19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Before we go and make disciples of men as commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ, we first need to understand who a disciple is?
A disciple is someone who lives according to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and leads others to Christ. That person is a student-teacher. A student – who seeks God’s word and follows it, teacher – teaches others also.
Practical steps to disciple-making
Examine ourselves – we should examine ourselves to see whether the life that we are living is worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). We cannot disciple others if our lives are not worthy of the gospel we proclaim. Our lives should mirror what we preach/teach.
Pray – We cannot make disciples or disciple others by our own strength or ability. We need to pray to God to give us the desire, the strength and courage to make disciples for Him. Also, pray for Him to fill us with His Spirit to set us apart for the good work (Acts 13:2-3).
Equip ourselves with the Word – we cannot make disciples or disciple others if we ourselves are not equipped with the Word of God. Equipping ourselves with the Word of God prepares us for any challenging questions or situation that requires biblical wisdom to tackle (2 Tim 3:16-17). The disciples asked Jesus a whole of lot questions during His time on earth with them concerning things they did not understand, and in the same way we should expect people that we disciple to often pose questions at us concerning the faith. Thus we need to be equipped with the word to be able to answer these questions. (Matthew 17:14-20, Matthew 13:10, Luke 11:1)
Love those we are discipling and develop a relationship (an important aspect) – We should develop a good relationship with those that we are discipling, showing them all the love and care they need. Jesus’ relationship with His disciples should be a model and the kind of relationship we should also desire to have with people we are discipling.
Wise words from Paul fritz concerning our relationship with those that we disciple:
Jesus loved His disciples and they loved Him with unmitigated affection. The Lord knew how to build relationships with the twelve apostles through intimate communications, sharing of their resources and developing trust in the process of building Christ’s church.The disciples were so committed to Jesus as a friend that they all laid down their lives for Him. Perhaps the secret of Christ’s successful friendships lay in shared goal of doing the will of the heavenly Father through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
1. Jesus knew how to win the trust, confidence and love from His disciples because He chose men who were committed to the goals of the heavenly Father. If you really want to have close relationships, base them around mutual goals of giving God glory through the planting and growing of His church in all respects
2. Jesus spent leisure and ministry time with the disciples so they could have a transparent relationship. Since the Lord had nothing to hide, He was willing to let the disciples see Him on a 24 hour day basis.
3. Jesus impressed even Simon the Pharisee when He was willing to go to his house and dine with him. Christ’s willingness to meet people on their home court proved to be a most effective teaching lab.
4. Jesus frequented cultural celebrations like weddings to demonstrate His concern for healthy human relationships. When Jesus graced a wedding He always added something memorable to the occasion with His miracles, His teaching or His service.
5. Jesus demonstrated great patience, tolerance and forbearance with the disciples who were slow to learn important lessons. When Jesus approached the disciples on the shores of the sea of Galilee He began with a practical concern for what they were doing. He said, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They answered, “No.” He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Immediately, Peter said, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:5-7) People often remember us for what we have done to meet their needs.
6. Jesus refused to give up on His friends. He asked Peter three time if he loved Him. Each time Peter meekly said, “Lord you know that I have a brotherly affection for you (he could not bring himself to say that he agaped – loved Jesus in the sense that Jesus loved him).” (John 21:15-17)
7. Jesus proved His loved by giving important ministries to His friends. He said to Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) When we really love people we will involve them in ministries that help them make a significant contribution to the cause of Christ. Real friendships go beyond human values.
8. Jesus refused to allow Peter to compare his friendship with that of John. Peter saw John and said, “Lord, what about John?” (Is he also going to have to follow you in a similarly painful death as He had suggested Peter would have to suffer) Instead, of getting into comparative explanations, Jesus said to Peter, “If I want John to remain until I return, what is that to you? (That is really not your business Peter). You must follow me!” (Do not base your relationship with God upon what He decides to do with a brother or sister) (John 21:18-22) Leave all the judging, directions and developments of all relationships to the Lord.
9. Jesus’ relationship with His disciples was based on an intimate knowledge of each person’s strengths and weaknesses. Jesus knew that each disciple had special gifts, personalities and abilities. The Lord knew that Peter would respond best to great challenges. John on the other hand responded to more gentle encouragement. (John 21:15-23)
10. Jesus developed intimate relationships with those whom He chose to pray. The disciples once asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus then gave the model Lord’s prayer that would remind them of the essential elements to include in every prayer as they sought greater intimacy with God.
11. Jesus rebuked James and John for presuming upon their special intimacy with Him. The disciples thought they deserved special favors. “Teacher, we want you to let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left hand in glory.” Jesus said, “You do not know what you are asking… To sit at my right hand or my left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” (Mark 10:35-40)
Do not presume upon the Lord for special insider favors because of your self-inflated ideas of your own importance. Good relationships still have clearly defined roles, identities and responsibilities.
12. Jesus taught the Pharisees that they had forgotten that the greatest commandment involving relationships. One day a teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:28-31).
Remember that it is impossible to properly love others or ourself unless we first love the Lord with unreserved affection and commitment!