Making Disciples

Let’s think about making disciples. How do we make disciples of Jesus in DMM (Disciple Making Movements) and how does this differ from what we may have been used to?

A very important starting point is that in DMM we always want to make disciples who will themselves make disciples.

Our traditional way of making a disciple is to first of all persuade the person to accept the truth of the gospel: they are separated from God by their sin, they cannot solve the problem by themselves, Jesus died on the cross to pay for their sin, they need to repent and accept Jesus into their heart and life as Saviour and Lord.

We then ask them to make a decision, maybe by praying a prayer, or coming to the front of a meeting.

After this, sometimes we ask the person to do a discipleship course (or follow-up course) with us, where they can learn more about living as a Christian. Many times the new Christian does not follow such a course, but is encouraged to come along to church meetings and learn from the sermons and Bible studies.

So, the pattern is: persuade, decide and teach.

I’d like to ask two questions at this point. The first is: does it work? In my experience (and I would guess the experience of many of us), even if we help someone overcome the obstacles of being persuaded and making a decision, often they do not want to follow a discipleship course, or maybe even come to church meetings. So, praise God that we have made some converts, but sadly not many of these converts become disciples.

Here’s my second question: is this what Jesus told us to do? When we think about the task of reaching those who do not yet know Jesus, we often think of Matthew 28:16-20, the Great Commission. In most translations v19 includes words like these: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (NIV). So, the first thing to note is that Jesus wants us to make disciples and not just converts.

These verses are absolutely packed full of information for us, but let’s just look at a tiny part. Sadly, most translations do not do a good job here. A more accurate version of the beginning of v19 is: “Therefore, having gone, disciple all the nations…” Notice that Jesus did not say “Go”. The “command” verb is not “go” but “disciple”. Really! Check it out…

Jesus did not say “First make converts and then try to make disciples out of as many converts as you can.” Jesus said “disciple.” Who are we to disciple? Jesus says “all the nations.”

Hold on, the way Jesus uses the verb “to disciple” is a lot different to our modern tradition of “to disciple.” For Jesus, discipling someone begins before they ever become a convert, in fact at the very first contact with them (check out the gospels). Discipling is a process that starts when someone is far from God and continues as they draw closer to God and as they begin to follow Jesus with all their heart and the process carries on as they get to know God better. Discipling is a continuous process, this is what Jesus intended. A better way of expressing it is that as a “disciple-making disciple” we accompany each person towards and into the Kingdom of God, we’re alongside them all the way.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus’ idea of discipling is not really about helping people to acquire knowledge, it’s about life change. Unfortunately, much of what we do as Christians is about transferring knowledge to people, which does not change their lives unless the knowledge is put into action.

The DMM approach is to do what Jesus told us and disciple people towards and into the Kingdom of God as a continuous process, through the means of Discovey Groups doing Discovery Bible Studies. By avoiding artificial (and unbiblical) breaks between “persuade”, “decide” and “teach how to be a disciple” the goal is to end up with disciples who make disciples, naturally, as Jesus intended. There is a whole lot more to say, but I don’t have space!

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