Jesus commanded us all to " go and make disciples of all nations..." But what is a disciple? If you were to ask 20 different Christians to define what a disciple is, you would probably get 20 different answers. I know a common definition is "a fully devoted follower of Christ," but how do you know when someone has become a fully devoted follower?
I think one of the reasons why we in the church are having difficulty making disciples is because we are unclear in the process and in the definition. How can we make one if we don't know what one is?
My passion is to redesign church so that unchurched people love to attend. I want our church to reach every available person by every available means at every available time with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, it's my desire to equip our people to make disciples. If every person in our church could love one, win one, and disciple one person per year, our church would double every 12 months! This goal only becomes achievable if I can simply define what a disciple is to our people and the process it takes to make one is clear.
The Bible doesn't give us any details as to how the early church leaders discipled Paul after his radical conversion on the Damascus road. However it does tell us that Paul spent a period of 3 years being taught and mentored by Peter, John, and the other Apostles. I can't find any insight into what they specifically taught him in those years until he arrives in Ephesus in Acts 19:1-10. Paul seems to lead this new group of believers through a very intentional process. I can only speculate that this process was a reflection of the very process Paul himself was led through by the early Apostles. This process helps us define what a disciple is and give us specifics on how to make one.
What is a complete disciple?
- Saved - Paul found a group of believers when he entered Ephesus. He defines what salvation is for us in Romans 10:9 when he says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
- Baptized in Water & With the Holy Spirit - the first question Paul asked after discovering they believed was "Did you receive the Holy Spirit?" When they replied, "no", Paul's next question was about baptism and then he proceeded to lead them through proper water baptism and into the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
- Active Members of the Local Church - immediately after they receive the Holy Spirit, he gets them active in the ministry and in reaching their community.
- Jesus is Lord - when they experience opposition to their ministry, Paul pulls them back and teaches them from 9am-3pm every day for a period of two years. We assume that he taught them through the Old Testament, the stories of Jesus, and how to teach and preach and minister in the Gifts of the Spirit. But the bottom line was, they came away from that time with knowing Jesus as more than just their Savior, He became their Lord, too. We know this because Timothy and others birthed one of the most powerful churches in all of Asia and many were martyred in the process.
If these simple 4 steps were good enough for Paul and his disciples were able to build a ministry that has lasted for over 2000 years, I think it could work for us, too.
Questions: Does clearly defining what a disciple is make it easier for you to love one, win one, and disciple one? What if a church built it's programs around this simple process? Would we become more effective?