Starting Points define disciple making. They are designed to educate. They are not individual action points. The emphasis here is knowing, not doing. The first nine starting points are based on Matthew 28:16–20. The rest are important truths about the Great Commission in general.
THE GREAT COMMISSION
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted. Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:16–20)
1. Making disciples is the task of every follower of Jesus Christ.
Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. (Matthew 28:16)
Every follower of Jesus Christ can make disciples. Any believer can become a disciple maker, because the qualifications to make disciples are as follows: you must be a Christian, you must be imperfect, and you must be willing. If you’re able to check off each of these basic requirements, you can make disciples. Jesus had you in mind when He issued the command to make disciples. He wasn’t looking for theological experts. He wasn’t focused on those with a Bible education or seminary experience. He was talking to average, ordinary Christians. He was talking to those who would learn as they went, Christians who would grow in their ability to make disciples only by making disciples. He was talking to a group of people who simply did what He said and ended up changing the world—and their own lives.
Additionally, we can make disciples because of the Holy Spirit. He empowers us to make disciples by reminding us of the glory of the gospel. He assures us that the gospel is powerful and able to save anyone who believes in it. He emboldens us to take this message to everyone, especially those who have no access to it. He takes us to places where it’s difficult to be, dangerous to share, but necessary to go. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit convinces us that because our past is forgiven, our future is secure, and our mission is worthy, we have nothing to lose and everything to risk.
Every follower of Jesus Christ should make disciples. The greatness of our salvation compels each gospel bearer to become a gospel sharer. Grace should so overwhelm us that we receive it gladly and recite it widely. Everyone who beholds the glory of Christ should communicate the story of Christ. God rightly expects every disciple to make disciples. It’s His design that we learn it in a loving friendship and then communicate it in like manner. Jesus put it this way: “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Just as animals naturally reproduce after their own kind (Genesis 1:24), disciples of Jesus should naturally reproduce after their own kind. It should be as natural for Christians to reproduce Christians as it is for giraffes to reproduce giraffes.
Whenthetransactionoftheindwelling of the Holy Spirit takes place, wehaveanewresponsibilitytogo. —DougRobitaille, Missionary, Pacific Asia
The basic qualifications and empowerment of the Holy Spirit means you can make disciples. The greatness of our salvation and the natural process of disciple making means you should make disciples. Anyone can and everyone should make disciples.
2. Making disciples is driven by worship.
When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted. (Matthew 28:17)
The Greek word for worship in verse 17 is a composite of the two words for bow and kiss. Together they communicate the idea of reverent love. Disciple making is driven by reverent love for Jesus Christ. The single greatest witnessing tool is personal worship of Jesus Christ. Nothing inspires a witness for Jesus more than meditating upon His glory. Nothing motivates a person to share the gospel more than reflecting upon the greatness of the one who created it. Author David Platt states it this way: “Passionate worship always leads to personal witness. Always. And what that means is…if we’re not witnessing, there’s a problem with our worship. We’re not seeing God for who He is. We’re not realizing what He’s done. We’re not realizing the magnitude of what He’s done for our souls!”
3. Making disciples is an issue of authority.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
There comes a point when a disciple must choose which authority to obey: the authority of government, which may prohibit us from sharing the gospel; the authority of family, which may order us not to share the gospel; the authority of religion, which may restrict us from sharing the gospel; the authority of fear, which may prevent us from sharing the gospel; or the authority of God, who commands us to share the gospel—no matter the cost. Disciple making occurs only when the gospel is shared. The gospel is shared when followers of Jesus choose to obey the authority of God over all other authorities. “But Peter and John replied, ‘Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?’” (Acts 4:19). Author Mike Shipman stated, “Essentially, Jesus was saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me, and with that authority I am authorizing you to go’…the implication is that everyone who obeys the Great Commission has Christ-given authority to do so. We have the right to share the gospel with kings, paupers and everyone in between.” We have been authorized to share the gospel by the One whose authority exceeds all others.
4. Making disciples requires getting involved in people’s lives.
Therefore, go… (Matthew 28:19a)
Going must take place for disciple making to occur. Going is implied. It is essential. It is necessary. In fact, some commentators explain the term go by using the phrase in your going because it is assumed. Going requires the redeemed to get involved in the lives of the unredeemed. Going takes place by engaging people in conversation, informing them of the life Jesus offers, and inviting them to know more. Sometimes going is random and spontaneous. Sometimes it is planned and purposeful. But it must always be in play for disciple making to occur. ThereisnotoneverseinthebookofActswherethegospeladvancestothelostapartfromahumanagent.—DavidPlatt
5. Making disciples involves multiplication.
...and makedisciples… (Matthew 28:19b)
Implied in the phrase “make disciples” is the idea of producing reproducers. Making disciples means making disciple makers. The goal of disciple making is not to produce a single follower of Jesus Christ who doesn’t reproduce, but rather to produce several followers of Christ, who produce several followers of Jesus Christ, who…you get the point. Making disciples involves multigenerational reproduction, ongoing multiplication—people who repeat to others what you have done to them. Teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. (2 Timothy 2:2) The goal of disciple making is to become a spiritual grandparent. Therefore, some have stated that you aren’t really making disciples until your disciples are making disciples.
Making disciples involves the parenting roles of feeding, caring, urging, encouraging, and guiding (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 2:11–12). It is helping others through the three phases of the spiritual life cycle of birth, growth, and reproduction. It includes pouring your life into some who do the same to others. It’s highly relational and results in multiplication. It is life on life for life. It consists of telling people about Jesus, teaching the interested, and training the faithful to tell, teach, and train others. It encompasses discovering people of peace, developing them into followers of Christ, and then deploying them to discover, develop, and deploy others. It covers helping people know, grow, and go for Jesus so they can help others know, grow, and go for Jesus. It is composed of gathering people in, growing them up, and training them to go out so they can repeat the process. It is creating discipleship chains.
6. Making disciples is both a local and a global task.
of allnations… (Matthew 28:19c)
Fulfilling the Great Commission involves making disciples among those who live around us. This is called local disciple making. It includes anyone we might encounter on a daily basis.
Fulfilling the Great Commission also involves making disciples among those who live far from us. This is called global disciple making. It includes people throughout the world who are unreached by the gospel. They are the strategic priority of global disciple making. The unreached have no access to the gospel. They have no opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ. They are born, live, and die without ever having the chance to encounter the life-giving message of Scripture. They are unreached because they live in a culture that is Bible-less, church-less, gospel-less, and Christian-less. They live in the most difficult places to get to and dangerous places to serve. They don’t even know the gospel exists!
The Greek word for “nations” in Matthew 28:19 is ethnos and refers to people groups, not countries. There are just under two hundred countries in the world, but there are over sixteen thousand people groups. Forty percent of them are unreached. That is over two billion people!
Everyone can be involved in global disciple making by becoming SOGY (supporting others or going yourself). You will learn more about this in steps 3 and 4. Every program, policy, and practice of the church should be evaluated by this one question: Are we making disciples locally among the unchurched so we can make disciples globally among the unreached?
TobelongtoJesusistoembracethenations…yourheartwasmadeforthis. — John Piper
7. Making disciples involves baptism.
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19d)
Water baptism is a public demonstration of faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is a post-salvation event. It is an act of obedience. It is symbolic of a new life, a cleansed life, a resurrected life, and a permanent departure from a former life. For most in our culture, it’s a joyful occasion shared among family, friends, and a fellowship community. For many in other cultures, it’s a courageous, even costly act of obedience. For them baptism can result in rejection from family, abandonment of friends, social ostracism, persecution, and even death.
8. Making disciples is about obedience, not just knowledge.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. (Matthew 28:20)
The intended outcome of disciple making is obeying, not just gaining more information. Knowledge is necessary for obedience but is not the same as obedience. The goal of disciple making is rightly responding, not just correctly understanding. Knowing about Jesus is not the same as living for Jesus. A life marked by increasing obedience is the measure of healthy disciple making.
9. Making disciples is increasingly motivated by the presence of Jesus Christ.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Ideally, disciple making begins under the guidance of another person. As disciples mature, they become less dependent upon the presence of others and increasingly motivated by the presence of the Lord. A maturing disciple internalizes the mission of making disciples of all nations.
10. Making disciples is transforming.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6b, NIV) Your word is truth. (John 17:17b)
Disciple making is life changing because it combines the two key elements of a transforming relationship: love and truth. Love and truth are the two components in healthy disciple making. The degree to which love is demonstrated and truth is discussed is the degree to which transformation will take place. Disciple making involves building a bridge of love over which you carry the message of truth. Tim Keller put it this way: “Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it.”
11. Making disciples must be modeled.
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Matthew 4:19)
Jesus made disciples by showing His disciples how to make disciples. Making disciples must be demonstrated, not just discussed. Disciples experience the “now I get it” moment as they watch it being done. Students understand what they see more than what they read or hear. Someone once said, “People can’t be what they can’t see.” Simply explaining how to make disciples is incomplete. Modeling is an essential step in the multiplication process. Teachers must show their students how to make disciples for healthy multiplication to occur. This is one of the missing components in most disciple-making strategies.
12. Making disciples takes place anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity. (Acts 2:46)
Disciple making is decentralized. It occurs every day of the week, at all hours of the day (or night), and at various locations. It’s not a program that occurs one day a week at a certain location at a set time. Training may occur in a centralized fashion, but the actual application occurs in a spread-out fashion. The church gathers to worship and scatters to witness. Witnessing is the front end of disciple making.
13. Making disciples glorifies God.
I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:4)
Jesus glorified God by dying on a cross as well as discipling His men. Making disciples glorifies God because it expresses His love, exhibits His grace, and demonstrates His mercy. It exemplifies His holiness, illustrates His righteousness, and shows His providence. It points out His majesty, parades His truth, and proclaims His power.
14. Making disciples is intentional and strategic.
Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. (Mark 3:13)
Jesus knew the big picture. He understood that He was on a mission for God. His journey was not arbitrary or random: “He (Jesus) had confidence in the future precisely because he lived according to that plan in the present. There was nothing haphazard about his life—no wasted energy, not an idle word. He was on business for God." — Robert Coleman
15. Making disciples is the best method of spreading the gospel.
The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted! (Matthew 13:23)
Making disciples expands the kingdom, extends the gospel, and enlarges the church like nothing else. No other strategy comes close, because disciple making involves exponential growth (constant doubling). To put this into perspective, doubling one grain of rice just sixty-four times (one for each square of a chessboard) would result in one million grains on the twentieth square and one billion grains on the fortieth square. On the last (sixty-fourth) square, there would be enough rice to cover India three feet deep. This is why Einstein called exponential growth the single greatest force in the universe.
16. Making disciples is incredibly fulfilling.
I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy. (Philippians 4:1)
It is immensely satisfying to help people mature spiritually. Helping others know Christ, grow in Christ, and go for Christ is an enormously joyful experience. Few things in life compare to hearing a disciple say, “I am making disciples because of you.” It is just like our loving Father to command us to do the very thing we would enjoy most: making disciples. The big secret of the Great Commission is that it’s so much fun. God doesn’t guilt us into doing things for Him that we loathe. He guides into doing things with Him that we love. Do you really want to experience God? Then go and make disciples.--Francis Chan
17. Making disciples is not the same as discipleship.
You cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. (Matthew 15:6b)
There may have been a time when the phrases discipleship and disciple making were synonymous. Nowadays they mean something totally different from each other. Discipleship is program driven; disciple making is relationship driven. Discipleship is classroom based; disciple making is real-world based. The instructional format for discipleship is lecture; the instructional format for disciple making is modeling and coaching. The outcome of discipleship is knowing more; the outcome of disciple making is becoming more (multiplying). The result of discipleship is a disciple; the result of disciple making is a disciple maker. One produces a follower of Christ; the other produces multiplying followers of Christ. Discipleship makes disciples; disciple making makes disciple makers. The church in America today is producing spiritually sterile disciples, believers who don’t reproduce themselves into the lives of others.
Author Jerry Trousdale explains:The church today is preaching to produce conversion; then teaching to increase knowledge; then giving periodic attention, usually in sermons, to encourage converts to obey what they have learned. Jesus’ strategy was very different…Making disciples is very different from making converts. Disciple making requires time and relationship. Disciple making does not typically depend on formulas of salvation or on strangers leading strangers in a quick decision regarding personal destiny. Disciple makers are prepared to invest weeks, months, and maybe years developing genuine friendships, facilitating someone’s discovery of and obedience to God’s story from creation to Christ, and eventually giving Jesus his life allegiance.
When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem…and when she saw the palace he had built, she was overwhelmed. She was also amazed at…the organization of his officials. (2 Chronicles 9:1–4)
Making disciples requires a transition from the Old Testament come-and-see paradigm to the New Testament go-and-tell model. It calls for adjusting from an attractive, event-driven format to a missional, relationship-driven ministry. Making disciples is incarnational (come see the Jesus in me) not just invitational (come see the Jesus in my church). Expert J. D. Greear states, Increasingly, in a post-Christian society, unbelievers will simply not make their way into our churches, no matter how attractive we make them…that means new styles of worship will not reach them. Fresh expressions of church will not reach them. Alpha and Christianity Explored Courses will not reach them. Great first impressions will not reach them. The vast majority of un-churched and de-churched people would not turn to the church, even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of improving the product of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events.
The Church is not a cruise ship consigned to hug the coast. It’s an aircraft carrier commanded into harm’s way. Its job is not to entertain the guests but to train the crew in the battle for men’s souls.
19. Making disciples fits anyone’s schedule.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5, ESV)
Making disciples initially requires a single two-hour window of time each week. It’s not a forty-hour-a-week task. The basic commitment is once a week for a couple of hours.
20. Making disciples requires forming new teams.
No one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved. (Matthew 9:17)
Disciple making will not occur by dropping a new multiplication strategy into an existing small-group structure. Churches need to place back doors in any existing small-group ministry and encourage migration from those groups to disciple-making teams. People grow in groups, but they go in teams. The chairs in groups face inward; the chairs in teams face outward. Disciple making occurs because of implementing a new, intentional process of multiplication. Ideally, it begins with leadership; however, it can be launched by anyone.
21. Disciple making begins with the end in mind.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17) NIV
Jesus produced disciple makers because He had the outcome in mind from the beginning. He didn’t just form a small group and study the Bible. He was much more strategic than that. His goal was worded into the invitation. He started by announcing how things would end. He launched by proclaiming the purpose at the outset. He multiplied because He began with that very result in mind. He did not modify an existing structure or program; He began a new one!
22. Making disciples is the purpose of the church.
You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8).
We don’t need to find the purpose of the church; we need to fulfill it. The purpose of the church is to glorify God by making disciples of all nations. This one purpose statement covers the vision (glorify God), the mission (make disciples), and the goal (of all nations) of the church. Every resource should contribute toward this one activity. All ministries should be evaluated by one question: Does this help us make disciples of all nations? The health of something is determined by how well it accomplishes its purpose. Therefore, the health of the church is determined by how well it accomplishes the purpose of making disciples. Want to know the health your church? Ask this one question: Are we making disciple makers?
23. Making disciples among the unreached should be the urgent passion of every church and purposeful mission of every Christian.
My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard. (Romans 15:20)
The name of Christ has not been heard by over two billion people. The gospel has not reached 40 percent of humanity. Over 80 percent of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists worldwide do not know a single Christian. They are unreached. They have noaccess to the good news. They have noopportunity to hear the gospel. They are born, live, and die without the chance to know the truth about Jesus Christ. The church is in the export business. It exports one product: the gospel. It alone brings life to dying people. It just makes sense to get this one-of-a-kind, life-giving product to those who need it most, as fast as possible. Every follower of Jesus should ask himself or herself this question: Am I helping make disciples among the unreached?
Itisourhonorandmissiontobringthegospeltothegospel-lessandtheBibleto the Bible-less,andtoestablishtheChurchwherethereisnoChurch.--Matt Dodd, Church planter,PapuaNewGuinea
24. Making disciples is empowered by prayer.
This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:12 The Message)
As John Piper put it, “Life is war. That’s not all it is, but it is always that…our weakness in prayer is owing largely to our neglect of this truth.” He continues, “Pray walkie-talkie prayers. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the power of darkness…God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the Kingdom of Christ advances in the world.”