How can we make disciples?

In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples, 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.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

But what does making disciples mean in practice? What can churches do to make disciples? I devoted my Sabbatical in 2008 to exploring this vital issue. I studied the Scriptures, read as many books as I could find on the topic and particularly surveyed all the popular discipleship courses. As well as identifying key elements of what it means to grow as a disciple I realised some obvious but important truths. Like many other things in life, discipleship is “better caught than taught.” “Dialogue teaches the parts monologue can’t teach.” Salvation is not just individual and personal, but shared and corporate.

After a distinguished career as a performer, one famous virtuoso violinist became a professor of music. Somebody asked him what had prompted his change of career. The violinist replied: “Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise it is lost.” Similarly, we can’t learn to live the Christian life just by reading books or even by watching others. We need instruction in the “perishable art” of Christian living. We need to be Making Disciples One-to-One. I summed up everything I had been learning in a book with that title, creating resources for making disciples which I could use myself and which a number of other churches have also been using since.

I had written the first course “Making Disciples One-to-One for New Christians” twenty years earlier. It contains notes and Bible readings for a new Christian meeting with a mature Christian for Bible Study and prayer. Wherever possible my churches have run such a course for new Christians, often as part of preparation for Believer’s Baptism, either one-to-one or in a small group. The eight sessions cover the following topics.


  1. A new life has begun
  2. Being sure of our salvation
  3. Getting to know God
  4. Belonging to the family
  5. Playing your part
  6. Tug of war
  7. Go and tell
  8. The Holy Spirit – the Helper


Then there is a chapter to help and encourage established Christians to meet to pray and study together in pairs or threes in “Spiritual Friendships.” Many churches encourage these kind of prayer partnerships, and some call it peer-mentoring.

Two thirds of the book is a longer course in discipleship for mature Christians called Fan the Flame. Each unit of five studies is designed for personal study over a week or two weeks. Each study contains notes, Bible readings, questions to consider and a “something to do” which is a practical activity exploring the theme. At the end of each unit the Participant meets with a Guide to discuss and pray about what they have been learning. Over two churches I have been the Guide for more than twenty of my folk, especially key leaders, and some who have completed Fan the Flame have then served as Guides for others. These are the 25 studies across the five units which I think provide a balanced and at times stretching course on discipleship.

1) Knowing God better

  1. a) Loving God and enjoying your relationship with God
    b) Devotional Bible reading and understanding the Bible, doctrine and ethics
    c) Worship
    d) Your devotional prayer life
    e) Intercessory prayer

2) Becoming like Jesus

  1. a) Repentance and Holiness
    b) Christian Victory and Overcoming Temptation
    c) The Renewed Mind
    d) The Fruit of the Spirit and Mastering your Emotions
    e) Total surrender to the Lordship of Christ

3) Living in Christ’s body

  1. a) Amazing Grace! Forgiving yourself
    b) Forgiving other people – wounds needing healing
    c) Loving other Christians and sorting out relationships
    d) Church – Living in Fellowship and Community
    e) Belonging and Accountability

4) Becoming a servant

  1. a) The Cross as our example of sacrifice
    b) Serving in the church
    c) Being a faithful Steward
    d) Loving our neighbour
    e) Our Witness to the World

5) Be filled with the Spirit

  1. a) Sharing Christ’s resurrection life – the empowering Spirit
    b) The gifts of the Holy Spirit – Serving in God’s strength
    c) Signs and wonders – the surprising Spirit
    d) Passion for God
    e) “Be filled with the Spirit” – experiencing the Holy Spirit

All ministers long for our flocks to grow in Christian maturity, service and witness. But this doesn’t just happen automatically. We have to do everything we can to help our people to grow in their discipleship.

Making Disciples One-to-One 2008 Paperback ISBN: 9781844265411 is out of print but I still have a few copies available. email

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