A Simple Biblical Model to Teach Your Team
Just 5 simple principles. This concise lesson is ideal to teach your team about disciple-making. Adapted from How to Save the World: Disciplemaking Made Simple | by Alice Matagora.
If Jesus’ disciple-making was a focal point of his time on earth, we should probably pay attention to what he did and how he did it. What can we learn from Jesus, the original disciple-maker?
When I look at the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I notice a few consistent patterns in the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
These patterns by no means paint an exhaustive picture of disciple-making as Jesus modeled it; however, they do highlight some of the key elements.
1. Jesus revealed who God is and what His Kingdom is about.
In the world Jesus walked through, just as in our world today, power was a tool people used to attain prestige and personal gain. But Jesus shared his power with his disciples to accomplish the miraculous (Matthew 10:1).
And he continually taught his disciples that power should be used to serve others and not to achieve worldly status the way the religious leaders wielded it (Mark 10:35-45).
Jesus didn’t discount in the slightest the gravity of human sin and the resulting separation from God (Matthew 5:18). He confronted sin and called people to live in repentance, just as God had done throughout the history of his people.
But through his life of holiness, criminal’s death on the cross, and resurrection, Jesus also revealed the heart of a God who loved humanity so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of an eternity without us (John 3:16), so he did what we could never do for ourselves, saving us from our sin, shame, and powerlessness.
In countless other ways, Jesus revealed to his disciples who God is and what his kingdom is about. But don’t just take my word for it. God invites you into his Word to get to know his heart.
2. Jesus taught the disciples how to have a relationship with God.
Being a disciple of Jesus means that we know God, not just know about him. We have a relationship with him and are being transformed into his likeness more and more every day (2 Corinthians 3:18).
On earth, Jesus modeled for his disciples an intimate, dependent relationship with his heavenly Father through the rhythms of his prayer life. They often saw Jesus draw away from people to spend time alone with his Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; 6:46).
He also taught his disciples how to pray by giving them a model to follow: the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11). He cautioned them not to imitate the way hypocrites and pagans prayed but to commune with their heavenly Father in private and to simply lay their requests before him (Matthew 6:5-8).
He taught them by word and example how to pray for friends and enemies (John 17; Luke 23:34), for the things they needed (Matthew 7:11), and in the midst of suffering (26:36-46).
In addition to teaching them how to pray, Jesus taught them how to engage with and interpret the Scriptures, opening their minds so they could understand what God was saying (Luke 24:45) and how to live out what he had called them to do.
Jesus often taught the people in parables to simplify more complicated spiritual principles, and then he unpacked these teachings in private for his disciples (Matthew 13:34-43).
He exhorted his followers not to simply be hearers of the Word but also doers of the Word (Luke 6:46-49).
He not only challenged his disciples and others with the whole-life cost of following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33) but modeled this wholehearted obedience to God with his face persistently set toward the Cross during his earthly life.
Jesus taught his disciples how to have a relationship with God, that they might learn to relate with him on their own and grow the deep spiritual roots that would hold them steady through the hardships and sufferings they would face as his disciples.
3. Jesus and his disciples lived life together.
For more than three years, Jesus and his disciples spent pretty much all of their time together. They ate together, traveled together, went to the Temple together, ministered together, even slept in the same places. In a word, they lived life together.
As they shared life with one another, the disciples saw firsthand what happened when Jesus encountered all kinds of people and situations.
They observed his rhythms of drawing away to be with his heavenly Father (Mark 1:35) and his human needs for food, water, and rest (Mark 4:38-40; John 4).
They also witnessed the full range of his emotions — his anger (Matthew 21:12-13), his grief (John 11), his distress (Matthew 26:36-46), his joy (Luke 10:21-22) — and what stirred up such emotions.
The disciples had a front-row seat as Jesus modeled a new way of becoming great: by emptying himself of heavenly glory and becoming a humble servant (John 13:1-17; Colossians 2:7).
Jesus, the Son of God, invited his disciples not only into his ministry but into his life as well. Only by living life together could they see for themselves that Jesus truly lived out what he preached.
4. Jesus and his disciples lived among the lost.
When we think about discipleship, we often imagine two people sitting in a coffee shop, with one person teaching the other. While Jesus did teach his disciples privately on occasion, much of his disciple making took place while they lived among the lost (those far away from God). How he lived among the lost aligned with what he taught his disciples about God’s heart for the lost (Matthew 18:10-14).
While they lived among the lost, Jesus trained and equipped his disciples to evangelize and minister to people’s spiritual and physical needs. He also empowered them to cast out demons and heal the sick (Matthew 10:1).
When the disciples looked to Jesus to feed the hungry masses, he responded with a “You figure it out.” In figuring it out, they witnessed his power multiply to abundance the few loaves and fish they had to offer (14:13-21).
When the disciples were confronted with their human limits, they experienced all the more the power of God through trust in Jesus.
In his final prayer for his disciples, Jesus prayed not that they would be taken out of the world, but that God would protect them as they carried on his work in the world after he returned to his Father (John 17:13-19).
Jesus called his disciples to remain in the world, living among the lost (Matthew 13:33), so they could play a pivotal role in advancing God’s kingdom wherever he sent them.
5. Jesus equipped the disciples with all they needed to continue his disciple-making work.
Jesus called his disciples in the beginning of their disciple-making relationship by saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19, NASB). When he said those words, he was already setting a vision for the work he would eventually entrust them to do.
Let’s take a moment to revisit and unpack the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.
Jesus instructed his disciples to help others not only know his commands but obey them as well. This would require more than simply passing on knowledge about God and then continuing on their way. They would need to spend time with those they discipled so they could observe areas of needed growth and help them learn to obey God through teaching, correction, training, and even rebuke.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus promised the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to help his disciples in this life-saving, life-transforming work.
In just over three years of living with Jesus, his disciples moved from not knowing him as the Son of God to receiving and carrying out the Great Commission.
He provided everything they needed to carry on God’s mission-critical work of disciple-making, including the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, so that the kingdom of God would reach to the ends of the earth.