Making disciples is the heart of the sacred mission which Jesus entrusted to the Church. Christ commands us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a). The Apostle Paul elaborates on what it means to make disciples:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).
A number of things are clear from these passages. First, followers of Christ must multiply themselves not only by preaching the gospel and winning converts. Converts must be baptized into the covenant community and instructed in obedience. Notice also we must go and reach all nations. The Greek word is ethnos, and the term refers to ethnic groups, not just political entities. Are we obeying Christ’s mandate to reach all nations, or are we satisfied with just trying to reach our own small circle or subculture? Given, for example, there is only about one worker per 150,000 Middle Easterners, much more remains to be done in many parts of the world. Even if God doesn’t call us to go, we can do much through prayer, giving, sending, short-term missions, reaching internationals and “tentmaking.” A tentmaker is a witness for Jesus Christ who supports himself just as the Apostle Paul supported himself through making tents. For information on tentmaking, see the U.S. Association of Tentmakers site at Intent.
Second, we are to baptize those whom we disciple. This not only means new believers are initiated into covenant relationship with the Lord, but also that they are incorporated into the Body of Christ through membership in a local church. It follows that church planting is necessary when bringing the gospel to a an unreached people.
Third, we are to teach obedience to the commands of Christ. We must impart devotion to Christ, and cultivate faithfulness in the disciple, not merely knowledge of the Bible and doctrine. “On the job training” and correction by telling the truth in love have a place here as well as mere instruction. The goal is godly character, not mere Bible knowledge.
Finally, we are to disciple qualified candidates. Faithfulness is the qualification for disciples.