by Bobby Harrington and Greg Wiens: A disciple maker is a Christian who enters into relationships with people to help them trust and follow Jesus.
The concept of disciple making seems to come into vogue every few decades or so. And then, unfortunately, the pendulum often swings between an intentional effort to help people become new believers (evangelism) or to an emphasis on growing disciples (sanctification). It is as if we had to choose between evangelism and spiritual growth. As Jesus showed us in His life and teaching, reaching lost people (evangelism) and helping disciples to grow are both part of discipleship (and disciple making). Evangelism is the front end of disciple making, and spiritual growth is the back end of disciple making. Both are eternally and inextricably linked.1
So making disciples must include relating to people far from Christ in a way that helps them come to faith in Jesus and grow in that faith. Naturally, as they mature, and as they are trained to be intentional disciple makers, they will then repeat the process with others. Discipleship without a healthy element of reaching lost people is not discipleship; it is training for stunted growth Christianity. And what is often thought of as evangelism isn’t really evangelism without discipleship; it is head hunting, getting people to make a transaction with God. Essentially, it’s simply trying to sell an insurance policy rather than trying to help individuals cross the threshold of faith into a redemptive and growing relationship with God in Christ.
Again, without having and acting on a burden for those who are far from Jesus, growing in that redemptive relationship through Christ is impossible. A century ago, people called it a “soul burden”—a burden for the souls of men and women who are separated from Christ and are experiencing life lived on the edges. It’s impossible to truly be transformed through dynamic faith in Christ without wanting to do life with the God of all creation. When you experience the transformation of your life by His love and grace, you’re changed eternally.
This is from Bobby Harrington and Greg Wien’s free eBook, Becoming a Disciple Maker. Download the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.
Jesus Was Intentional
Almost 55 years ago, Robert Coleman wrote the book, The Master Plan of Evangelism. It is the gold standard on Jesus’ method of disciple making. It sold multiple millions of copies and has been translated into more than 100 languages. Many people do not grasp the nuance of the title: it is not the Masters’ Plan, but the Master Plan. Jesus had a master plan; He was intentional, with strategy and an end-result vision.
Intentionality is at the heart of following Jesus’ method of disciple making today. This can be hard for some people to embrace. But we have found that disciple makers rely on intentionality. Jesus practiced it, Paul modeled it (2 Timothy 2:2), and today’s practitioners swear by it. Intentionality is being deliberate or purposive. It is having and following a plan, knowing where to take people and how to help them get there.
We can think of disciple making as an expression of love for others. Jesus’ style of love is not just organic; it is also strategic. As you read the next section and think about Jesus as a disciple maker, make mental notes on His intentionality. Yes, Jesus was organic. But He was also “organically intentional”—so brilliant at loving people in both their convoluted life situations and in disciple making that He embodied love and intentionality simultaneously, beautifully and imperceptibly.
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1 See Bill Hull and Bobby Harrington, Evangelism or Discipleship: Can They Effectively Work Together (Discpleship.org, 2014).
Written by Bobby Harrington and Greg Wiens
Bobby Harrington is the Executive Director of Discipleship.org, a national platform, conference, and ministry that advocates for Jesus’ style of disciple making. He is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN). He has a Doctor of Ministry degree in consulting and has spent years as a coach to church planters and senior pastors. He is the author of several books on discipleship, including DiscipleShift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman) and The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick).
Greg Wiens has been assessing leaders and organizations for over 35 years. He has worked with a gamut of organizations ranging in size and interest from Fortune 100 companies and public schools, to small non-profits and churches. He has pastored and planted churches as well as founded a number of organizations. He currently leads two missionally focused organizations: Healthy Growing Churches and Healthy Growing Leaders committed to engaging churches and leaders to multiply. Greg has co-authored two books: Dying to Restart and Daring to Disciple.