You are not making disciples if the disciples you think you are making are not, themselves, making disciples.

I have been communicating this word of encouragement for years now. Someone finally challenged me on it – his conviction being that making disciples is reserved for a select group of Christians, that have been given a select group of gifts.

As I understand it, his concern is that I am encouraging disciple makers to expect others to pursue areas of giftedness that God does not have for them. I highly respect this man’s opinion and concern; and recognize that others may share it.

Our conversation has caused me to reexamine my position. I hope you will consider the following.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

The Great Commission means a lot of different things to different people. Some haven’t thought much about it. Others have assumed that their teachers and preachers were experts in its meaning.

I don’t expect you will make that mistake with me. In fact, I strongly encourage you to consider the meaning for yourself. Does our Lord’s commission – given with all authority in heaven and on earth – apply to you (and to everyone you are discipling)?

Jesus made disciples – to show us how. The key to His success was knowing that “the Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19). The key for us is the same: to recognize that we are instruments of God’s grace for the discipling of others. It is not up to our abilities and charisma. The Holy Spirit is the One Who draws and convicts; He is the Teacher and the Transformer.

Recognizing our role in the disciple making process, we can then understand that every follower of Jesus Christ has something to offer another for their being made into one of His disciples – solely because they have the life of Christ and the person of the Holy Spirit working from within them.

Therefore, the question of ability/gifting is moot.

This leaves us with the question of willingness and obedience; specifically, are we willing to be used by God to make disciples? Here’s where things get interesting.

Disciple makers encourage, edify and equip others to follow Jesus – that He would make them. Encourage means “to put courage in”. Edify is “building up in the truth”. Equip – as intended, not the Americanized version – means “to repair something for its intended use” (like the saints of Ephesians 4:12; and the nets of Mark 4:19).

No one person has all the encouragement, edification and equipping that any other person needs. No single person is solely responsible for discipling another. Disciple making is a collective effort.

First, Jesus said that we were to “teach them to observe all things that I commanded you”. You might ask, “Is everyone a teacher?” That depends are what you understand “teach” to mean.

How does a father “teach” his son to respect women? There are at least three ways I can think of. First, he will explain why it is important. Second, he will demonstrate respect. Third, he will arrange for his son to spend time with other respectful men.

How about the elderly lady that helps with fellowship dinners and provides meals in emergency situations? Some would say her service is not one of the disciple making gifts; and they may be right. However, anyone that has known such a person will quickly recognize how God is using her acts of love, meekness and goodness to make disciples of many spiritual daughters.

So, making disciples that make disciples is not expecting someone to walk in a gifting they have not been given. Making disciples that make disciples is encouraging, edifying and equipping them to become the instrument that God will use to accomplish the Great Commission.

Making disciples is about the branch bearing the fruit of the vine – being available, obedient and intentional. God will do the rest.

Humbly yours and forever His,