What Makes a Disciple?

The Great Commission is given to us in Matthew 28:19-20. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing 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.”

What does it mean to make disciples? Is a disciple different from a Christian? Is preaching/explaining the gospel to someone, and having them repent and put their faith in Jesus different from making a disciple?

I did a quick search of the Bible and there are 292 occurrences of the word disciple(s) in the NIV. There is zero times when this word occurs as a verb. I can find nowhere that we are commanded to disciple someone—only where we are commanded to make disciples.

If someone truly gets saved, do we have to hunt them down and call them constantly to make sure he or she is reading the Bible and going to church? We should definitely encourage that person to read the Bible and go to church, but someone who truly is born again will be desperate for those things with little encouragement. (To learn the key to making sure someone is truly born-again, listen to Hell’s Best Kept Secret.)

Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The one who begins a good work is not the evangelist—it’s the Lord. And we have His promise that He will complete that good work—whether or not we, as evangelists, have the opportunity to participate in it.


6 Responses to What Makes a Disciple?

  1. Great points! I just checked out your blog and will put it on my blogroll as soon as I figure out how to do it!!!

    Steve Sanchez

  2. billphillips says:

    Thanks, Steve. I’ll put you on mine, too.

  3. Ray says:

    Very good stuff.
    Many thanks.
    God bless you,

  4. theycallmepastorbryan says:

    But a disciple is also someone who is learning from a rabbi. That’s where the disciple terminology comes from. The disciple learns from the rabbi, and when the disciple has learned enough, he is sent out to also make disciples.

    To completely abandon the notion of discipling believers is ridiculous and goes against a good portion of the new testament. Think about this for a second: Paul’s letters are all addressed to churches, teaching them how to be followers of Christ. Paul gives them practical advice, roots that advice in theology and at times even chastises churches.

    My point is this: in reaction to the notion that the responsibility is all in our hands we must make sure we do not go too far the other way of abandoning our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    When Jonathan Edwards talks about the affections in Religious Affections, he emphasizes at one point that it is still good to have ministries that excite the affections. I think the idea is that yes, a Christian in a flourishing relationship with the Lord will desire to spend time with Him. However as a church I believe we have to also serve God in reminding others of their affections and in sharing our excitement for the Lord.

  5. billphillips says:


    We definitely are told to have fellowship and be accountable to other Christians. We should encourage people to go to church and read their Bible. I agree 100%.

    The modern concept of evangelism is that you trick people or at least rush people into praying a magic sinner’s prayer or asking Jesus into their heart or whatever. Then, you take this false convert and nag them into coming to church and reading their Bible. If you do a good enough job discipling this person (who is actually a false convert), maybe they’ll start bearing fruit someday.

    A Christian who just became born-again 5 minutes ago is desperate for the Bible, church and fellowhip. And they’ll get their questions answered by whoever is willing to answer them and by reading the Bible.

    My point is that a disciple is the same thing as a Christian. That means a Christian is a disciple of Jesus, not of some guy. God is going to take care of that new Christian just like He’ll take care of an old Christian.

    Thanks for your comment.

  6. John campbell says:

    Paul told Timothy that he was to entrust what Paul had taught him to faithful men who in return would be able to teach others to do the same and so on. Lets not get too caught up in semantics. We are disciples of Christ not of men, but as we teach others and train others for ministry we are saying as Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ”.

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