Disciple making is behaviour, relationship and life based – it is not about what you know, but what you live and how you obey God.
The tragedy today is that many religious people are highly informed people with huge amounts of knowledge, but they do not necessarily live any of it. You can not make disciples of Jesus by giving people huge amounts of knowledge. Making disciples depend much more on your behaviour, relationships, life skills, character and attitude. These are matters that count in the Kingdom. In the first place the Lord does not want to know how much you know and how many degrees and courses you have done, but how much of the Word you are living. If you do not know how much of the Word you are living, ask the simplest person you know and you will get a clear indication. Disciple making happens in living life together with people and by living it in obedience to the Lord.
God created man as body, soul and spirit and He made provision that we can live successfully in every aspect. Man is a being of uniformity and everything in life has an influence on every part of our being. In society everything has become institutionalized and delegated to institutions. The congregation takes care of the spiritual, the broker and bank manager take care of the finances, the school takes over education, the doctor manages the medical, the psychologist manages your relationships, the nursery school brings up your children and the Sunday school takes care of the spiritual education. There may be several disciplines in life, but God lays claim to everything in our lives and wants to transform every aspect of our life according to His divine purpose. He is the start of everyone’s life and the solution to everything. The Word addresses everything in our lives and it is the starting point for everything. God is God of everything in our lives! Man is by nature a spiritual being and all solutions start in the spiritual world. Directly and indirectly the Word gives the principles for everything in our society. As believers we cannot hand over certain parts to people so that they can take control of these parts of our lives.
The best space for disciple making to take place is in small groups, communities or families – not necessarily on a one-to-one basis or in huge masses
Disciple making is an intimate, personal working in the lives of people and cannot take place in situations that are too big, too formal or too impersonal. People live according to values and values can only change if people live the true and everyday life in each others presence. The power of example has always been the strongest. You can reason with someone’s theology, but not with the lives people are living. The saying goes – “The man with experience is not at the mercy of the man with the argument.” Our instruction is to love people and in this way to carry out the Great Commission. “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Each and every one of us needs groups, communities and families where we can learn from example. The poorest person is one who lives on his/her own and has to find answers to everything on his/her own. One-on-one discipleship is good, but it will give you less experience to learn from. One-on-one mentoring also takes a lot of time. We also have to learn that our problems and challenges are not so unique that no one else can associate with them. Each person needs to commit and lay down his/her life in a group that functions like a family in order to receive input and to be accountable to that group. In a large gathering we can all listen together to a sermon, but very little disciple making and life transformation take place there.
Disciple making is in essence about lifestyle. It is something you are going to work on for the rest of your life and there is never going to be a perfect end. The essence of a lifestyle is also not a matter of having said and done everything perfectly, but it originates from and is motivated by the heart and depends on the attitude in the heart. Disciple making is far more about right attitudes than right words and deeds in the first place. There is also no course that can disciple you perfectly. No course or series of courses about being a disciple is going to finally settle the matter, because the perfect course was already written long ago, namely the Word! The Word is alive and powerful and by the power of the Holy Spirit can awake and change life and then maintain it. To disciple a lifestyle we need real life situations and not courses or sermons.
The only place of freedom in the universe is the voice of the Father. No human instruction, course, teaching or preaching can set you free. Preaching is secondhand revelation to the hearers thereof and it will only bring freedom if the hearer goes directly to the Father to hear if that which was preached is indeed true. If mere preaching managed to set people free, the whole world would have been free long ago. It is only God’s voice in the preaching that sets you free if you can hear it. Preaching may bring about theological change in the mind, but it is one of the most ineffective means if your purpose is constant life change.
In churches doctrines are very important. That is the reason why there are so many denominations. Full-time leaders and preachers, who studied for 4 years and more, are appointed to ensure that members do not stray from the doctrines. The purpose of Jesus coming to earth was not in the first place to bring pure teaching, but to reveal the Father in pure living form as a person. It is not the task of leaders to constantly correct members. The Holy Spirit will lead everyone into the full Truth as long as they read the Word. Doctrine is not unimportant, but mere right teachings do not guarantee constant life change. Life change starts by the renewing of your mind, but this is only the start of the process – Romans 12:1-2. To obtain life change, you need your will, emotions and body to work together.
Discipleship is about desire, willingness, discovery, discussion and application – not lectures in classrooms
The willingness, receptivity, desire and openness of a person to be discipled, are the greatest factors which will determine whether it is going to be successful. You cannot disciple adults against their will in spiritual or other matters. A disciple is someone who willingly receives the revelation of the Holy Spirit in his/her life and who lives in obedience thereto. Discipleship is about a will that willingly submits to another will; it is not about an amount of lectures in classrooms where only information is transferred.
Disciple making is not a mere transfer of information, but the transformation of a life in every aspect thereof. In the process of disciple making there is indeed a factor of information or revelation of the truth, but it is the Father Himself who reveals it to the person. We have too many forms of disciple making where we preach to people and the Father gets no opportunity to speak to that person.
Jesus said in John 8:31-32 that someone is a true disciple if he abides in His Word, because then he will know the Truth and the Truth will set him free. Discipleship starts with the desire to personally hear the Father’s voice by reading the Word yourself. If you do not have this as foundation, you only end up with human advice and laws.
Before conversion we need disciple making – we have to disciple towards conversion!
Mostly in our approach as church, we think of discipleship as something that is exclusive to believers. The believers must come to church to mature and grow! It is at this point that everything is turned inwards and we do not even reach out to unbelievers, let alone disciple unbelievers.
There is only one commission and one program for the believers and that is to make disciples of the unbelievers. This is a foreign concept to us, but in practice we are already discipling our children long before they accept the Lord into their lives.
If we understand the process of disciple making correctly, it will also be easier for us to understand that it is possible to disciple unbelievers.
Let us look at a few scriptures that specifically make mention of discipleship:
- John 8:31-32
- Luke 14:26, 27, 33
- John 13:34-35
- John 15:7-13
- John 15:26-27
- Acts 20:23-24
Just from these verses we see essential concepts defining discipleship like: abiding in My Word/ loving God above all else/ carrying your cross/ follow Me/ forsaking all that you have/ loving one another/ bearing much fruit/ abiding in My love/ keeping My commandments/ My joy be in you/ laying down your life for your friends/ testifying/ having no worries/ not esteeming your life dear to yourself/ to attest to the good news of God’s grace!
All these words together create a powerful package from which we can distinguish four basic core elements:
- Accountable towards one another (group)
- Abiding in the WORD
- LOVE for one another
- ATTESTING towards others