Bringing people to Christ to become learners is a high calling and a privilege. Human disciple-makers are powerless in themselves, yet they are accountable to Christ, and they are active in Him. So, move ahead in faithful obedience to preach the Word. The exalted Christ ultimately makes disciples as He causes His Word to germinate and grow through your work. Through you, Christ will win, build, equip, restore, and send learners to do His mission in this needy world.
When I started seminary in 1967, Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18–20 to “make disciples” baffled me. There was something cryptic and mysterious about it, seemingly understood by only an initiated few. At the same time, Jesus’ words demanded comprehension and performance, and this started a pilgrimage of seeking to understand and practice “making disciples.” After many years of pastoring in the United States and teaching at a seminary in Uganda, I am still learning.
Let’s look together at three simple questions: (1) What is a disciple? (2) How are disciples made? (3) What kinds of disciple-making are there?
The Greek word we translate as “disciple” means learner. A disciple is a learner from the Lord Jesus. A learner is a listener and a practitioner. The Great Commission is a command to bring people to Christ to listen, learn, and practice. A disciple of Jesus becomes His learner forever.
Among the things that disciples are to be learning from Christ are:
- To deny self and to follow Jesus with singular loyalty (Luke 9:23–26; 14:26).
- To hate sin and love holiness.
- To serve and love Christ’s church with all her imperfections.
- To love the lost and the nations and to have a passion for gospel advance.
- To “adorn” Christ’s gospel with good deeds of love, justice, and mercy (Titus 2:10, 12, 14).
- To live by faith in Christ and the gospel (Rom. 1:17).
- To rejoice that the humanly unattainable requirements of a clean record, new heart, and new power to live a holy life have been purchased and provided by Christ alone through grace alone, and they are received by faith alone. Regeneration, justification, and sanctification are all free gifts.
- To boast only in the cross and the gospel and to flee all pride and self-achievement (Phil. 3:3–9).