How Do I Make Disciples?
Joel C. Rosenberg
>> On Saturday, May 18th, I spoke at a men’s conference at McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia on discipleship. The theme of the conference was based on a book that I wrote with the pastor who discipled my wife and me in college, The Invested Life: Making Disciples of all Nations One Person at a Time. Here are the notes I used for my three talks as prepared for the delivery. Soon, I’ll post links to the videos of the messages and you can see precisely what a said.
In the first session, we began examining, “What is discipleship?”
In this session, we will consider, “How do I make disciples?”
As we begin, we need to clarify what discipleship is not:
- Discipleship is not a program.
- It’s not a class.
- It’s not a spiritual gift that some people have and some do not.
- It’s not something that some Christians do (i.e., the “professional” Christians), while others (“regular” Christians) are exempt.
Put simply: If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, your Commander-in-Chief has given you an order: “Go and make disciples.”
- Any sincere believer can do it.
- Every sincere believer should do it – including you and me.
The question, then, is, “How?”
This is why Dr. Koshy and I wrote The Invested Life:
- to help every believer to be able to ask and answer two simple questions – “Who is investing in me?” and “Whom am I investing in?”
- to help pastors and individuals discover the centrality of discipleship to God’s plan and purpose for your life and ministry
- to show how Jesus is the ultimate model of disciple-making
- to show how older, wiser men of God actually invested in our lives, and how we have invested in the lives of younger men
- to help churches develop a “culture of discipleship.”
In a one day conference we can’t, of course, unpack everything in the Scriptures and everything in The Invested Life book.
Our objective today is far more modest – to give you sense of how important the Great Commission is to our Savior, and give you a sense of how the Great Commission can play out in the lives of real, ordinary men like you and me.
Jesus is the Model
At the end of the last session, I promised to define what a “disciple-maker” is. Let me be a man of my word.
The simplest way to put it is this: A “disciple-maker” is a man who helps a younger believer become a true and healthy and fruitful disciple.
“How?” you ask.
By following Jesus. Jesus is the model.
“Follow Me,” Jesus said, and He meant it – if we truly study His life, and pattern ours after His, and point the men we’re discipling towards Him, we cannot go wrong.
Let’s look at Mark 3:13-15 — “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him, and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons.”
Why did Jesus choose the twelve? The text gives us three reasons:
- To be with Him
- To preach the Gospel
- To have authority in spiritual warfare
This is a very simple way to explain our mission as disciple-makers.
- We’re helping people walk closely with Christ.
- We’re helping people share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, and become spiritual reproducers
- And we’re helping people battle spiritual warfare and temptation to stay on track with Christ and liberate lost people from the enemy.
That’s one simple way to explain our mission.
Here’s another – the Great Commandments and the Great Commission.
- We’re helping people love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
- We’re helping people to love their neighbors as themselves.
- And we’re helping people love God and people enough to share the Gospel, lead people to Christ, and make disciples.
Some of My Story
Okay, let me share some of my story of trying to make disciples in the Washington, D.C. area:
- Seven years of marriage and ministry – feel unsettled and dissatisfied
- A pastor (Ron) who encouraged me to start making disciples.
- Went back to S.U. to visit the Koshys and the DeColas (Campus Crusade for Christ staff members who had also invested in us).
- “Are you making disciples?” they asked.
- The honest answer was, “no, we’re not.”
- Dr. Koshy suggested, “Go back and each of you pray for the Lord to give you each one person to disciple.”
- He reminded us of something he used to say all the time, “Our God is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God, a wonder-working God”
- Our lives were extremely busy – I was senior advisor on a presidential campaign and Lynn was immersed in raising our two sons – but in faith we tried to obey.
Answers to our prayers:
- “John Black John Black”
More answers to prayer:
- Edward – never pictured him becoming a pastor, but God did something extraordinary in him
- two discipleship groups
But in time we realized that we weren’t teaching them to share their faith
- So we led a Global Impact trip to reach Muslims with the Gospel
- Terrifying for all of us to be sharing the Gospel on the streets of Europe – but it was life-changing for all of us, too.
- Eventually invited another married couple to help us lead future trips
- Then they began making disciples
- As much as we invested in these young adults, they invested so much in us as well
- Became cherished members of our family
- Became dear and life-long friends
- Such a joy to see them grow in the faith and spiritually reproduce
- We saw success – but we also saw failures
- Not everyone we invested in continued walking with Jesus and becoming spiritual parents
- Even Jesus had a Judas
- We are working with men, not machines
- I made mistakes – there are things I would go back and change if I could.
- But in the end, these are not “my disciples” – they are Jesus’ disciples
- And He is gracious with them, and with us]
Some Lessons I’ve Learned
Along the way, I’ve learned a number of lessons about making disciples.
Here are five:
- Integrate your marriage, family and ministry.
- Listen and pray.
- Create a warm, safe place.
- Focus on the Great Commandments.
- Focus on the Great Commission.
Let me briefly explain.
Integrate your family and ministry.
- If you’re married, serve with your spouse as much as possible.
- If you have kids, disciple them, and include them in disciple-making.
- Eat meals as a family with the people you’re investing in.
- Go on missions trips as a family.
- Don’t let the invested life divide and conquer you.
Listen and pray.
- People need someone to listen to their troubles and pray with and for them.
- Don’t just try to teach them or “get through” some curriculum.
- Don’t be goal-oriented – be people-oriented.
- Listen to them.
- Love them.
- And keep loving them even when you discover how troubled and broken they really are.
Create a warm, safe place.
- Invite people to your home for discipleship – not to the church or a coffee shop or restaurant.
- Practice Biblical hospitality.
- Cook them a special meal – don’t just serve order pizza.
Focus on the Great Commandments.
- Build a team that truly loves each other.
- Remember what Jesus said: they will know we are His disciples by our love.
Focus on the Great Commission.
- Don’t build a social club.
- Build a team committed to changing the world.
- Teach them to preach the Gospel.
- Teach them to teach the Word.
- Take them on mission trips.
- Encourage them to lead people to Christ and start making disciples.
- Then set them loose!
In the next session, we will look at the cost of discipleship.
But for now, let me close with the second of the two questions we began with:
- Whom are you investing in?
Do you have a “Timothy” in your life?
If not, write down some names of some young men that God may be prompting you to invest in.
Start praying over those names.
Ask the Lord to give you someone to invest in – and trust Him to provide.
“Ask, and it will be given to you.” (Matthew 7:7)