What is a Disciple?


When Jesus left our planet he gave us a massively important set of instructions. It was nothing short of the grand job of winning the entire world back to their original relationship with the Father (Matthew 28:18-20). The specific instruction was to go and make disciples from every ethnic group on the planet. He did not say go and plant churches. He did not say go and make followers. He specifically said to turn the whole world into disciples. When we make disciples everything else falls into its rightful place. So, what is a disciple? A disciple is one who molds their life around their master teacher and obeys their master’s teachings (John 8:31-32, 15:15, 21). The disciples who followed Jesus immediately left their jobs and followed him. They gave him everything, even their lives. When someone comes to Jesus through your leading, this is the calling you are bringing them to (Luke 14:33). Don’t sell them short by just giving them a set of intellectual beliefs or passive religious practices to follow. Show them a robust faith of action and passion that is birthed in intimate relationship with Jesus. Show them you are fighting to win the world back to your Lord. Not everyone who says they follow Christ will enter his kingdom, but only those who do his will (Matthew7:17-21, 1 John 2:3-4). Teach your disciples to be doers of Jesus’ teachings, not hearers only (James 1:22, 2:14-26). Teach them to be disciplined soul winners; disciples.


Acts 10:38 says Jesus went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed of Satan. Luke 19:10 says Jesus came to seek and save the lost. If a disciple is someone who obeys Jesus teaching and models their life on his life, then his priorities must become our priorities. His prime purpose was to establish the kingdom of God in people’s hearts (Luke 4:18-21). His prime motivation was love for the lost (John 13:34). Therefore, only one who seeks to establish the kingdom of God in people’s hearts through the motivation of love is a true disciple of Jesus. All other activity in a Christian’s life is secondary to this mission. To correctly take on the title “Christian”, we must be one who is “like Christ”. Ten quality disciples are worth more to God and will have a bigger impact on the world than a thousand half-hearted, self-interested people who give passive intellectual ascent to Christianity. 


Discipleship is more caught than taught. Look at the way Jesus disciple his 12 men. He modeled everything he expected them to do. There was little in the way of academic instruction, but there was a lot of doing life together. These men watched him like a hawk for three years. They followed him everywhere. They lived with him and saw his character in a multitude of situations. They were sent on training missions (Matthew 10:5). Jesus knew that sermons were the worst way to impart truth, and that the apprenticeship model of explanation-demonstration-copy-practice-teach was a far superior way to impart truth into a person’s life. He was their spiritual parent and his spiritual kids grew up to be like him. When you bring someone to Jesus you automatically become their spiritual parent. You cannot abdicate this responsibility to someone else. Model for them a life of discipleship to Jesus and they will copy you as a child copies their parent (1 Corinthians 11:1). The discipleship model of training will produce mature Christians much faster than our current methods. It will also produce people who do not turn back from Jesus, which is a major problem with our current model of doing Christianity. It will produce people whose natural inclination, or spiritual DNA, will be to disciple others, and quickly. It also will produce disciples for whom the residue effect of sin in their lives will be dealt with more thoroughly.


What do you do when meeting with a new believer that you want to disciple? How do you train? What do you do first? Most Christians are poorly equipped to disciple a new believer. Here are a few tips on what to do:

1. First of all you should meet often with a new believer. Just as a parent spends a lot of time with a new baby, they will need attention!

2. Always try to meet them where they live, don’t expect them to come to you. In this way you have a better chance of seeing their friends and family come to faith as well. 

3. When you meet, the first thing you should teach is how to hear the voice of Jesus, just like a natural parent teaches their baby to recognize their voice and words. If you can impart this one skill, of them being able to know when the spirit of the Lord is whispering into their hearts, you are well on the way to discipling them. By the way, it is a lot easier to teach this skill to a new believer than it is to someone who is set in the traditional Christian mold, especially those who are intellectually minded.

4. Next, teach and model for them how to pray, especially for the lost. Show them the prayer topics in “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:5-13). Take them on prayer walks around their area. Explain the need to bind spiritual powers and show them how it is done. Teach them to pray for workers (Luke 10:2). Pray with them for those around them who are open to the gospel (Luke 10:5-7). Above all, teach two-way passionate prayer.

5. Baptize them in the Holy Spirit and water as soon as possible (Acts 8:14-17, 34-38, 10:44-46, Romans 6:3-4).  These are crucial for fast growth. The Holy Spirit was given specifically so that we could copy the supernatural acts the Jesus did. The spirit of God worked through him, and it now works through us. Baptism in water is their funeral service to their independence from God, and symbolizes their new life with Jesus. Just like a wedding ceremony, it is a public declaration of the internal decision.

6. Teach about, and demonstrate for them, the incredible spiritual authority they possess as an ambassador of the king of all kings (Matthew 28:18). They walk now as enlightened spiritual beings, which have power over Satan and the curse (Acts 10:38, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, 1 Peter 1:3, 1 John 5:4-5, Revelation 11:15, 12:10). Their task is to continually extend the kingdom of God into every area of their lives and into the lives of those around them. Demonstrate this to them by helping them take authority over any works of Satan in their personal relationships and local area.

7. Show them how to pray for sickness and diseases (Mark 16:15-18). Jesus said we would lay hands on the sick and they would recover (Mark 16:15-18). Not everyone will be healed, but some will and as they keep trying they will learn the skill of praying for the sick so that results will improve. When they see people healed it is a great confirmation that they have made the right decision to become a disciple. It also sends a powerful message to those who were healed.

8. Demonstrate what it means to love their neighbour as themselves by loving them selflessly (John 13:34-35). If you are a person of self-sacrifice and love, then they will naturally catch this spirit of generosity. The demonstration of love is one of the prime methods of proving you are a disciple (John 13:34-35). Without love and self-sacrifice we are like irritating clanging symbols (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). But with love as the motivation for everything we do we will become the preserving salt and shining light for our generation and our culture (Matthew 5:14-16).

9. Knowing the scriptures is important but treat it as a training manual not a history book or a book of doctrines. The early church never had the New Testament and a lot of believers couldn’t read anyway, but they understood discipling better than most modern book-saturated Christians. So don’t turn discipleship into just an intellectual exercise based around scripture (1 Corinthians 4:15). Keep it active and centered on an intimate relationship with Jesus.

10. Lots of other things are important, depending on the needs of the people you are discipling. But the main things are listed above, and if you keep them as the main things, discipleship will be kept simple, and therefore easily copied by others. Above all, keep it simple.


One of the very important lessons to learn as a Christian is that everything God wants us to do in the spiritual area of discipling, has already been modeled in the natural area of marriage and parenting. Just as it is in the natural world, so it is with the spiritual realm. God deliberately established the physical creation to mirror the spiritual reality of who we are and how we are to live out our faith. So a discipler is a spiritual parent. Here are a few examples of what this means:

1. A family is formed through the motivation of love and self-sacrifice.

So is a new Christian.

2. Parenting is best done in pairs.

So is discipleship.

3. Parents who birth a baby are committed to seeing that baby reach full maturity

If you win them, you must stay with them till they grow up in Jesus.

4. Barrenness in a wife is not natural.

Christians who do not make disciples have corrupt spiritual DNA.

5. The best way for parents to teach is to model what they want in their children.

A new Christian will watch your every move.

6. Children are best raised in small groups of siblings, not in institutions with large numbers

New believers flourish when discipled one-on-one or in small groups. They will be lost in a large crowd.

7. Children will normally take on the values of their parents and become much like them in adulthood

Your spiritual children will become like you, so raise them well!

8. It is normal for children, when mature to form their own families and reproduce

If your new disciples cannot reproduce, you have passed on corrupt spiritual DNA

9. Every parent looks forward to the day when they are a grandparent

Your greatest joy will be seeing your disciples start to make their own disciples

10. Each family looks after its own, financially, socially, and practically. No one goes without.

Whatever the need, disciple makers will be there for their spiritual children. Your job is to love them and do life with them until they are mature.

11. Most people raise their kids the same way they were raised.

Spiritual kids will also remember how you taught them and do the same when discipling others.

12. Children move from a diet of milk to protein as they grow.

Disciples should always move from spiritual milk, which is knowledge (1 Peter 2:2) to spiritual meat, which is actually getting out and doing the things Jesus told us to do (Luke 10:1, John 4:34) just as children learn best by doing, so will your new spiritual baby.

There are many other examples of how the spiritual and natural orders mirror each other. However, there are enough here for you to get the picture. If you follow these steps and mirror your discipling on the lines of the natural family then you will find your spiritual children will grow very quickly and be spiritually strong in a short time frame. A new believer can mature into a disciple maker in a few weeks if their heart is open and the training is good. But it usually takes a few years for all the character rebuilding necessary to be a wise spiritual parent. The scars of sin and pride sometimes run very deep. Jesus took three years to iron out all the bugs from the hearts of his spiritual children, so we should expect the same. It took us four years to take our next door neighbours from spiritual infants to spiritual parents. And guess what, they do the spiritual parenting just like we did it with them! If you disciple others well then some years down the track there will be an ever widening circle of disciples who ultimately owe their relationship with Jesus. This is why Jesus said we would produce 30 or 60 or 100 fold in our lifetimes.


Right from the beginning of the Christian movement Christians gathered together in homes for encouragement (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:25). The scriptures called these gatherings “ekklesia’s” or house gatherings. They were never called “churches” in the original texts, because people were the church. The building they met in was never thought of as a church. Such a concept would have been totally foreign to them. Jesus even modeled the first ekklesia for us. It was the training of his 12 future leaders, and they met everywhere! But he started others as well, such as those in John chapter’s four and five. Jesus and his ekklesia ate together and became a spiritual family, which is exactly what he wants our gatherings to be today, meetings of the extended spiritual family. His ekklesia did not last forever, but only until the students were fully trained (Luke 6:40) and ready to go and start their own ekklesias. What he did is exactly what he wanted us all to do, gather together a small group and train them up as disciples of Jesus through lifestyle, modeling and interaction, then send them out to start a new spiritual family, just as sons or daughters do today once they have grown up and matured.

Early Jewish Ekklesias were modeled around the Jewish family Passover meal, with the bread and the cup of wine symbolizing the sacrifice of the cross (Luke 22:1-38, Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 11:17-26). It is no accident that this was the original model to follow as meal tables are the best place on the planet for discipling! At a meal people stop, interact closely, share their heart and are open to new ideas, and all the while enjoying themselves with a table full of food. It is a very enjoyable experience. Whichever way you decide to disciple people, try to include food, relationship and the building of a spiritual family that sticks together, prays together, looks after each other and reaches out to others. Even before your friends come to Jesus you can begin the discipleship process simply by getting them over for a meal and a chat. Acts 2:42 is an excellent example of a city-wide network of ekklesia’s in action. Always remember though that the ekklesia is the fruit of discipleship and not the root. Our modern system of church is the reversal of the early model. It creates church as an institution first, hoping to disciple people in an ad-hoc passive process. It has failed miserably as a model. Too many people fall through the cracks emotionally or leave via the back door soon after making a decision for Jesus. Discipleship through the ekklesia is a very different creature. It knows its purpose is to raise up disciples and sticks to that purpose.