Jesus had a public ministry and a disciple-making ministry. In His public ministry, Jesus taught masses of people everywhere He went. However, His primary mission was disciple-making. God’s plan for His life was to bear the sins of man and leave behind a group of men and women who would multiply His Kingdom work. Disciple making is the secret weapon of God to reach people, communities, cities, states, nations, and the world.
Following is a brief overview of Jesus’ disciple-making ministry in the book of Mark. For those of you interested in disciple-making or already doing it, this should be a useful guide. In Mark, there are 7 aspects to Jesus’ disciple making.
1. Walking in understood victory - Jesus lived in the victory of God His Father. His whole life was a continual manifestation of the power and victory of the Holy Spirit in Him and through Him. Even in death He manifested the power of God by being resurrected. Mark 1:1 sets the tone for the entire Gospel, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” His victory was not theoretical. It was very practical. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms a storm. In Mark 5, Jesus defeats a demon, raises a girl from the dead, and heals a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.
It is important to see that Jesus’ victory was an understood victory. That is Jesus understood His victory and how He was able to walk in it. He understood all the rulers and powers in the world. Because of this, Jesus was able to clearly communicate and train others.
Before you make disciples, you need to walk in victory and be able to explain how and why you do. You need to have a method of walking with Jesus that is biblical, holistic, relational, transformational, and reproducible. When you are walking in this you will have a pattern of walking with Jesus that you can train others to walk in. Be clear in your beliefs, consistent in your practices, and continuous in your stories of God’s love and faithfulness. Then you will be equipped to disciple others.
2. Going - Jesus found His disciples as He was going. Mark 1:16 says, “As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casing a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.” Jesus found disciples in the regions of Tyre, Galilee, the Decapolis, Samaria, Perea, and Israel. He was not waiting for people to come to Him, as Jesus was going He was looking for those whom God had for Him.
If you are ready to make disciples, you need to start praying and looking. As you go in the regular directions of your life, be open to the leading of the Spirit to show you those He wants you to speak to. He will not have you disciple every person. Your role may be to pray, to encourage, or to speak a word. Regardless, be open to the leading of the Spirit as you go.
3. High level of sacrifice - In the beginning of the relationship, Jesus called every potential disciple to a high level of sacrifice. Mark 8:34 says, “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’” This is applied in Mark 1:17 when Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to be His disciples, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” This was an unequivocal invitation for these me to commit themselves totally, and only, to Jesus. In order to do so they had to completely surrender to themselves, the expectations of others, and the world. On this Jesus never compromised.
We see this again with the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-24. In spite of the young ruler’s morality, Jesus required his heart. Jesus was not after his morality. So Jesus told him to sell his possessions – totally surrender this world. Then, and only then, would the ruler be a disciple of Jesus.
Finally, we see this in Jesus’ parable of the soils in Mark 4. In this parable the word of God lands on four different types of soil. Only the fourth soil accepts the Word of God and grows 30, 60, 100 fold. The other three soils represent people who have not made the level of sacrifice Jesus requires.
As we go to make disciples, we cannot compromise on the high level of sacrifice Jesus calls us. Being a disciple requires making regular, difficult decisions to walk away from our wills, the expectations of others, and the lures of the world to be faithful to Jesus. This is discipleship. You will bless your people greatly when you start the relationship with sacrifice.
You have to be careful with this but when you discern that a person is not as committed as Jesus calls them to, you must walk away from them. You will not be successful in trying to convert 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s into 4’s. Sow into 4’s. You will know when a person is not a 4 because every week is difficult. They do not prepare. They show passing interest in the Lord. They rarely read the Bible or go to church. Even though you have, in love, pointed out areas of their lives God wants to work in, they do not engage. You must walk away from these people. Jesus did not chase the rich, young ruler when he walked away from Jesus’ offer. You need to communicate, in love, that this relationship is not working out. Offer a new relationship to the person when they are ready to truly surrender to Jesus. Here we follow Peter’s teaching, “In as much as it is possible, live at peace with all men.”
4. Relational - Peter and Andrew begin walking with Jesus in Mark 1. Three plus years later in Mark 16:1-8, an angel of the Lord commands Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome to go tell Peter and the other disciples that Jesus has been resurrected and they will see Him in Galilee.
Jesus walked with these men. He loved them. He trained them. He did not simply have them in class. He did not keep arms-length from them. He was real and vulnerable with them.
Discipleship is about relationships. As we are loved by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we go to love those whom God has for us. Because we are filled with love we have love to give. We must guard ourselves against turning discipleship into Bible study where love is not central. We must also be careful of allowing our disciple making to distract us or drain us from the love of God for us. Our effectiveness in disciple making depends on our being filled with God’s love for us.
5. Intentional and Circumstantial - This is interesting and frustrating. Jesus’ disciple making was both intentional and circumstantial. There were times when Jesus sat His followers down and taught them specific lessons. In Mark 4, Jesus taught His followers the parable of the soils. It was an intentional lesson not spurred by any particular circumstance. Usually, when Jesus taught this way, His disciples would pull Him away from the crowd after the lesson and ask Him to further explain what He just taught. In Mark 4:10, the crowd has left and Jesus is alone with His disciples. They began to ask Him about the meaning of the parable.
However, and this is where making disciples can get frustrating, most of Jesus’ training happens circumstantially. As Jesus and His disciples are walking together they experience different events. Jesus uses those events, and the disciples’ reactions, to train. In Mark 4, Jesus and His disciples are on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The wind turns life threatening. The disciples panic. Rested, Jesus rebukes the wind calming the storm. Jesus uses the circumstances to teach His disciples about faith. On another occasion, in Mark 10:13-16, they are in the region of Perea. Some children try to get to Jesus but the disciples keep them from coming. Jesus uses the occasion to teach His guys about who are good candidates to receive the Kingdom of God.
In Mark 9:2-8, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain where they watch Him transform into His glorified state. When they come down the mountain the rest of the disciples are failing at delivering a man’s son from demonic control. Jesus delivers the boy and uses the opportunity to correct His disciples in their deliverance work.
This is frustrating because disciple cannot be about a curriculum. Discipleship does not start at chapter one, page one. Discipleship must move as life moves. There will be times when there are intentional lessons you are training your people in. But discipleship must be about life and what your people are dealing with week to week. Disciple thrives when we help people apply the wisdom, love, and power of God into the immediate situations of their lives. Your confidence in doing this will come in large measure from the ways you do this in your own life. Your battle in the Lord to be free and live free will equip you to discern how to disciple others to the same place.
You can certainly do Bible studies and book studies. Those have a place in discipleship. But you do not have to. And you do not have to immediately. Love your people. Talk to them about what is going on in their lives. Ask them questions. As you develop trust and your people share more and more speak with love training them to see all the persons and forces at work in that circumstance and how they can walk in the victory of Jesus.
This will make you feel wobbly at first. You may not have a particular direction going into a discipleship time. Trust that the Holy Spirit will show you His direction as you are talking. Let Him do what He does. Trust in how you have been equipped. You probably have more in your arsenal than you know.
While much of making disciples is circumstantial, you are expecting growth to happen. We are not chasing issue after issue. In Mark 16, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples. He did not have a curriculum but He everything He was doing developed maturity. At the end of three and a half years, Jesus guys were prepared to go with their own “understood victory” and make disciples.
6. Liberating - Making disciples is about helping people find freedom in Christ from their sin, the world, and Satan. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus is presented a paralyzed man. Before He heals the man’s legs, Jesus forgives his sins. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” While preaching in a synagogue for the first time, Jesus is confronted by a demon possessed man. In Mark 1:25-26, Jesus confronts the demon and frees the man.
Setting people free can be very challenging. You have to discern what their root issues are. For the man in Mark 1, his issues were demonic. The paralytic had a sin issue. The rich, young ruler’s issue was world goods. Jesus was a master at discovering root issues. It may take you many meetings before you can get at the root of the issue(s) your people are dealing with. The goal in liberating people is to deal with those lies and areas of darkness that are keeping them from intimacy with God. Jesus came to reconcile sinful man to a Holy God. He did not free people for the sake of freedom. He freed people for intimacy.
When you are having difficulty discerning root issues, trust in the leading of the Holy Spirit. As you are praying for your people, ask the Holy Spirit to show you the root issues in play. You may even do this while you are meeting with your disciples. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the truth of the matter.
7. Empowering - Jesus expected His disciples to do what He did and commissioned them to repeat what they received from Him. After calming the storm in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. He expected them to respond the same way He did. As we have seen, in Mark 16, Jesus leaves His disciples with the charge to go and make other disciples after He leaves.
Making disciples, in some ways, mirrors parenting. We are loving and training people to stand on their own in in Christ and then sending them to do the same for others. You will have to kick some of your people out of the nest. Others you will have to restrain. In all things we are seeking to empower and then send them to train others.
You should feel confident about a person’s preparedness to make disciples if they have clarity in their beliefs, consistency in their practices, and abundance in their stories of God’s love and faithfulness in their lives. The Holy Spirit will affirm for you that your disciple is ready. Send them! And then be there for them as they struggle through their first few disciples.k here to edit.
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