How Do You Disciple Someone?

When Jesus told his disciples to “make disciples,” it wasn’t a suggestion. He didn’t say, “I really think you should make disciples.” He didn’t say, “Boy, I really wish someone would disciple the nations.” He used the imperative voice—he made a command.

But thankfully, he didn’t just tell us to make disciples, he also told us how. And he did it through three participles: “go,” “baptize,” and “teach.” Discipleship is different from sharing the gospel with people we come across here and there. It’s a focused intent to move someone from new believer to mature believer who is prepared to disciple others.

Make Disciples

Jesus chose 12 men to disciple during his three years of earthly ministry. They traveled together, shared meals, and learned from Jesus daily. He would speak to crowds and heal people, but Jesus taught the disciples privately. He explained his lordship, the parables he used when preaching, and encouraged the disciples in their faith.

What we can learn from this example is that disciplining someone is an intensely personal experience. You’re showing a person how to devote their lives entirely to Christ and his will. You get to help them learn to live out what they believe.

Ask the Holy Spirit to make you aware of the person(s) whom he wants you to disciple. Don’t worry about being a perfect example—that’s Jesus’ role. You can, however, emulate simple things Jesus did with the 12 disciples like sharing meals, studying Scripture, and sharing the gospel.

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Go

Jesus tells us to go to all nations. The command to “go” doesn’t mean you have to be a missionary to follow Jesus’ will. However, it may mean you have to step out of your comfort zone. God may be calling you to disciple someone you know but don’t have much in common with. That’s okay! God will give you the wisdom to connect and befriend them.

Jesus specifically chose the 12 men, but he interacted with each of them differently.

He was especially close to three of them: Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1). John, however, was the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). John was present for very intimate moments of Jesus’ life. He witnessed the transfiguration, was entrusted with caring for Jesus’ mother, and was given special revelation to write the book of Revelation.

Isn’t it interesting how Jesus had different levels of connection with the 12 disciples? It’s not necessary to be best friends with someone to help them understand their faith. God wants us to take the first step of reaching out, and he will guide us the rest of the way.

Baptize

Baptism is a sign and seal of our salvation, of our being made dead to sin and alive in God through Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Pet. 3:21; Col. 2:12).

Although there is some debate about how and when to baptize people (sprinkle with water? Fully immerse? Baptize as infants, or after a period of testing to ensure sincere faith?), there is no doubt about the command to be baptized.

Not only does it publicly mark us as Christians, it is a declaration from God himself that we belong to him.

Teach

There’s nothing that matters more than someone knowing Jesus as Savior. It changes their life on earth and eternity. What’s incredible is that God chose people to share the good news of salvation through Jesus.

You may feel unqualified to teach others about Jesus, but he equips those he calls. Consider this: Paul wrote most of the New Testament. Before his conversion, Paul persecuted the Church, and many Christians were understandably frightened of him after his salvation.  

The church at Antioch commissioned Barnabas to accompany Paul on his first missionary journey. Barnabas was a faithful believer whose name means “son of encouragement.” Paul would face unbelievable challenges and persecution. But God provided him a friend and encourager in Barnabas. He was never alone and had someone to lean on throughout his trials.

You don’t have to memorize loads of Scripture to teach about the love of Christ. Start with your salvation experience. God has given you a unique story that only you can tell. Remember, you’re never alone on your journey. You have a “Barnabas” in the Holy Spirit. He is your encourager, and you can depend on him to provide the right words at the right time.

Acts 1:8 ends with a promise from Christ: “I will be with you always.” In this context, “always” means the whole of every day. In other words, Jesus never leaves us alone as we reach out to disciple people. The Holy Spirit will give you wisdom and direction as you lead someone closer to Jesus. It’s a promise he gives that will never end.

Now that you’ve learned more about discipleship, what’s the next step you need to take? Maybe it’s calling someone to schedule coffee so you can get to know them more. It could be starting a Bible study so you can lead others to a better understanding of the Bible. Take some time to pray and ask God how you can obey his call to make disciples.

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Written by
Karen Engle

Karen Engle is a copy editor for Faithlife. She has a master's in biblical studies and theology from Western Seminary and frequently takes groups to Israel.

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Written by Karen Engle