Before we can begin to disciple others, we must consider the vital question: “How do I know who will make a reliable disciple?” Naturally, the best model for selection is Jesus Christ Himself. The calling of the first disciples is recorded in Matthew 4. We see Jesus call Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John, who immediately abandon their nets, boats and families to follow Jesus. What we see is that Jesus told the disciples to follow – to leave everything behind to come with Him. He didn’t wait around to convince them that He was worth following – He called on them to act in faith, to trust that He was worth it. These men were willing and eager – they had faith which proved itself through their actions.
All in or Not
Later in Matthew 8, Jesus has an encounter with a man who is resistant to respond to his call to follow. The man requests that he bury his father first, a seemingly reasonable request, yet the original language of the text reveals that what this man meant was that he wanted to wait around until his father died – which could have been any amount of time from days to years. The crux of Jesus’ encounter with this man is that it reveals an unwillingness to trust – a resistance to respond to the high call of discipleship. Jesus is firm with this man, and others, making the cost of discipleship apparent. Christ knew that discipleship was costly, and that because of this not many would respond to the high call, but that didn’t matter. As author Robert Coleman explains,
“His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men the multitudes would follow…The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to His life and carry on His work after He returned to the Father.”
The original purpose of discipleship was to produce reliable individuals who would proclaim the Gospel to subsequent generations. This purpose has not, and will not change. When we, as 21st century Christians, say that we are seeking to disciple others, what we are saying is that we are committing ourselves to a life of training individuals who will carry on the work of Christ. This is not a call that will be answered by all, let alone most, Christians. Therefore, how do we determine who is reliable and who has answered this call?
Selecting the Right Person
When we look at the original 12, we see men who were ordinary – fishermen, Galileans, and even a tax collector. They doubted, they complained, the compared themselves to one another, and were often confused. We have nothing to indicate that they were attractive, they were not wealthy, and they didn’t seem to possess extraordinary people skills or charisma of any sort. Nothing about them seemed to suggest that they would become some of the most significant players in all of human history. But, they were willing, teachable, and ultimately desired to be used by God. As Coleman points out,
“Though often mistaken in their judgments and slow to comprehend spiritual things, they were honest men, willing to confess their need…Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new image— Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.”
Willingness is a vital consideration in selecting disciples, but is an insufficient tool of selection by itself. Dennis McCallum, lead pastor of Xenos Christian Fellowship, and author of Organic Discipleship, argues:
“…willingness should not always be interpreted as compliance…we should not avoid discipling someone just because he argues or seems hard to persuade at times…in our opinion, you should look for a doer…Whenever we see young Christians who are trying to serve God and others (whether or not they are effective) we should mark that person for possible discipleship”
As we consider the example of the original disciples, what we find are men who were teachable and hungered to grow in their understanding of Christ. These men remained faithful to Christ and His mission, made themselves available to be used for the advancement of the Kingdom, and maintained relationships with one another. They were not perfect, but they were doers.
The “essentials” of what to look for when selecting a disciple have been arranged into an acrostic developed by Campus Outreach Augusta:
Demonstrates a desire to be faithful to God, to you and to the lost; responsible, trustworthy; will come to meetings and be prepared, having complete assignments (where applicable)
Is available to spend time with you and others; keeps the discipling relationship a priority
Not independent, nor overly dependent, rather maintains healthy relationships with other members of the Body of Christ. Discipleship is done in the context of life on life relationships.
Is open to Biblical instruction as well as your counsel and leadership; humility, doesn’t come with a “know it all” attitude
Displays a hunger and thirst to grow. Actively pursues opportunities for growth in Christ
In Luke 6, we see Jesus go away from the crowds and spend the entire night praying in preparation for the selection of His disciples. Take note! The most important tool in selecting disciples is to be devoted in prayer – for opportunities, for discernment, for faithful individuals, etc. We cannot overemphasize the importance of communication with the Lord as we seek to do HIS work.
We challenge you to take time right now to pray and write down who God may put on your heart to consider for discipleship. If you are being discipled, talk to your discipler about this! If you aren’t being discipled, but are interested in discipleship, please contact us!