For Global City Mission, making disciples is a fairly organic process. While we have specific approaches and relational tools that help us engage people with the Good News, discipleship is a position of learning. Growing as a disciple is a process that begins with the first seed that’s planted and continues as one begins to bear fruit. Yes, as is often emphasized nowadays, it is also a posture of obedience, but I might add that it is also the journey of learning obedience. The disciples of Jesus were his apprentices. They were learning to obey, to teach what Jesus taught, and to do what Jesus did. Discipleship is indeed at its essence the imitation of Christ. However, like the first disciples doing their best to try to keep up with Jesus, it is the process of learning to imitate him.
I appreciate the definition offered by Charles Davis in Making Disciples Across Cultures. He defines a disciple as, one who moves closer to Jesus as a learner, follower, and lover, together with other disciples. Making disciples is pointing someone to Jesus. It is helping them learn to obey Jesus. Making disciples is helping someone to grow increasingly devoted to Jesus as their King. And being a disciple means being a part of the people of God. Following Jesus’ command to love one another, it is not a journey that we take alone. As it turns out, becoming a disciple points to something even bigger than our personal salvation, as important as that is. Being a disciple is learning to live as a citizen of God’s Kingdom.
Our understanding should be both holistic and process-oriented. On the one hand, discipleship demands our absolute devotion to our Master, and on the other, the earliest stages of discipleship may look nothing like Jesus as one is first encountering the Savior and considering the truth of the Good News. In a sense, making disciples is guiding someone in the right direction — toward Jesus. And there are milestones all along that journey. Discipleship is learning & striving to imitate Christ in every aspect of our lives, and making disciples is a process that begins when we start a relationship that points another person in the direction of Jesus. We might say, becoming a disciple is a decision, but making disciples is a process.
What does it mean to make disciples? Simply put, it is pointing someone to Jesus and continuing to help them learn to imitate and follow him in every aspect of our lives.