IX. Discipleship

  A disciple is a “learner” or “pupil.”4 The Great Commission teaches us to make disciples. In Christian theology, the process of making disciples is called “discipleship.” Scripture teaches disciples to become mature. The Apostle Paul wrote that people within the church should work together to bring disciples to maturity. Disciples become mature by becoming like Christ.    
  11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  

14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16 NIV)

It is the job of the whole church to make disciples
. Some in the church focus on evangelism, some on teaching, and some on various other tasks. By working together, church members bring disciples to maturity. And churches and mission organizations plant new churches, making more disciples.


Process of Discipleship.

A church should have a plan for developing disciples. The plan should include the following elements.


Evangelism and Immediate Follow-Up.

The church plans and conducts evangelism, and then quickly visits people who pray to receive Christ. Preferably within a day or at a minimum, within a week, a couple of people visit the new convert. Ideally the person who led the convert to Christ will be one of the people who go back to visit. The visitors from the church should assure the convert of his salvation by sharing Scripture (see 1 John 5:13). Visitors should encourage the convert to attend church meetings, and help the convert to get there.


Confession and Baptism.

Soon after a person professes faith in Christ, that person should make a public profession of faith by being baptized. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are two ordinances of Christ for the church. The convert should also verbally confess his faith. Confession is an important part of the salvation experience (see Romans 10:9 above ).


Developing a Devotional Life.

The convert should be trained to spend “quiet time in prayer” with God daily. Christians should not only pray, but also listen to God as he guides their thoughts. If the convert can read and has a Bible, the convert should be taught to study the Bible daily. Christians may start by reading the Book of John, then the other Gospels, then the rest of the New Testament, and then the Old Testament. Christians should memorize key verses that have an impact on them as they study and meditate on Scripture.


Bringing Converts into a Local Church.

Every Christian should be integrated into the life and work of a local church (see Hebrews 10:25). Disciples should be encouraged to discover their particular spiritual gifts. Disciples are not to be given responsibilities greater than their spiritual maturity, but they should be given some work in the church. Either a church uses disciples or loses them. Each convert should be in a small group that meets for Bible study and fellowship.


Disciples Should be Taught to Bear Fruit.

Jesus said, “This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 NIV). There are three types of spiritual fruit: converts, character, and conduct. As soon as possible, a new convert should be invited to go with a more experienced disciple to learn to evangelize and win converts (see Romans 1:13). The convert should be encouraged to develop character—the fruit of the spirit (see Gal. 5:22,23). And the convert is encouraged to conduct himself in a righteous manner (see Romans 6:21,22). 5


Transmitting a Vision for a Church Planting Movement.

Each convert should be given a vision for a church planting movement (see the training module “Missiology”). Converts must learn that one of the objectives of a local church is to reproduce itself.


Spiritual Multiplication.

Spiritual multiplication is the Biblical way to make disciples among all peoples. Spiritual multiplication involves making disciples, and sending them to make other disciples. Spiritual addition is making disciples without sending them to make other disciples. The following link compares church growth by multiplication with church growth by addition.


The website above shows that if a church converts and disciples 100 people per day but fails to get the new disciples to make disciples, it would take 164,000 years to make disciples of the 6 billion people on our planet. The Great Commission cannot be fulfilled through spiritual addition.

But if an individual converts and makes a disciple each 6 months, and if those disciples convert and train 1 person each 6 months, the entire world would be converted in 16.5 years!
Spiritual multiplication is the process by which disciples reproduce themselves. Like cells in a human body, one becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, and so on. A small body grows to be a large body.

To fulfill the Great Commission, we need not only to reproduce individual disciples; we also need to reproduce churches. The training module “Missiology” gives strategies for reproducing churches.


Discipleship for Leaders and Followers.

Different levels of training are given to disciples, depending upon their gifts and willingness to learn. Everyone in the church is important and has an important role in carrying out the work of the church. But relatively few members of the church are leaders, church planters, and evangelists. More extensive training is needed for these disciples who will plant and lead new churches.

shared the Gospel with thousands of people, but he took only a few people with him on mission. He provided extensive training to a few people so that they could plant and lead churches. Timothy was one such disciple. Paul wrote the letters 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy to train and encourage this disciple.

taught crowds of people, but he gave extensive training to twelve disciples. Eleven of the Twelve Disciples then proved faithful and were able to reproduce themselves by making many other disciples.

How can we find church leaders to train? First, we pray intensely.
Jesus prayed all night before selecting twelve disciples to train.

12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. (Luke 6:12,13 NIV)

Dr. Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, was asked how he was able to recruit a thousand missionaries in the late nineteenth century to go to China. Taylor replied, “First, ‘Pray ye the Lord of the Harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.’”6“Second, to get laborers, ‘deepen the life of the layperson in the Scriptures, so they won’t say no to God.’”7

How can we “deepen the life of the layperson in the Scriptures?” Wayland B. Moore, who spent many years making disciples, writes that the Apostle Paul showed how to make disciples. Read Acts 20:17-38, in which Paul is talking to the leaders of the Ephesian church. Paul’s work in Ephesus reveals three principles for training disciples. First, there must be our penetrating presence—our fellowship. We must spend time in the world of the disciples. We adapt to their environment and culture. Paul spent three years training disciples in Ephesus. Second, we must have a parent-heart—building a loving relationship with the church family. Paul was like a father to the church—providing spiritual food and training for its members. Acts 20:17-38 shows the love between Paul and the church. Third, we must be the pace-setter—modeling the faith. Acts 20:17-38 reveals that Paul was an excellent role model for the church [see also Philippians 4:9]. Disciples observe the lifestyle of the teacher. Jesus told his disciples, “Follow me” (Matt. 4:19), rather than “Just listen to me.”8


Progress. Moore suggests an initial six-month long training in which you meet once weekly with a disciple. [Of course, some disciples may be with you much more than once weekly.] You check on the progress of the disciple, and make sure that all assignments are completed. At the close of six months, the disciple should be ready to train another disciple. Periodically, you then check on the progress of the two disciples.    


Principles. You relate Scriptural principles to life, and discuss pre-assigned Bible study and Scripture memory.    


Problems. You listen to the disciple, and use Scripture to solve problems.    


Prayer. You pray together with the disciple, increasing the length of prayers as you know each other better.    


Practice. You regularly take the disciple together with you for personal evangelism and other ministry.9    
As we pray for leaders to train, we also observe to see who is willing and able to lead. When we develop cell groups or house churches, and ask people to help in the church, some people will appear to have gifts in leading and teaching. We can then ask them to help us with certain tasks, and see how they perform.

We need to see the potential in ordinary people. God often uses people of low rank to accomplish his work (see 1 Cor. 1:26-29). Jesus chose common people to be his Apostles.

Remember that those who we train one-to-one will be of the same sex as ourselves. We can train people of the opposite sex in small groups. Typically, people our age or younger will respond best to our training.

In addition to training leaders, we need to make disciples of the rest of the church. Such discipleship may occur through sermons and through small group Bible studies. Teachers within the church may lead such small groups. Also, we encourage each member of the church to be involved in the work of the church. We encourage the members to follow the Holy Spirit in choosing where they can best utilize their gifts in meeting the goals of the church. Also, we ask people to take certain roles within the church.


Curriculum and Related Resources.

What curriculum is appropriate for making disciples? Different training plans are used for disciples with different roles within the church. Basic training in essential doctrine is offered to all church members. Of course, such training must be given in accordance with the age level and learning abilities of disciples. Following are some sources of discipleship materials.


The training modules on this Missions Training website.

The whole church can benefit from knowing material offered in the modules.
  • Call to Missions (how to be guided by the Holy Spirit)
  • Evangelism and Discipleship
  • Missiology (understanding the mission of the church and strategies for church planting)
  • Theology
  • Church Leadership and Administration (knowing the organization of the church)
  • Teaching and Preaching (the section on interpreting Scripture)
  • Pastoral Ministry (ordinances of Baptism and Communion)
  • Messianic Prophecy (knowing a few prophecies that validate Jesus as the Messiah and show the reliability of Scripture)
  • Apologetics (always being prepared to make a defense for the Gospel)


Basic Discipleship Training offered Online.

Kenson Kuba, who served twelve years with Campus Crusade for Christ (a conservative international evangelistic organization), offers five free discipleship Study Books online.





How to Be Sure You are a Christian, Grow in Your Faith, Share Christ with Others and Reach This World for Christ!    



How to Live the Spiritual Life and Defeat Your Spiritual Enemies.    



How to Study the Bible and Teach it to Others!    



How to Devote Your Heart Completely to Christ!    



Discipleship Principles    


These five online books can be accessed at the following website.    


Use the zoom-in feature (symbolized by a magnifying glass) on the tool bar of your computer to enlarge the online books for reading.


Discipleship in Small Bible Study Groups.

The following link to a Campus Crusade for Christ website provides information on how to organize small Bible study groups. It has information under the heading “Beginning and Leading a Small Group” that may be adapted to the culture in which you work. It also has some good information on the initial discipleship of converts under the heading “Getting Started in the Christian Life: Life Concepts Followup.”




Longer Term Training— Ames Bible College.

Ames Bible College offers a Survey of the Old and New Testaments, Creative Bible Study Methods, as well as other theological classes at the website below. To access the classes, click on Course Download Center.




If our theology differs in some respects from that offered on the above website and on other websites, we are free to use the materials that are useful to us, and disregard the rest. But we should base our theology on Scripture, not on tradition or some other authority.    


Longer Term Training

ChristianCourses.Com, one of the RBC Ministries, offers free online studies of the Old and New Testament, as well as classes on Christian Living. See the website below. In order to use this site, you will need to register and give your e-mail address and enter a password.




Cathedral University offers basic Bible training for students, and also training for pastors at the following web site:    




Brief summary--Books of the Bible.

The following website gives a one sentence overview of each Book of the Bible.




Chapter-by-Chapter Training.

One way to disciple all Christians is simply to select a Book of the Bible and teach through it, starting at the first chapter and ending with the last chapter. You can help disciples understand the meaning of Scripture in the context in which it was written. The Holy Spirit can guide you in this. Also, you have access to various Bible related tools such as commentaries and dictionaries on the websites below.

You will want to help disciples apply the Scripture to their lives. Ask questions that facilitate discussion regarding the Scripture and how it impacts the students. Ask, for example, “If you obey this Scripture, how will that change your life?” Or, “How can we apply this teaching today?” You may wish to teach through the Book of John, which shows that Jesus Christ is God. Or you may wish to teach through the book of James, which provides practical guidelines for Christian living. Let the Spirit guide you in selecting the right material for your disciples.




Handbook of the Bible and Related Topics.

The following website from Atlantic Baptist University gives a description of Biblical literature, archaeology, manners and customs, etc.




Bible Resources.

The following website gives links to commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and other resources.




These Bible tools will be useful to teachers and students as they study the Scripture.

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (2 Timothy 4:22).


X. Requirements for Students.


Students who truly want to learn evangelism and discipleship should do the following.

1. Write a testimony that can be read in three minutes, and give it to someone to review.

2. Give your testimony orally to at least one person.

3. Share the plan of salvation with at least three people who were not Christians prior to your talking with them.

4. Develop a brief plan (not more than three pages) for a six-month-long curriculum to train new converts to grow in faith and be able to make disciples. Have someone review your plan.

Remember, evangelism and discipleship is more “caught” than “taught,” and you catch the spirit and methods of these tasks by doing them. Jesus sends His followers to evangelize (Luke 9:2; 10:1,9), and disciple (Matt. 28:19,20).



4Strongs, Gr. 3101.

5C. I. Scofield, ed., Scofield Study Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) , note to John 15:8.

6Hudson Taylor (quoting Matthew 9:38) in Waylon B. Moore, Building Disciples,

  (Tampa, Florida: Missions Unlimited Publishers, 1991) 35.

7Taylor, in Waylon B. Moore, Building Disciples, 35.

8Moore, Building Disciples, 35,36.

9Moore, Building Disciples, 36.