The new year is a time to refresh our vision, set goals, and look ahead. Many of us feel eager to improve certain habits, perhaps by eating healthier or waking earlier or being more intentional with relationships. But as followers of Christ, certain fundamentals remain unchanged.
The call to make disciples is foundational to the life of every believer. A vision for spiritual reproduction is an exciting place to begin our aspirations as we begin 2021!
Now is a great time to refresh and refocus on methods of disciplemaking. Many of the insights that follow are adapted from Robert Coleman’s wonderful book The Master Plan of Evangelism.
I hope that as you read these practical disciplemaking methods, you’ll prayerfully consider who God is inviting you to invest in this year.
Select Someone to Disciple
At the funeral of Billy Graham, his youngest son Ned said, “I just want you to know that my father was F-A-T. He was faithful. He was available, and he was teachable, and I want each of you to remember that; faithful, available, teachable. May we all be that way.”
As disciplemakers, these characteristics should apply to us as much as those we seek to disciple. Followers of Christ must remain faithful to abiding in Christ and partnering in the work of the Kingdom. We must be available, ready to be used by God in his timing. And we must be teachable, eager to be instructed from His Word and by His Spirit (Matthew 11:29).
When considering someone we might disciple, these characteristics are helpful guideposts.
Connect in Relationship
The essence of Jesus’ discipleship was simply inviting his disciples to be with him. Robert Coleman calls it “sticking close to those whom we seek to lead.” Disciplemaking is about a relationship, not a project. Those of us who are more task-oriented can forget that this is a friendship that is best cared for with patience, flexibility, and love.
Demonstration over Explanation
Disciplemaking is an invitation for others to follow you as you follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The practice of raising up disciples is less about teaching and more about modeling “the outworking in life of the deeper realities of the Spirit,” writes Coleman . Disciplemakers are living portraits of the way of Jesus.
For more on “mirroring” Christ, check out this blog post.
Lay your Life Down
Jesus expressed his love by laying his life down. Disciples of Christ, are people who have decided to pursue a life of full surrendered to the leadership of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
To make disciples, we also surrender our lives in order to give ourselves to those we are discipling, just as Jesus did. The way of Jesus is spending yourself on behalf of others for the sake of His Kingdom and for His glory.
Invite them into the Work
Jesus promised, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). But Jesus did not only tell the disciples how to fish, he invited them to join Him in the ‘fishing.” For example, in the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus invited the disciples to participate in the miracle (see John 6, Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9). “You give them something to eat,” Jesus said to the disciples (Matthew 14:16 NIV, emphasis added).
We, too, invite those we are discipling to join us in the work of ministry. After all, our goal is to raise up participants in the Kingdom of God, not just as spectators of it.
Send them Out:
Jesus intended His ministry to multiply as disciples were sent out to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIV). Robert Coleman writes, “This was the way His church was to win—through the dedicated lives of those who knew the Savior so well that his Spirit and method constrained them to tell others.”
In the same way, we must eventually send out the people we are discipling to go and be disciplemakers themselves, in their normal contexts of lives and beyond! The goal is for the cycle to then repeat itself, creating spiritual generations that participate in a ripple effect of the Gospel, forever growing outward.