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The DNA of Disciple-Making

Adapted from The Disciple Maker's Handbook by Bobby Harrington and Josh Patrick, (pp. 179-182). Zondervan.


1. We believe the gospel and it is our message—this good news is focused on Jesus as our Messiah (King) and his death, burial, and resurrection. 

All who respond to salvation are freely saved and called to disciple making, no exceptions, no excuses (Mark 8:34–38; 1 Cor. 15:1–8). The gospel we preach and believe dictates the kind of disciples we are and the kind of disciples we make. If we attempt to make a Christlike disciple from a non-disciple making gospel, we will fail. A non-disciple making gospel is one that does not include disciple making as a natural part of the message and expectation.


The Gospel in Detail

It’s not hard to know how we receive the gospel: we receive it by grace through faith. But what exactly is the gospel (literally, the “good news”)? In short, the gospel is that Jesus is the saving King. In The Gospel Precisely, Matthew Bates lists 10 events which are part of what the Bible calls the gospel. He writes, “The gospel is that Jesus the king: 

  1. preexisted as God the Son, 

  2. was sent by the Father, 

  3. took on human flesh in fulfillment of God’s promises to David, 

  4. died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 

  5. was buried, 

  6. was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 

  7. appeared to many witnesses, 

  8. is enthroned at the right hand of God as the ruling Christ, 

  9. has sent the Holy Spirit to his people to effect his rule, and 

  10. will come again as final judge to rule.”

That’s a lot to remember (although it’s worth memorizing at some point!). But something we can all memorize the short answer. What is the gospel? It’s that Jesus is the saving King. 

2. We are compelled to be and make disciples of Jesus. 

We believe Jesus Christ is supreme and worthy of all devotion, worship, and emulation, and disciple making is a natural and necessary life response to Jesus. With laser focus, it was Jesus himself who made disciples who could make disciples . . . and Jesus commands us to do the same (Matt. 28:16–20; John 20:21). We prefer to use the expression “disciple making” over “discipleship” because the former is closer to the words of the Great Commission and the latter is often mischaracterized (Matt. 28:18–20).


3. We believe Jesus is the model (for life and ministry). 

Jesus showed us how to live life and how to make disciples. We seek to emulate his method and model. As the sinless second Adam, Jesus was man as God intended man to be. He then told us, “Do the works I have been doing” (John 14:12). John said those who “claim to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). Paul understood this when he said, “Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1 NLT). Disciple making demands us to “follow” the resurrected Christ and “imitate” the priorities and patterns of the incarnate Christ. We like the expression “Jesus’ model and method of disciple making” as a summary of what we do.


4. We believe love is the driving motive. 

The Great Commandment precedes the Great Commission. Loving God and loving people is the passion behind the priority, the motive behind the mission, the heart behind the hands. Love is the signature card of true disciples . . . disciple making cannot happen apart from loving and caring relationships . . . both tough and a tender love (1 Thess. 2). Larger ministries require more relational disciple makers to keep growing. Disciple making is relational and, as ministries grow, more relational disciples are needed. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).


5. We believe verifiable fruit is the measure. 

God’s agenda for each one of us is that we stay close to him and bear “fruit,” “more fruit,” and then ultimately “much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). God transforms our hearts as we “remain in [him]” and he leads us into lives of love (John 15:4, 17). Jesus modeled the focus of love as he came to seek, save, and disciple people (Luke 19:10; 6:40). Jesus masterfully showed how love produces disciples . . . reaching and developing his men and helping them grow from nonbelievers all the way to disciple makers reproducing disciple makers (Matt. 28:19–20). There is a natural process of moving people from those who do not know Jesus all the way to becoming mature disciple makers . . . and Jesus showed the model to us. In short, we haven’t truly made mature disciples until they are following Jesus’ model of love and helping to make more disciples . . . this is fruitful multiplication. 


6. We believe Holy Spirit power is the means

Disciples cannot be made through fleshly efforts. Jesus, in his humanity, fully acknowledged his dependence on the Spirit. Disciple making is not just a good strategy . . . it is a way of life, accomplished through the fruit of the Holy Spirit living through a person’s yielded and holy life (2 Cor. 3:16–17). If Jesus fully depended on the Holy Spirit’s power, how can we do any less? The Holy Spirit will lead us to be obedient people who live holy lives to God’s glory.


7. We believe the local church is the primary environment for disciple making. 

The church is for disciple making, and disciples manifest the kingdom of God to the world (Col. 1:28–29). When the church reverses this process and attempts to get the world to go to church instead of the church going to the world, you get chaos. Pastoral and ministerial work should be evaluated and rewarded based on how many disciple makers are produced and the kind of people a church sends into the world. Jesus was a man for others; the church, likewise, is for others. Any plan that does not create disciples who live for others is a failure.


8. We believe that equipping leaders is the linchpin of the movement. 

All Christians are called to be disciples who grow to help make disciples, using the unique gifts God has given each of us. Leaders are also called to grow a movement of disciple making. This is called the church (2 Tim. 2:2). How Jesus built a movement differs from how Jesus made a disciple. If we are going to create a disciple-making movement in North America, it is our conviction we must train leaders in how Jesus built a movement. This is harder and takes more time, but in the end this will bear fruit that will remain. Practically, this means we must develop a team of disciple-making leaders (pastors), with various disciple-making best practices (church models), who can continue to fan the flame of disciple making.


9. We believe definitions are vitally important. 

(1) Our definition of disciple making—helping people find, follow, and be Jesus (Matt. 28:18–20), which includes the whole process from conversion through maturation and multiplication; and (2) our definition of a disciple—a person who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is living on mission for Jesus (Matt. 4:19 ESV). 


10. We believe Jesus and Scripture are the basis. 

We believe the sixty-six books of the Bible are the authoritative, reliable, and ultimate standard for disciple making and life (2 Tim. 3:16–4:2) and that Jesus, as presented in the Bible and, rightfully deserves our focus and our commitment to a life of full disciple making. 

Scripture References

Mark 8:24-28

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”


1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.


Matthew 28:16-20

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”


John 20:21

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”


Matthew 28:18-20

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.”


John 14:12

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.


1 John 2:6

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.


1 Corinthians 11:1 (NLT)

Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.


John 13:35

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


John 15:8

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.


John 15:4

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.


John 15:17

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.


Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”


Luke 6:40

The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.


2 Corinthians 3:16-17

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.


Colossians 1:28-29

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.


2 Timothy 2:2

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.


2 Timothy 3:16-4:2

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction.

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