How to Make Disciples and Disciple or Teach New Believers

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

The Great Commission, given as an imperative command by the Lord Jesus Christ, is to make disciples and disciple new believers, so how can we do that? What’s that look like?

Disciples Forsake All (mostly)

The Great Commission, given as an imperative command by the Lord Jesus Christ, is to make disciples and disciple new believers, so how can we do that? What’s that look like? To make disciples is to share Christ with others who then come to believe that Jesus is their much needed Savior. Then those who now believe become followers or disciples of Jesus, but it doesn’t stop there because Jesus said we are to teach these new disciples the same things that Jesus taught the original Apostles. These teachings are found in Scripture, particularly in the Gospels and the New Testament letters (books). To begin with, Jesus says that “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must love God, even more than our own family. Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac, we must renounce all else that comes between us and our God.

What is a Disciple?

This word comes from the Old English discipul, which originated from the Latin word discipulus. The word means “a pupil, student,” or “follower.” It is said to be from the word discere, which means “to learn” and where we get the word “discern.” The root word of that word is dek which means “to take, accept” (Matt 28:18-20). To take means “to grasp intellectually,” “analyze thoroughly,” or “to take hold of,” like “carpe diem” (Latin for “Seize the day.”). So a disciple of Jesus is a follower who is a student or studier of God and His Word that is attempting to discern or grasp and hold on to the essentials of the faith (Jesus’ teachings). That person, “when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

What Does a Disciple Do?

A disciple is someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ, and sent to live “for” Christ and called to “share” Christ. “Calling” includes salvation and abiding in Christ (John 8:31–32, 15:1-11). “Equipping” includes the spiritual formation and growth that God commands (2 Timothy 3:16–17). “Sending” includes making new disciples (Matt 28:18), discipling others (Matt 28:20), doing good works that God has laid before us (Eph 2:10, bearing Spirit-powered fruit (John 15:8; Gal 5:22-23), and loving others as Jesus loved the disciples and loves us (John 13:34-35).


Discipleship could be described as anything that calls someone to live in Christ, equips them to live like Christ, and sends them to live for Christ. Authentic discipleship is raising up godly men, women, and children who love God more than all others and all things. There cannot be discipleship without evangelism. A true disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the gospel, striving to make new disciples.  Jesus’ wept over the lost sheep of Israel, knowing their judgment was coming.  Every disciple should weep over the lost as Jesus wept for (the lost), but also rejoice with those who have newly believed, just as they do in heaven (Luke 15:7).

The Cost of Following Jesus

“Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24) and most certainly, those who are like Christ will suffer persecution like Christ, although not to the same extent of course. This means, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), but also, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). I don’t know about you, but that sounds about impossible to me. We’re going to need God’s help for sure (John 15:5; Phil 4:14). The false idea that we can “accept Jesus” and everything gets easier is actually the reverse in most cases. Since we don’t live like the world anymore, the world won’t love us anymore. In fact, the world is agitated at Christians because of their “piety” or “pious” attitude and will begin to hate us. Our lives, driven by the Holy Spirit, can convict the world of sin too, although it is the Spirit that provides the necessary power to live that way.

Costly Was the Blood

Every Christian should be greatly humbled to know, if they don’t already, that new believers will struggle, just like we do! We know it is a very narrow path to eternal life that is most difficult. This is why so few will find it (Matt 7:13-14). So many say I do enough good to be saved, but if God did not spare His own Son…a Holy, Righteous God Himself, what makes people think they can slide in with just enough “good works” to get into the Kingdom. If they could get into the kingdom some other way, Jesus’ death was pointless, but we know He made the only way possible. There is no forgiveness without being plunged beneath the precious blood of the Lamb of God.

Taking up your cross daily

We were redeemd by the precious blood of the Lamb.

What will it cost you most to follow Christ?

How can we encourage others to forsake all for Him?

In what ways can you reflect Christ before others?

Follow Me

Jesus sought out and choose the twelve disciples and not the other way around (John 15:16). In many cases, He simply went up to them and told them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). The point is, we didn’t chose Him; He choose us (John 6:44), even before the earth even existed (Eph 1; Rom 8:29-30). Academic studies of a particular field in education are sometimes called a “discipline” because the student is to take hold of what they learn and practice it in later life, but God doesn’t want any more religious people. He is seeking disciples after His own heart. It is not about learning a religion but learning about a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The fact is we are a disciple of whoever or whatever it is we follow. As for me, I want to follow Him and be a lifelong pupil or student of His and the textbook for being His disciple is the Bible.

To be a disciple of Christ’s you must study His textbook, the Bible. It’s like enlisting a man in the Army and issuing him a rifle that he never learns how to clean and shoot. The risk when we don’t “fully” disciple new believers is that they will almost always become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior, and hypocritical in witness. I know. I am proof of that! For this reason alone, anything less than a plan to disciple every willing person is going to be a catastrophic moral failure.

Random Acts of Kindness

Leaving the restroom better than you found it

Putting on a new roll of toilet paper (and even starting it!)

Opening the door for someone

Say “Thank you”

Offer to pray for someone

You might be the only Bible someone ever reads (Dr. John MacArthur). You might be the only glimpse that people will ever see of Jesus.  Paul calls the members “living epistles” (2 Cor 3:1-3), meaning people can read them in a sense. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book on the cost of being a disciple of Jesus, ultimately paying the cost of being a disciple of Christ with his death in a Nazi prison camp. Pastor Bonhoeffer said if you want to be a disciple, look to Jesus! Dietrich Bonhoeffer desired to be a disciple of Christ so much that he actually entered into the sufferings of Christ. That was Paul’s desire too, “so that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10) Mr. Bonhoeffer was right in saying, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

In what ways does Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s example affect us?

How do you discipline yourself in life?

What price do you pay for being a disciple of Jesus?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ,” and he is absolutely right. And, discipleship is never done alone or as a solitary Christian living apart from the church, the Body of Christ. There are nearly 40 “one another’s” in the New Testament, showing we need one another and they need you! It’s hard to love one another when you are by yourself, so discipleship is impossible if people forsake the assembling of themselves (Heb 10:24), even more so today (Heb 10:25).


Discipleship is modeling and teaching Christians the precepts of the Bible, how to prayer, essential doctrines (Rom 10:9-13; Acts 4:12), Christian living, and worship, or to sum it up; live like Jesus lived. Love like Jesus loved and pray like Jesus prayed. You learn these things of course in the hearing and study of the Word. We are commanded to reach out to others and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), but recognize that it is the Holy Spirit Himself who reveals Jesus Christ to the world. Our desire must match Jesus’ desire to bring people into an intimate relationship with God so that they might be saved and discipled by Christ and His Word. This is an act of divine intervention and grace by God (Eph 2:1-5), just as it was for Saul (later, Paul) on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).  Even so, God will use us as a means to His end, so we must leave the 99 and seek to save the one that is lost.

Here is some related reading for you: What is Discipleship? Should Every Christian Disciple Others?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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