A recent pew research study showed that there are roughly 2.18 Billion Christians in the world. The church is still growing around the world, but imagine the impact if there were a greater emphasis on making Disciples? Most churches focus on evangelization, which is very important, but evangelization and discipleship need not compete. In fact, they are linked together to transform a sinner to a saint. This is done in three stages which are declaration, development, and deployment.
Declaration is the first stage of being a Disciple. This is when individuals make the decision to follow Jesus. In this sense, someone is making the conscious decision “to recognize and accept who Jesus is as Lord, leader, and master of our lives”. When people make the decision to follow Jesus they have thought it through and are not reacting based only on emotion. In their mind, they have decided that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and are making Him their leader.
The great twentieth century theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it another way. He states, “Those called leave everything they have, not in order to do something valuable. Instead, they do it simply for the sake of the call itself, because otherwise they could not walk behind Jesus.” In the stage of declaration the individual takes on the role of an investigator, and investigates Jesus. Did He really exist and die on a cross? Are the claims of His followers true? Some people may investigate sources outside of the Bible to come up with their conclusions. Whatever the case may be Jesus is at the center of the process, and the goal of declaration is to arrive at a place of committed belief.
The second stage in the process is development and is where disciples learn to live and learn the teaching of Christ. It is a step that is also known as obedience. We can acknowledge Jesus as savior all we want, but this is where we learn His teachings. Dr. Earley states, “The second stage of discipleship requires that we embrace the cross, forsake all to follow Jesus, and bear fruit by abiding in Christ.”
The Apostle Matthew is a good representation of this stage. He was born a Levite and most likely trained in the Torah from an early age. He knew he Jesus was, and most likely recognized Him as the Messiah if only privately. Then one day he was collecting taxes and the call for obedience came swiftly. Matthew 9:9 states “And Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he rose, and followed Him.”
Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that a disciple must take up his cross daily, and like Matthew we must do it. In other words, Jesus is reminding His disciples that following him will involve suffering and hardship. Matthew went from being a follower with a knowledge of who Jesus was, and went to an individual who made a commitment and was obedient. We come as we are to this stage, trust Jesus, and allow Him to clean up our lives. This is important because many people think they have to clean up their lives beforehand. Jesus chooses us as disciples for what we will become, not for what we are in our current state. Jim Putnam writes, “This second attribute of a disciple is primarily a spiritual response to the Holy Spirit. It speaks to people at the heart level, as they assimilate the Word of Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to transform their inner being.”
- This second stage of obedience is sometimes the most difficult because human beings by nature are impatient. We get the idea that since progress is slow that we are not doing it correctly, but that is not the case. This development process is a lifelong process. It is a commitment prayer, involvement in a church, studying the scriptures and getting involved with the churches mission to save souls.
The third and last step in making a disciple is that of deployment. Jesus was a Rabbi, and in His day a Rabbi taught at progressive levels. This helped build trust, obedience, and commitment. Jesus deployed the disciples when He felt they were ready to replicate His teachings. The training of the disciples culminated in what we now call the Great Commission. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to me on heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Their training is now complete, and they are being sent to do the same. That command is still valid for the church today. W. H. Mare writes “The message of the commission, seen applied from the time of the fall of Adam, through the period of the cross, is to be proclaimed throughout this present age to the second coming of Christ.”
This last stage of the process, as with the others, is not optional. A disciple of Christ is also called to be a missionary. They are someone to carry the Gospel, and proclaim it, wherever they are. Jesus came and told people to repent, He taught His disciples and sent them out, and that means that we must do the same. To not do that would mean that we would not be obeying.
Dr. Early states, “It was not twelve special men who were sent out as missionaries. All of us are sent. It is not only extra-special people who have been sent on a mission for God. All disciples have been sent.” We must be obedient and go where we are sent. It may be to work every day, overseas, school, or in our neighborhoods. We can go out daily and live and proclaim the Gospel no matter where we are. We must obey the command that Christ gave us and go.
The Great Commission were the last words that Jesus spoke, and as anyone knows, the last words a person speaks have special meaning. These words were sewn into the very fabric of the disciples’ hearts, and out of love for their Master they did everything possible to fulfill that mission. In fact, all but one disciple were martyred to fulfill that command.
In conclusion, these three steps have a couple things in common. The first and most important is that Jesus is at the center of it all. We accept Him as savior, calls us to follow, teaches us, and sends us out to repeat the process. Secondly the three steps of declaration, development, and deployment create stepping stones that build strong Christians that will be ready, and able to make an impact on the world. These three principles are a wake-up call to all of us. Are we truly following Christ? Are we being obedient to what He is telling us to do? Are we going out like we should, or leaving that burden on church leadership? If we are in Christ then we are ministers of the Gospel, and Jesus tellings us to go advance the gospel.
“The Size And Distribution Of The World’s Christian Population,” Pew Research, accessed May 23, 2014 December 19, 2011, http://www.pewforum.org/ 2011/ 12/ 19/ global-christianity-exec/ .
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Discipleship. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003.
Earley, Dave, and Rod Dempsey. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B& h Publishing Group, 2013.
———. Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence. Nashville, TN: B& h Publishing Group, 2013.
Putnam, Jim, and Bobby Harrington with Robert Coleman. Discipleshift. Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013.
W.H.Mare. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.
Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen, and H. Wayne House, Compact Bible Commentary Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2004
 “The Size And Distribution Of The World’s Christian Population,” Pew Research, accessed May 23, 2014, http://www.pewforum.org/ 2011/ 12/ 19/ global-christianity-exec/ .
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B& h Publishing Group, 2013), 59.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 46.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 58.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B& h Publishing Group, 2013), 68.
 Earl Radmacher, Ron Allen, and H. Wayne House, Compact Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2004), 717.
 Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington With Robert Coleman, Discipleshift (Grand Rapids, MICHIGAN: Zondervan, 2013), 49.
 W.H.Mare, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 524.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…How to live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville, TN: B& h Publishing Group, 2013), 81.