Matt 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. NKJV
This Scripture is very familiar to all of us. Unfortunately the church as a whole is not fulfilling the great commission. The church is good at making converts, but lacking skill in making disciples of Jesus Christ. Some are good at making members of the church by entertaining them every Sunday with the hope they come back next week. One of the reasons the American church is so spiritually weak is that we stopped making disciples and instead chose to operate entertainment centers.
But the church is required to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We are required by Christ to teach them to observe all things that I have commanded you. You could say “I was not there with the disciples so I did not observe what Christ did.” But in fact we have 20-20 hindsight through the Bible. The Holy Spirit has inspired men of God to write the Scripture through His guidance. Even today, the Holy Spirit speaks to our spirits to give us the revelation we need for each new day.
So how do we make a convert a disciple? By taking time with them. We must become their friend. One interesting statistic is that a new convert must meet at least 5-10 new Christian friends, in order to keep them in your church or ministry. If this does not happen, they will gravitate back to their old friends and eventually into their old life style. So to put it simply, we must truly love them.
Next, we need to get them into the Word of God. I suggest that you give them a Bible that is easy to read. I remember when I accepted Christ I went to an adult Sunday School Class and shared with the teacher that I had a King James Bible that I could not understand. He blew me away by saying, “Here Bob take my Bible.” That Bible is still being used in my family today. What a blessing.
Next they got me involved in a weekly Bible study where I grew steadily. The key to bringing a convert to maturity is getting them into the Word of God. So if you do not have a Bible study to bring them to, start studying the Bible with them. If the new convert does not learn the promises from the Word of God, when tribulation comes, he will be discouraged and may give up. We need to teach him to stand on the Word of God.
It takes time to make a disciple so we might be inconvenienced to help them grow; i.e., lay down our lives. Why make disciples? Christ modeled it; commanded us to do it; and the New Testament disciples applied it as we see in:
Acts 2:42-47 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. NKJV
The apostle taught the Word, they fellowshipped and prayed with each other. They were in awe of what God was doing in their midst and signs and wonders followed them. They broke bread together, went house to; they had the gift of hospitality and praised God together as the Lord added to their numbers.
Next, in making disciples, you must find them meaningful ministry. The interesting thing is that people come out of a need. But within six months they need to feel needed. The baby busters and millenniums want to make a difference with their lives. Interestingly they are very like the people who went through the great depression and World War II. They are workers. They do not want to throw money at the problem; they want to be part of the solution.
So they are attracted to churches or ministries that are doing social outreach. They do not want to just sit in church; they want to be active making changes in their community or the world.
Part of discipling is to help them find and exercise their spiritual gift in ministry. The best way is to put them with a mature Christian that is operating in that gift. But the important thing is that we allow them to practice their gifting so they can grow and mature in that gift.
Lastly, we must release them for ministry so they can influence other in their sphere of influence. Remember for churches and ministries to grow we must encourage our people to minister outside our walls. Remember sheep beget sheep, not shepherds. So to increase the kingdom of God in your area you need to release your people to go outside the wall and reach the lost for Christ and have them in turn disciple their new converts.
Making disciples fundamentally means making friends, taking time to know the person. It seems that the gift of hospitality has left the church; but I encourage you to reignite it in your ministry and church. Take the time to fellowship with new converts; invite them to your home along with other members of your ministry or church so that they get to know others as well. As I said earlier, new converts need to meet 5-10 new Christian friends in order for them to feel accepted.
So discipling simply means taking a believer and moving him on in faith, so he begins to mature and employ his gifts in the body of Christ.
As Bill Hull said in his book The Disciple Making Church, Christ was the ultimate disciple maker. Christ employed a six-step method.
Tell them what.
Tell them why.
Show them how.
Do it with them.
Let them do it.
Many years ago, I saw a street ministry led by Randy White making disciples. Randy was getting people saved and asking the local churches to work with them. Because it was an affluent area, the pastors were reluctant to allow street people to attend their church. So Randy started his own church and started to make disciples. His ministry fed the street people so one method he used was he use a simple Bible study. What he did was to assign one chapter at a time with an answer sheet that they had to bring back filled out in order to participate in the meal that week. Out of that group he raised up leaders. A physician who was an alcoholic got saved and delivered from alcohol, and became the pastor of that church. It took Randy about two years to raise up the leadership. Making disciples takes time, but to the glory of God, Randy was successful in making disciples for Christ.
So I encourage you not just to make converts, but to fulfill the great commission, by making converts into disciples of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Bob Coulter
The book I recommend is: The Disciple Making Church by Bill Hull