Answer: To make disciples! That is what Jesus called the church to do in the great commission: disciplemaking.
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.” Matthew 28:19-20
Given that these were Jesus’ last earthly words, it makes sense that disciplemaking would be one of the twelve essential qualities of a senior pastor. After all, the role of a senior pastor is to lead others in what we are all to be doing. Building on the last quality we explored—reaching the unchurched—disciplemaking brings new people into the fold of God and teaches them to obey. So how are you, as a senior pastor, personally doing at making disciples?
For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Disciplemaking means multiplying followers of Jesus who grow spiritually and help other people grow spiritually.
A disciple is an apprentice, a learner, one who wants to become like the one they follow. That means both learning and obeying. We learn what God wants us to do—and we do it. One cannot obey if one is not taught, and one has not truly learned until one has obeyed.
Consider this passage that Paul wrote to Timothy, a man he was discipling. Look at all of the features and aspects of a disciple that he covers.
2 Timothy 2:1-7
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 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. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7 Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
Be strong in grace. Teach others who will then teach others. Join in suffering. Keep your focus on the will of the God you are serving. Be single-minded and obedient to the guidelines God has set forth. Work hard and reflect.
And what words did Jesus leave his disciples with at the last supper?
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
And in doing so, he defined how we will be identified as disciples. Not by knowledge or by creed, but by love.
6 Habits that Demonstrate Disciplemaking
What does it look like for someone to engage in disciplemaking? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Makes disciples who disciple other people
Just making a disciple–or even twelve disciples–is a great thing. Yet it could stop with that generation. However, if those twelve disciples go on to make more disciples, who then go on to make more disciples… then you have a movement. The disciples Jesus made made more disciples. Senior pastors need to make disciples who are fully equipped to go on to make more disciples. Otherwise, the church ends in one generation.
2. Challenges other people to outreach as they are growing
Disciples–to be true disciples of Jesus–need to reach outward. That’s what Jesus taught his disciples to do. Likewise, the disciples of senior pastors are not simply called to care for the church, but to reach out and to teach others to reach out. This is an essential component of growth; without it there is only stagnation.
3. Works to create a relational and invitational environment
When new potential disciples walk in the doors of the church, what do they find? Do they feel left out or included? Do they feel judged or welcomed? How people feel in a ministry environment, whether that’s a church service or a small group, matters. If they walk away with a sense of, “This isn’t for me,” that church is doing something wrong. The gospel is for everyone.
4. Uses questions effectively in the process
The teaching adage, “Never say something yourself that you can get your students to say instead,” applies in all forms of disciplemaking, whether classroom or one-on-one conversations.
Asking people what they think–and why they think it–is far more effective than telling them what to think. Make discipleship about helping people own the process for themselves.
5. Capitalizes on teachable moments
When someone makes a mistake or when something goes wrong isn’t the time to tell someone, “I told you so.” It is a time to come alongside people to help them reflect. What didn’t work? What might have worked instead? How do you want to do it differently going forward? If the goal is theirs rather than yours, people will be motivated by reflection questions such as these.
6. Establishes a disciplemaking culture
Disciplemaking needs to become not the exception but the rule within a church community. Instead of being surprised when someone makes disciples who make disciples who make disciples, we should be surprised wherever we don’t see it happening. We should be thinking, what is blocking the process there? What is preventing the flow of discipleship from one person to the next to the next?
How well are you engaging in disciplemaking?
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- What disciples have you made who have gone on to disciple others?
- How have you challenged others toward ongoing growth and outreach?
- In what ways have you worked to create a relational and invitational environment?
- How do you effectively use effective coaching questions?
- How have you recognized and seized teachable moments?
- In what ways have you established a culture of disciplemaking?
Disciplemaking is 1 of 12 qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
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If you are thinking disciplemaking is easier said than done, you are right! We thought so too. Dr. Bob wrote Guide for Discipling to help you meet people where they are at and walk with them as they discover how Jesus would have them grow. It covers 8 aspects of spiritual growth that Christ took his own disciples through and is relevant for mature Christ followers and new believers alike!