the weblog of Alan Knox

Disciple making 4: Implications…

Posted by on Feb 27, 2007 in discipleship | 9 comments

In the first three posts of this series on disciple making (“Disciple making 1: The Command“, “Disciple making 2: Pupils or Disciples“, and “Disciple making 3: Paul and his disciples“) I suggested that “disciple making” includes much more than simply transferring information through instruction. Instead, making a disciple includes spending time with the person: “being rather constantly associated with someone”. Already, this implies that I should stop calling classes discipleship, even Bible study classes. Discipleship includes studying Scripture, but it cannot stop there. A class that only includes Bible study is not discipleship.

As I’ve studied Paul’s letters, I found something very interesting when it comes to making disciples. Paul desires for people to follow Christ. However, he recognized that many times people need an example of what it means to follow Christ. Thus, it was not self-importance or pride that caused Paul to implore his readers to “follow/imitate me” (for example, 2 Thes 3:7). Instead, it was in recognition that people need an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But, is Paul’s exhortation to “follow Paul” simply an indiation of his position and authority as an apostle? No.

According to the author of Hebrews, believers are to imitate the faith of anyone whose life demonstrates that they are following Christ (Heb. 13:7). But, aren’t we supposed to make followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ? How do we make disciples of Christ if believers are following us?

The difference lies in the goal of our discipleship. Our purpose is not to make disciples of ourselves, but to make disciples of Jesus Christ. However, on the way to that goal, we will have to teach people by example. Thus, a new disciple of Christ may begin by following a more mature disciple of Christ. In other words, the less mature believer becomes a disciple of the more mature believer by being “rather constantly associated with” the more mature believer.

This step in the process was very important to Paul, and it should be important to us as well. We should recognize that in many ways people learn by imitation, especially when it comes to learning a new way of life. So, the younger believer learns to serve others by observing and imitating the more mature believer as he or she serves others. The younger believer learns to study and apply Scripture by observing and discussing and studying with the more mature believer as he or she studies and changes his or her life in response to Scripture.

For many in the church today, this step in the discipleship process has been lost. Neither men nor women have had a more mature brother or sister to walk with, learn from, and imitate. Instead, the church has skipped immediately to the next step: having the discipler step out of the way so the one being discipled begins following Jesus alone.

Please, do not misunderstand me, making a disciple of Jesus Christ is our goal. We do not intend to make disciples of ourselves. We always intend to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We should also recognize that God can and does work with people who have never been discipled by another believer. But, this is not the way of disciple making that God describes to us in Scripture.

Just as Paul called believers to “imitate” him, we also must call new believers to “imitate” us, all the while teaching them to begin following Jesus themselves. Meanwhile, those making disciples should be real, physical examples of what it means to follow Jesus. In that way, young disciples are able to see something in us that they cannot physically see in Jesus (Col 1:24).

To wrap up this study then, I recognize two deficiencies in my own life related to discipleship. First, I have often thought of discipleship as transferring information about the Bible and about Jesus to another person. I now see that discipleship is much more than transferring information. It also means spending time with another person – sharing life with another person – being “rather constantly associated with” another person.

Second, I have often thought that all I needed to do to make a disciple was to point someone to Jesus. I have learned that besides pointing them to Jesus, I must also demonstrate what it means to follow Jesus. This goes along with sharing my life with others. Thus, a disciple learns how to pray by watching a disciple-maker pray. A disciple learns how to serve others by watching a disciple-maker serve others. A disciple learns how to be a good spouse by watching how a disciple-maker interacts with his or her spouse.

Finally, I recognize that it takes very little “Bible knowledge” to be a disciple-maker. Instead, it takes someone who is seriously following Jesus, and is serious about sharing his or her life with others in order to see them following Jesus.

Therefore, as you go, disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 ISV)

1. Disciple making 1: The command…
2. Disciple making 2: Pupils or disciples…
3. Disciple making 3: Paul and his disciples…
4. Disciple making 4: Implications…


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-27-2007

    Alan -

    Thanks for posting this series … each one has helped me to better see what discipling should actually be.

    This post in particular got me thinking about a dear friend of mine whom I had the honor and privilege to introduce to Jesus. She was my next door neighbor at the time and ours is a great friendship, but it also encompasses a discipling relationship that is beautiful. I’ll never forget the day she told me that she watched me and she wanted what I had. I don’t say that arrogantly, I say that very humbly as remembering those words brought me to my knees! She obviously saw Jesus in me (somehow!) because she wouldn’t have wanted to be like me!

    There are a couple of reasons why it is a beautiful relationship to me:
    1)It is a very natural relationship – I never sat down and thought, “I’m going to disciple her” … it just happened naturally becasue she was my friend and I cared about her.

    And the best part?
    2) She now challenges me! It was so moving the day she and her husband were both baptized and to now watch their family grow in the Lord is wonderful. And we talk on the phone and she says things to me now that challenge me and my walk and urge me on to more understanding and greater faith.

    Just thinking about all that inspires me and encourages me to press on!

    Thanks again!



  2. 2-27-2007

    I think we fear this truth, Alan. This means we have to walk our talk.

  3. 2-27-2007

    Thanks for this post Alan. It has been a good series, you have made some interesting points.

    God’s Glory,

  4. 2-27-2007


    Thank you for sharing that testimony. I wish I had had someone to show me what it means to live as a follower of Christ like your neighbor had. I pray that I am able to provide a good example for other believers.

    Bryan and Lew,

    This study has certainly changed my understanding of discipleship and Christian leadership. The word “example” is becoming more and more important.


  5. 2-27-2007

    What helps me understand the concept of discipleship and example are my children. When I hear them imitating me, in all my ugliness, I realize how I must show them a better Way, a Way of Love.

  6. 2-27-2007

    1) “Finally, I recognize that it takes very little “Bible knowledge” to be a disciple-maker. Instead, it takes someone who is seriously following Jesus, and is serious about sharing his or her life with others in order to see them following Jesus.”
    Isn’t it great that God set up things so that ALL can be disciple makers?

    2) It is unfortunate that we are so conditioned to associate discipleship only with a sit down Bible study. As we heard this past Sunday, when Rob taught on 2 Tim 3:10ff, Paul points to his life, not just a Bible study when he writes to Timothy: But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions. Paul uses his own life as an example to encourage Timothy to endure.

    3) You are right, the term example is comming up more and more as I study Scripture. But that should not surprise me … as a follower of Christ, I should model my life after His and scripture mentions that His life was an example for us, therefore so should mine.

  7. 2-27-2007


    You are right. Children always imitate us in the ways we would prefer they not imitate us.


    I was thinking of that passage in 2 Tim as I finished this post. Paul always pointed to his life as an example of how to follow Christ. I hope that I can do the same.


  8. 2-27-2007

    You are in my life.

  9. 2-28-2007

    When I was recently arrived in my first church as missionary pastor, I kind of got a good dose of reality splashed in my face when the following occurred. A teenage girl had just been radically saved. I proceeded to ask a young lady in the church who had been a believer for about 10 years if she could take the new believer under her wings and be like a spiritual big sister to her. She then told me that she didn’t have a clue as where to begin. It was then that I realized I had my work cut out for me. But, I agree with you this is where the rubber meets the road. If the folks in our congregations are not ready to do this most basic of all ministry tasks, we are way far from being what we ought to be as church.