How Disciples Are Actually Made

Imagine a scene in your mind.

You’re helping a friend set up for a yard sale when she sets out a beautiful old violin and music books for sale. It seems much too beautiful of an instrument to markdown so dramatically to sell at a yard sale, and so you ask her about it.  She explains that she first learned to play the violin in middle school.

“I started by studying music theory,” she says. “I learned the history of the violin and how they are made. I listened to endless hours of music that was played by accomplished musicians. I listened and studied for two years, but it was all dots on a page to me. And you know what? When I picked up the violin I still could not play it. It just sounded like a series of squawks and squeaks that were horrible and far from being music!”

“Didn’t your teacher require that you actually practice playing the violin along the way?” you ask.  “I mean, that is how people learn things, right?”

“Well, we did a few minutes of hands-on stuff each week, like where to place my chin on the violin and certain finger techniques, but I guess he just figured I was practicing it on my own at home or playing for my parents and
friends. He said I should, and assigned that as homework, but I had no confidence at all so I rarely practiced or played in front of anyone.”

Making disciples has a lot in common with teaching people new skills. It’s certainly more than that, but not less. It’s not uncommon for us to talk about prayer or Bible study or family worship or evangelism, and we encourage one another to do these things.  But it can be like a music teacher trying to teach someone the violin by simply telling them about music theory and hoping they pick it up on their own at home.

The disciples learned how to follow Jesus by being with him. Watching him do ministry. Asking questions afterward. Hearing his heart. Understanding his vision. Being sent out to do it themselves, and then reporting back to him what they experienced. It was taught and caught, modeled, and instructed. He explained what, why, and how. It engaged their head, heart, and hands.

Jesus was the Master Teacher. His disciples’ lives were transformed, and he sent them out to change the world. And in so doing, he shows and tells us how to do the same: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe [obey, do] all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20, ESV).

Are you expecting to grow in your faith simply by showing up to gatherings? That’s necessary, but not enough. We need one another, but we need more than content transfer and passive participation. We need to be together, share life, see and hear how the gospel changes our vision and lifestyles. We need to show one another how to study and meditate on Scripture.  We need to hear one another pray kingdom prayers. We need to see one another practice hospitality with non-Christians and engage in gospel conversations. We need to do life and ministry together.

How can you engage your head, heart, and hands in discipleship with others? Perhaps your Growth Group can serve together in addition to learning together. As the weather gets warmer and people begin to responsibly gather in person more, perhaps you can show hospitality to one another while also inviting your neighbors and non-Christian friends, building bridges of relationship over which the gospel might travel. What could it look like to do “UP, IN, and OUT” together in the community, teaching and learning from one another?

Steve Sage is our Pastor of Discipleship. (The illustration at the beginning was adapted from Be The Church: Discipleship and Mission Made Simple).