There’s a lot of talk about “Discipleship” in Christianity these days. (See for example Ministry Magazine April 2019 issue.) After all, Jesus’ last command was to “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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20.
How are we to make disciples? Here are four models found in the Bible. Though the word “disciple” is not always used, the concept is clearly present. Don’t miss the Application thoughts under each model.
- Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth, implying that the children they had were to be discipled to assist with this mission. Genesis 2-4.
- Noah and his wife raised their children to serve the Lord, and their families were the only ones to go onto the ark and survive the flood. Genesis 6-9.
- The Genealogies trace the history of families. Genesis 5, 10.
- Abram and his family were blessed to be a blessing to all families of the earth. Genesis 12f.
- The Children of Jacob/Israel developed into the 12 tribes. Genesis 49; Exodus – Deuteronomy.
- Application – Are you making disciples in your family? Start with Family Worship then add other ideas as the Lord leads.
- As the Children of Israel grew in size they needed to have a more manageable system for discipleship. Moses’ father-in-law Jethro suggested a plan to divide them into thousands, hundreds and fifties and tens. The basis unit was ten. Exodus 18.
- When Jesus came to earth He ignored the common system of Rabbis at the time of pouring themselves into one carefully-selected disciple. Instead He called a group of twelve “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.” Mark 3:14-15.
- When 3,000 new believers were baptized on the Day of Pentecost they met daily at the temple but also house to house, implying the formation of groups. Acts 2:40-47.
- On many of Paul’s missionary journeys there was a group of missionaries traveling together. e.g. Acts 13-14.
- Application – Are you a part of a healthy group (included upreach, inreach and outreach)? Are you looking for ways to multiply healthy groups in your church or ministry? What was Jesus’ plan for making disciples? How did Jesus call His first disciples? How did Jesus ordain the twelve?
- Missionary Partners.
- When Jesus sent out His disciples He sent them out two by two. They were to help disciple each other as they carried out their mission. Luke 9.
- Later Jesus sent out 70 more, again sending them two by two. Luke 10.
- Moses and Aaron. Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Silas. Barnabas and John Mark.
- Application – Do you have a missionary partner? If not, ask the Lord to give you someone you can meet with regularly for prayer, encouragement and witnessing. How and why did Jesus send out the twelve two by two? How and why did Jesus send out the seventy two by two?
- Coaching Relationships.
- Paul-Timothy. Paul saw the need to develop the next generation of disciples, perhaps after his initial frustration with John Mark (Acts 13:13 but later resolved in 2 Timothy 4:11). So when he and Barnabas parted ways (Acts 15:36-41) it wasn’t long before Paul and Silas recruited Timothy to travel with them in missionary work (Acts 16:1-5).
- Aquila and Priscilla – Apollos. In Ephesus Paul’s fellow tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos speaking eloquently but with limited Biblical understanding so they took him aside for some discipling which increased his skills in preaching the gospel. Acts 18:24-28.
- Passing on what you have learned to four generations. Just before his death Paul explained to Timothy how to keep multiplying disciples to the fourth generation. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2.
- Application – Who is someone who coaches you spiritually? Who is someone you coach spiritually? How did Paul coach Timothy in his last letter?
Now more than ever is the time to learn to live like a disciple of Jesus in the home, in a group, with a missionary partner and in coaching relationships. As we do this in Biblical ways we can expect to see transformed lives, people following Jesus in baptism and uniting with His final movement and then turning around and making more disciples for the Master.