How Do We Make Disciples?

One of Jesus’ final instructions to his followers was to “make disciples” (Matthew 18:18–20), but how do we know exactly what that means?

I came to faith decades ago when a girl down the road shared the gospel with me—and that was it. Somehow, so she thought, I should magically transform into a Bible reading, sin shirking, prayer-warrior disciple of Jesus. But instead—for a bit—I returned to my daily drug habit.

Sharing the gospel with someone is just a part of discipleship—walking with someone in their faith journey is where discipleship brings transformation.

The DNA of Disciple-making

To focus on exactly how to make disciples, we will consider one key Scripture known as the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Key Strands of Disciple-making

Delegated Authority from Jesus.

When Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go,”—he delegated his authority to the eleven (and through their ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit, to us too).

For more on Jesus’ authority, see the prophesy in Daniel 7:14, Ephesians 1:20–21.

An ongoing process.

The verb “go” in this passage in Matthew is an active verb. That means, the action of “going” is constant and consistent.

When do we make disciples? All the time—as we are going from place to place, in the regular activities of life. This idea mirrors God’s instructions to the Israelites in the Law in a passage known as the Shema.

Deuteronomy 6:4–9

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

 Discipleship is not a one-time moment, but an ongoing relationship.

For all people.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve were to fill the earth with God’s image bearers (Genesis 1:27–28), but sin corrupted the first commission (Genesis 3–5). Now, through the Great Commission, the renewed commission, God’s image in Christ can fill the world as we make disciples who follow Jesus—who also make disciples—until the whole world is reached.


When a person first believes in Jesus, as disciple-makers, we are called to invite them to be baptized. Baptism is an act of obedience to the instructions of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and demonstrates that the believer is now dead to their old self, their life of sin and death. They are now alive eternally, washed in the forgiveness of God made possible by the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Colossians 2:13–15). As they rise from the waters of baptism, it demonstrates their new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 5:4).

Teaching Jesus’ commands.

Jesus told his eleven apostles that part of making disciples is teaching others everything Jesus commanded. This can sometimes be hard—especially in our culture—where sin is no longer considered sin and obeying God can seem like a harsh religious concept. But let’s remember: Jesus’ commands bring life. When we walk in his ways, we are freed from the trappings of the enemy and the entanglements of sin—and our lives become a straight path (Proverbs 3:5­–6). The more we follow, the more freedom we experience. Jesus’ commands are a gift.

God’s with us.

Making disciples is not something obtainable on our own. It is cosmic, supernatural work against a cosmic and supernatural enemy (Ephesians 6). But God is with us. In fact, God is in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the same power that spoke the cosmos into existence (Genesis 1), that overcame sin and death in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:55–57), and that now holds all things together. This same power lives in us.

How Do We Make Disciples?

We follow the DNA of disciple-making Jesus gave the first apostles. We confidently move forward in the authority of Jesus. We proclaim the gospel, baptize new believers, and walk alongside them as we teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.

It might help to think of it this way:

Teach disciples:

  • The truth of Jesus’ teachings (the Scriptures)
  • The pattern of Jesus’ living (loving God and loving others)
  • The practices of walking with Jesus (spiritual practices).


Were you intentionally discipled by someone? How did the relationship (or lack of one) affect your Christian life? Please share.

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