Disciples are meant to reproduce themselves.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
If we are disciples of Jesus, our job is to make more disciples.
It’s a big “If.” In The Salvation Army it is easy for us to get so caught up in doing the most good that we forget that our priority is to be disciples. Matthew 3:14, 15 says, “He (Jesus) appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Our primary duty, as disciples, is to be with Jesus, and after that, to share Jesus. In my early days of officership I was definitely more of a Martha than a Mary. Thankfully, I have learned to choose the better thing—being with Jesus more and more.
As I have learned to be a better disciple, I have also learned how to be a better “disciple-maker.” I have discovered certain consistent methods that have proved to be productive.
The following is a list of strategies that have been fruitful for me.
Use the Bible
The Bible is always my textbook when I meet with groups or individuals who want to know Jesus. How can we know Jesus apart from Scripture? Unfortunately, many times I have seen the Bible used as supplementary material rather than the primary source of training for disciples. We use videos, inspirational books, training materials written by church leaders. Sometimes it almost seems as if we believe the Bible is not enough on its own to teach people about Jesus. I have systematically studied entire books of the Bible with groups and individuals. In the past year and a half I have met with a woman once a week and we have already completed the Sermon on the Mount, the life of Abraham, and are almost done with the book of Mark. It’s exciting! I grow right along with her as we read a passage of Scripture every week and discuss it. Sometimes we cry together because we are so moved by what we are reading.
Be prepared to put in time personally to study the Scriptures before teaching the Scriptures. Using a study guide is helpful to me, as are my Bible notes and any other resources. It takes time to disciple. Meeting together with one person usually lasts an hour or more and studying ahead of time will take about the same amount of time.
Ask the Holy Spirit to be present in your time together. In your personal prayer time each day, pray for the person you disciple. You can count on the enemy targeting them as they grow in their faith and hunger for the Word. Your prayers for spiritual protection for them and for you are important.
Try to approach your time together without a lot of stress. Things don’t have to be formal. It might work best for you to have an online Zoom video meeting away from the office or meet at a coffee shop or even in the person’s home. Food and socializing are always good components of the get-together.
Be Consistent But Be Flexible
Consistency in meeting together is important. If you have a regular meeting time—once a week, every two weeks, or even every month (although every month is not ideal, but a start), stick to it as much as possible. Momentum is lost if too much time goes by between meetings. Also, if we keep cancelling, we send the message that the time together is not a priority. Flexibility comes in if the person with whom we are meeting needs to make changes. Things come up in life. If we become too rigid, it can scare people away because they feel they can’t measure up to our expectations.
Always remember that it is not our job to convince anyone of anything. The Holy Spirit does that. Our job is to introduce people to Jesus through Scripture. Remembering this will help to ease any anxiety about having to “achieve” something. Also, remember that God said His Word never returns empty.
Making disciples is a wonderful, exciting, scary, exhausting, exhilarating process! If we take on this task with faith, obedience, and humility, God will work in amazing ways, in spite of our imperfections and fears. Partnering with Him is an honor, a blessing and a privilege.