Jesus was the greatest disciple maker who ever lived. Decades ago, Robert Coleman pointed this out in his wildly successful little book “The Master Plan of Evangelism.” Coleman’s point was that if you watch Jesus to see how he made disciples, we can imitate what we see in his approach.
Jesus did a number of things that we can imitate and I want to mention a few to help you know what to look for as you read the gospels. I encourage you to read the gospels, all four, with an eye for Jesus’ approach to discipleship. Things will stand out to you that you never noticed before, I assure you.
Coleman recently revised this book and you can get it free here. In his revision he realized there was a crucial missing first step – Incarnation.
God uses people in the flesh to disciple real people. It requires contact, community, time and relationship. God doesn’t just drop disciples from the sky. He shapes and forms them only in relation to other disciples! That means you and I have a responsibility to help others grow in their walk with Jesus, together.
Once God came in the flesh in Jesus he prepared to make disciples. He did this through study, much time in prayer, and through everyday experience. It is important that we discipline ourselves to be (as Curtis Sergeant often says) “disciples worth multiplying.” We need to draw near to Jesus to walk closely with him so that we can invite others along to do the same.
That brings us to our next point – invitation. Jesus started in on his disciples with a calling – he called them to come and follow him. As we make disciples we cannot make any disciple that we don’t invite into the process. It is hard to accidentally disciple someone because disciple making requires intentionality. The reality is, we are all discipling people on a regular basis – just not always in Christ. Sometimes we disciple others in the ways of the flesh instead. People are always watching.
Once they followed Jesus, he used a number of other activities to draw them closer and closer in their walk with himself and their relationship with the Father.
I see in Jesus’ approach the classic learning/teaching method of modeling and then supervising the student. We see that in the sending of the 12 and 72 where they go, do and say what they had seen Jesus go, do and say (preach the gospel of the kingdom, cast out demons, and heal diseases). Jesus pre-launched them while he was still around to give feedback!
If you want a dozen other methods of Jesus, check out Coleman’s book. He says it better than I ever could!
Again, please read all four gospels and take notes of how Jesus was training his disciples to be disciple makers. Jesus didn’t personally disciple very many people in his ministry but he discipled them in a way that his disciples produced 100 times what was sown! I believe we can as well and it starts by looking to Jesus!