Jesus’ Discipleship Strategy

1st July 2019

These days it seems like many people are looking for a discipleship magic bullet. The one thing that they need to do to see thousands come to faith. To see their church attendance grow. To halt the decline. To run a discipleship course or start a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). To be honest, for years I was pretty much in the same boat. I knew the answer was Jesus - but I still didn't know where to start and what to do.

It was only much later, reading through Miraculous Movements that I discovered that the answer is already there. It’s hidden in plain sight. It’s written in the words of the gospel. Jesus didn't just tell his disciples to make disciples and leave them floundering as to how to go about it. He actually invested quite a lot of time into showing them how to do it. So what was Jesus' discipleship strategy and where do we find it?

Step 1: Pray

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9: 37-38 & Luke 10: 2

Only God can send the workers. Only God can bring people to himself. Once we realise our absolute helplessness at making disciples in our own strength it drives us to our knees. Prayer is the starting point of any Disciple Making Movement. We need to be praying for the people and places we are looking to reach. Asking God for labourers to go.

Step 2: Go

Despite this, more often than not, God won’t move until we do. After telling his disciples to ask for workers in the harvest fields, Jesus tells them this:

“Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10: 3

In order to reach the lost, we need to be out amongst them. Jesus' discipleship strategy for reaching the lost involved being with them. Walking from village to village, and spending time in people's homes.

Step 3: Find people who are spiritually hungry

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

Luke 10: 5-7

People who are spiritually satisfied don’t want to engage with the gospel. They either want to eat your food, or argue with your theology. Find the people who are prepared to feed you in order to hear what you have to say. We call them People of Peace.

Step 3a: Move on from those who aren’t spiritually hungry

“When you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you’”

Luke 10: 10-11

It is tempting to think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically - that he never really intended his disciples to do this. However, in Acts we see this happening on at least two occasions

But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium

Acts 13: 50-51

But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Acts 18: 6

Moving on means being prepared to stop running events that aren’t seeing fruit. Stop providing services which cater for those who aren’t prepared to move forward. Moving on doesn't mean we stop loving or praying for the people who don't want to hear, it just means that we start devoting more time to finding people who do.

Its only recently that I've leaned that even though I can't connect with a person, it does not mean that they are not spiritually hungry. It may just be that they do not feel any affinity to me. Sometimes when we share the gospel with a person of peace, we find they can go on to share with the people that we were not able to.

Step 4: Show them what it looks like when God is king

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Heal the sick, raise the dead’”

Matthew 10: 7-8

Wherever we go we need to be proclaiming the message. “Jesus is Lord. The kingdom of heaven is near.” Letting people know by both our words and our actions what the world looks like when Jesus is King. Jesus himself did this by telling stories and healing the sick. He commands his disciples to do the same.

Step 5: Teach them to do the same

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

At the end of his ministry, Jesus tells his disciples to do what he has done with them - but to take it further afield. To all the nations. Make disciples, baptise them and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. In the Acts of the Apostles we see this in action. The discipleship course given in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, was not just a one-off mission trip, but entry-level training on how to start a Disciple Making Movement.

Read more about Jesus' approach to discipleship


Scripture quotations from the New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.