Are YOU Making Disciples?

by Eric C. Wheeler and Dave Palcsak

Before leaving earth and returning to the Father, Jesus told His followers to “go make disciples” by baptizing and teaching them to observe and obey everything He commanded and taught (Matt. 28:19-20). This is known as the “Great Commission,” and it is His final recorded instructions to us before His ascension. In other words, if you’re a disciple who truly follows Christ, you must lead others to do likewise. This begs the question – are YOU making disciples? How many people are you leading, affecting, instructing, and/or serving for the cause of Christ and the Kingdom of God?

If this concept seems foreign or uncomfortable to you, then quite possibly you’re asleep and in desperate need of a personal spiritual awakening yourself. At best, you’ve been held captive in a dead church and become victim to a system that has erroneously convinced you that this “Great Commission” is for the corporate church and their professional clergy! This is simply not true, and Scriptures clearly debunk this heretical belief. This kind of erroneous thinking and teaching only seeks to preserve a dying church system that keeps man ever dependent on man, spiritually beholden to their system, rather than freeing God’s people and expanding the Kingdom of heaven.

What parent raises a child to stay at home forever? Shouldn’t every father prepare his son to one day be a father and head of a household himself? What mother doesn’t train her daughter to eventually become a mother? Why do the corporate churches work so hard to perpetually keep the “baby birds in the nest?” Stop for a moment to truly consider why the corporate churches do this… it all comes down to money. Pull back the curtains, look past the glossy surface veneer, and you’ll see it’s more about the almighty dollar than it is about the Almighty God. The more people you have, the more revenue keeps pouring in. Why else would you NOT want the people to spiritually grow up and leave the corporate church? Because increased membership means increased influence; increased influence leads to increased power and control; and increased power and control equates to more money!

But is this the model of the first century New Testament Church Jesus founded? Not at all. In fact, according to the Bible, when a local church congregation grew in membership, God would purposefully allow a problem or persecution to arise in order to scatter them so the disciples wouldn’t become complacent and spiritually dependent upon the Apostles and/or church leadership. He did this so that they would HAVE to grow up and become leaders and “apostles” themselves (“ones who are sent to others”). Notice this in Scripture:

“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring… so the Twelve [Apostles] summoned the multitude of the disciples [and had them select seven men from among them who they could ordain in order to help serve as fellow leaders for the growing number of disciples that were being added to the church daily] … And the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith… At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles… Therefore, those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word… Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the Word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Greeks, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord… And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 6:1-7; 8:1,4; 11:19-24).

When the Church grew (“the disciples were multiplying”), God would cause everyone “except the Apostles” to eventually scatter. They were sent out by Him for the purpose of witnessing to others and to “make new disciples” themselves! God NEVER let any of them comfortably sit in a pew, complacently becoming a spectator, while the “church leader” preached to them as if THEY were an unbeliever. To be a believer, you have to be a PARTICIPANT! Otherwise, you are spiritually dead, and your so-called “faith” means nothing! For it is written: “Faith without works [actions] is dead… For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also!” (Jam. 2:17,26).

Note what Paul was led to write to Timothy when Timothy was becoming timid and afraid. He was trying to complacently stay on the sidelines rather than join in the fight:

“I remind you, Timothy, to stir up the gift of God [the Holy Spirit] which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling… You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules! The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops!… If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us!” (II Tim. 1:6-9; 2:1-12).

The Lord, through Paul, is exhorting us to get in the game! We cannot sit idly by on the sidelines as spectators. We must compete and play by the rules! And the rules of being a Christian – a true follower of Jesus Christ – demand that we participate, endure hardship, and get involved in the making of disciples by preaching and spreading the Word of God and the Kingdom of heaven. Anything short of this, is either 1) Partaking of the sin of Esau: which is selling out our destiny and birthright for a worthless bowl of lentil soup; and trading our God-given calling for material things and comfort (Gen. 25:29-34; Heb. 12:16-17). Or 2) Making the spiritually short-sighted mistake of Martha: which is being too focused on earthly material things and concerns instead of being earnestly involved in hearing and learning the sayings and teachings of Jesus Christ; and also realizing that the teachings of Jesus Christ are far more important than everything else in this life (Luke 10:38-42)!

What is a Disciple? And How do You Make Disciples?

A disciple is “one who is learning or being trained” (i.e., a student). For there to be a student, there must be a teacher or instructor. This is what YOU are! You are called to be a teacher, a leader, a mentor, and/or an instructor to others! As a Christian (a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ) you must be intimately familiar with your Master Jesus’ teachings. How can YOU give what YOU don’t have? You must know firsthand by direct training and teaching from Him what His lessons and teachings are. This is why we have the Bible. In a very real sense, it is our Teacher’s Guide, our manual. It is literally the unadulterated Word of God – the pure teachings of Jesus, available to us day and night. Notice that we are Jesus’ follower and disciple, not a pastor’s follower or disciple. Your pastor didn’t die for you or purchase you with his blood. Jesus alone did that. He purchased and redeemed us with His own blood (Acts 20:28-30; Eph. 1:7; Col.1:14). Therefore, He owns us (I Cor. 6:20). We are His. We don’t belong to anyone else, but Him. We are to teach His doctrines and teachings, not anyone else’s. We are Jesus’ follower, His disciple, not any denominational leader’s disciple. A pastor is only given to the Church (along with apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers) to help bring young believers to maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). Jesus Christ is literally the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Leaders are not to replace the Word/Jesus, but to help people become mature in the Word – that is, to become mature in Christ. Too many people look to their pastors and/or priests to teach them instead of reading their own Bibles to see what Christ Himself truly taught and teaches. They foolishly rely on their church leaders to accurately relay what Jesus said and taught. Yet, Jesus Himself warned, “Leave them. They are blind guides of the blind” (Matt. 15:14). Go directly to the source for your training! After all, Jesus said we only have One Master and One Teacher – Him (Matt. 23:8-10). Why look to a man to tell you what God says? Go to God and His Word yourself. Consider children playing the “telephone game” – within two or three people relaying the message, the original message has been corrupted. That’s the problem with institutionalized churches. After centuries of people listening to and relying on their priests and pastors, the original teachings and message of Jesus has become severely distorted. Cut out the potentially fraudulent “middlemen,” and just go directly to the source – the Bible.

Once you are very familiar with what the Bible actually says and your Master’s teachings (because you daily spend private time with Him in prayer and in reading your Bible), it is time to LIVE and practice it! Live by every word that you are learning from God (Matt. 4:4). As this happens, God will reveal more and more of Himself to you. He will begin to grow inside of you, and you in Him. Notice these promises:

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” (I Pet. 2:2-3)

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you doubleminded… Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (Jam. 4:8-10)

“You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me… If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:3-8)

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, ‘If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed.’” (John 8:31)

In every Scripture cited here we are commanded by God to draw near to Him, by seeking His Word, and God promises that it will change us! It never says anything about going to church. We are to become the Church by having His Word live in us. And Jesus Christ Himself is that Word! Notice: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And Jesus said of the Father: “Your Word is truth!” (John 17:17). And He declared to His followers: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except though Me.” (John 14:6). How can you be a disciple if you aren’t reading God’s Word? Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, and My Word abides in you, then you are My disciples!” (John 8:31; 15:7). The Apostle John also affirmed: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides [lives] in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” (I John 2:14).

Miraculously, as God and His Word grow in you, you will unknowingly begin to shine! Unbeknownst to you, God starts to emanate from you, and He begins to come forth from you as both a Light and Fragrance to others. Even Moses didn’t realize how much God had personally changed him. Upon returning from Mount Sinai, the glory of God was shining upon him because he had spent private time with the Lord. Moses, for the sake of the disbelieving Israelites, had to put a veil over his face because he was shining so brightly.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with Him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.” (Exod. 34:29-35)

God promises the same result for us if we will faithfully spend quiet private time with Him, abiding in His Word:

“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The unbelievers shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your [spiritual] sons shall come from afar, and your [spiritual] daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy.” (Isa. 60:1-5)

“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of knowing Him in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life.” (II Cor. 2:14-16)

“If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing; in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord [Master], and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. We have this treasure [this divine Light] in jars of clay [in our human bodies] to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Cor. 4:3-7)

When Christ the Word is living in us, people who are being called by God are miraculously drawn to us! The ones God has granted “spiritual eyes and ears to” (spiritual receptors) will be drawn to us that we may teach and instruct them. This is what “your sons and daughters will come to you and be nursed at your side” means (Isa. 60:4). Our job is to spiritually raise them up (to help mature them) in Christ! These are the ones appointed to us by God to disciple and mentor. We must share with them that they too can have a direct relationship with the Lord by showing the glorious message that God is real and He wants to live in them. Our commission is to reveal who God is: to tell them about His teachings, and about the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and how Christ specifically died for each one of us, and how He rose from the grave to live in us. If and when they believe this message, and are repentant, then we are to baptize them immediately in water for the forgiveness of their sins. As it is written: “And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). When they profess a belief in Him – that is, they show faith (“confess with their mouths” the belief that is in their hearts – see Rom. 10:8-10) – we are commanded to straightway baptized them (fully immerse them in water), symbolizing their repentance and death, and then raise them up out of the water, which symbolizes their rebirth – their resurrection and new life in Christ. At this point, we must continue to help them steadily grow by teaching them the ways of God – to obey everything Jesus taught us! As they continue growing in the Word (Christ) with the help of the Holy Spirit – whom God promised to give those who obey Him (Acts 5:32) – they should progress into spiritual maturity by daily feasting on Jesus the Bread of Life (I Pet.2:2; John 6:35,57-58), and through fellowshipping with like-minded brethren (Heb. 10:25). As they grow up in Him and mature, they will eventually leave your tutelage, and go on to produce spiritual children (disciples) of their own. This is the biblical model! There is no “hoarding of the people” by keeping them ever-needy dependent babies sitting in church! This is not to suggest any type of abandonment, but rather a continual growth of the spiritual Family of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ are commanded to fellowship together (Hebrews 10:24-25). As these new converts mature and begin to make their own disciples, you will begin to see your “former students” become your equals. Some may move on geographically as the Lord directs, but that will never cut the important spiritual and eternal ties that we have. We are ALWAYS one body under our Head, Jesus Christ, which makes us brothers and sisters forever.

Again, as a disciple of Jesus, you are commanded to “go out and make disciples; baptizing them and teaching them to observe and obey everything” that Jesus Christ has taught us (Matt. 28:19-20). Are you doing this? How many disciples have you made and baptized? How many have you been teaching, serving, and discipling in order to make true followers of Jesus? Where is your focus? Are you like Mary, whose focus was truly on Christ, hearing and reading God’s Word (becoming a true disciple of Jesus herself), then in turn, going forth and making new disciples? Or are you more like Martha, her sister, too busy tending YOUR own house and affairs, worried about the cares and concerns of this life? Please take a good hard look at yourself and be honest. Are you truly making disciples?

Anyone who looks to you to coach, help raise, mentor, educate, teach, influence, take care of, serve, and/or affect is your disciple (your student in training). Are you unashamedly and unabashedly teaching them the right ways of the Lord and the mind of Christ? Are you teaching and demonstrating to them how Jesus Christ acted, reacted, and interacted in all situations and circumstances? Are you faithfully showing others these things? Or do YOU even know how He acted, reacted, and interacted in every situation and circumstance? The reason God gifted us with the Bible is so that we can know how God and Jesus view and judge every matter; so we can know how to rightly discern and respond in all situations! Scripture declares: “The spiritual person [rightly] discerns all things, yet they themselves are not [rightly] judged by anyone…. For we have [been given] the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:15-16). And again, it says: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the sayings of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness [the Bible], for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are mature, that is, those who by reason of use [continual practice] have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14). God is telling us that if you don’t know His Word – the Bible, it’s your fault! There is no justifiable excuse for not knowing the Scriptures, especially those of us living here in America and in the western world. There is coming a day when the Bible will be outlawed here too; but thankfully, it hasn’t happened to us yet. So, it’s time to get busy and get our noses in the Bible every day while we still can. Believe me, we are going to need it! The days are soon coming when darkness will take over the land. You can’t impart to others what you don’t have. Jesus is the Word. How can we teach and baptize – thus making disciples – when we have absolutely no idea what our Master teaches?

By the way, don’t think you need to go to school for this. The truth is most seminaries hinder and hurt the true Gospel instead of helping it. Let me explain this from my own personal experience, as well as demonstrate it biblically. At twenty-two, I received my bachelor’s degree in theology. However, I would later come to realize when Jesus started talking to me, that I had NOT been trained and taught the true teachings and doctrines of the Lord; but rather, I had been schooled in the teachings and doctrines of man – particularly those of my own specific denomination’s brand of “Christianity.” But when Jesus began speaking to me, by way of the Holy Spirit, I found His words directly contradicting my church’s doctrines and teachings. As I listened to what He was saying to me, He ALWAYS quoted Scripture first, saying, “It is written…,” and then He would go on to explain the truth to me. Needless to say, I began studiously “searching the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so,” just as we are commanded to do (Acts 17:11). In time, I came to find almost all of Churchianity’s so-called “Christian” teachings are in error. We need to get back to God and what He actually DOES say in the Scriptures, not what man says that He says! Go directly to the source (the Bible), and you’ll see my testimony is true. Get to know God for yourself!

The Apostle Paul, when he was known as Saul of Tarsus, went to the most prestigious seminary of his day. He studied under the best theologians – the great Gamaliel being chief among them (Acts 22:3). In fact, he excelled as a student (disciple) above most of his peers and contemporaries (Gal. 1:14). Yet, although he was called by God, even from the womb (Gal. 1:15), the Lord did not “open his spiritual eyes” until many years later while he was traveling to Damascus on a “religious” mission (see Acts 9:1-22). After which, he swiftly denounced and renounced all of his previous training and teachings he received from man, comparing them to rubbish (Phil. 3:5-9). He declared that he was now only going to be learning directly from Jesus Christ through divine revelation (Gal. 1:12). Clearly, seminary and school wasn’t/isn’t the answer. Jesus said there was none greater born of women than John the Baptist, and even he wasn’t professionally theologically trained (Matt. 11:11). Quite the opposite, he actually shunned the clergy and their churches, calling them “a brood of vipers,” choosing to be trained and taught by God in the wilderness desert instead (Luke 1:80). Likewise, even though the original Twelve Apostles were Jews, having known and been taught the Scriptures by the rabbis and priests since their youth, they didn’t spiritually comprehend God’s Word until Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Obviously, it’s not about going to school, it’s about looking to and listening to Jesus.

Some may counter by arguing, “Yes, but even Samuel, Elijah and Elisha had schools and/or seminaries for prophets.” This is a complete misunderstanding of Scripture. The Hebrew word used to describe “a company of followers” (i.e., disciples) was wrongly translated “school” in our English Bibles. This is the same point I am making. Every godly person, man or woman, should have people following them to whom they are teaching the ways of God. But this teaching and training is NOT meant to be an on-going clinical program. They are not being discipled to be perpetual students enslaved in a system and classroom. They need to quickly become teachers and mentors themselves. Jesus said this: “A disciple [student] is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher!” (Luke 6:40). After instructing His disciples, “Jesus said to them, ‘Have you understood all these things?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.’” (Matt. 13:51-52). In other words, at some point you must cease being a disciple/student and become a teacher/mentor to others! You must start making your own disciples – teaching them to follow and obey Christ the true and only Master!

People of God, it’s time to grow up and become a harvester! As Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white [ripe] for harvest! The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest!” (John 4:35; Luke 10:2).


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