Reimagining Disciple Making

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Follow Me

We need real, breathing, walking-around, hands-and-feet, human examples—followers who are following Jesus. This is essential and without substitute. The example of Jesus, alive in the framework of living flesh and blood, gives the greatest reference for potential followers to follow. Jesus demonstrates that the gospel message is something that can tangibly be lived. Teaching and preaching will never bring this about. We need proof to show us not only that it can still be lived out but also how to live it out.

Young converts need to hang out with seasoned disciples in relationships that cause them to frequently say to themselves, “Oh, that’s what following Jesus looks like.” The very idea that one believer would say to another, “Follow me” or “Imitate me,” is not only lost in most forms of contemporary Christianity but also might even be considered arrogant, cultish, and downright scandalous to many. Yet this type of mentoring relationship is the very essence of discipleship. Paul Stanley and Bobby Clinton convey this idea:

Mentoring is as old as civilization itself. Through this natural relational process, experience and values pass from one generation to another. Mentoring took place among Old Testament prophets (Eli and Samuel, Elijah and Elisha) and leaders (Moses and Joshua), and New Testament leaders (Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy). Throughout human history, mentoring was the primary means of passing on knowledge and skills in every field—from Greek philosophers to sailors—and in every culture. But in the modern age, the learning shifted. It now relies primarily on computers, classrooms, books, and videos. Thus, today the relational connection between the knowledge-and-experience giver and the receiver has weakened or is nonexistent.5

The pattern and ethos of Jesus-style discipleship revolves around the idea that it is disciples who in turn make disciples. According to the New Testament pattern, pastors, church programs, and preaching alone are not what make disciples. No, it is very clear that Jesus intended that all of his followers become disciples and then in turn be disciple makers, regardless of their vocation. The “follow me” framework of disciple making is one of the most integral cogs for carrying out the Great Commission. We must cease kidding ourselves that anything less than the “imitate me” mode will result in more than what we are currently achieving—an unchanged church and an unchanged world. The early church brand of discipleship demanded followers who were follow-worthy and unleaders.


1. Nannerl Keohane, “On Leadership,” Perspectives on Politics 3, no. 4 (December 2005): 715.
2. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper- SanFrancisco, 1997), 301.
3. lan Hirsch and Debra Hirsch, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 25.
4. Will Vaus, Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 167.
5. Paul Stanley and J. Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992), 18.

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  • Erich Schindler

    Nov 15, 2013 - Reply

    Loved your article. I myself am a recovering from a long period of ‘outsourcing’ my discipleship responsibilities to pastors and teachers (the professionals) in classroom settings. Recently began intentionally meeting with a small group of men for ongoing discipleship, using Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Groups model. Excited to lead disciples who themselves naturally reproduce!

  • Elizabeth Perry

    Nov 15, 2013 - Reply

    Erich, thanks for your feedback! I love that term “outsourcing.” Certainly we need to bring discipleship back in-house. Sounds like you are doing just that. Blessings to you!

  • David Kueker

    Jun 22, 2014 - Reply

    Very good points. The only thing that I would wish to add is that the end result of “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” is not a good disciple but a disciple maker.

    As with parenting: the relationship that leads to involvement in the church is typically with a lay person rather than the pastor and the job of Matthew 2820 is the duty of the person in Matthew 28:19. One follows the other.

    They are not specialists. The challenge of the traditional way of thinking is that there is someone in the church other than the one who brought me that should mentor me and who can do a better job of it. As with parenting, you make them, you raise them. Disciple making is not something we send people to a building to get from professionals.

    In addition, good parents can send their children to school taught by professionals. Disciple making is not home schooling, but a relationship that watches over in love encourages growth. There is still too much of an emphasis on ideas that people need to learn and study … this is where discipleship went astray in the first century. Or so it seems to me.

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