from the New Testament, that a disciple (follower) of Jesus is a reproducer. In other words, if we’re truly following Jesus, we’re engaged in making disciples.
As God said to Adam and Eve in the beginning, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He designed Adam and Eve to procreate. He expected this of them and blessed them in it. The Lord has issued the same command to us, His disciples, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He used different words (Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8), but the sense is the same.
Imagine if Adam and Eve had said, “We won’t procreate ourselves, we’ll hire a few professionals to populate the earth on our behalf.” Such a notion is ridiculous! So, how can we think that hiring a few professionals to make disciples (spiritual procreation) is any less ridiculous?
Within days of Jesus’ departure there were thousands of disciples and the Gospel continued to spread throughout the world as brand-new followers of Jesus made disciples.
Let’s get back to what Jesus modeled for us. Men, find another man. Women, find another woman. Start meeting together weekly. Pray with and for each other. Read and discuss the Word together. Challenge each other in your walk with Christ. Spend time together in real life. Share your struggles and victories with each other. And reach out to those around you who don’t yet know Christ and watch what God does!
What Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, He says to us, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17 NLT)