It happens over time in large and small churches even among godly women who are excited to study God’s Word. As their knowledge accumulates, the next thing you know they are being snippy about the study questions or their assigned group or the table decorations. I believe Christian women can get stuck in learning that helps them grow as Jesus followers and comfortable “community.” They lose sight of what Jesus has commissioned us to do—make disciples as He did. Thankfully, the current “Disciplemaking” movement in evangelical Christianity is drawing mature Christian women with Bible knowledge like me towards what Jesus had in mind for us all along. We are to connect with nonbelievers and personally disciple believers (new and growing) both inside and outside the church. Not every Christian woman will become a director, coordinator, or small group leader. But every Christian woman from 15-95+ can become a disciplemaker. What we need are the tools and encouragement to do so. That is what we will be exploring together in this “Lifestyle Disciplemaking” series of blogs, adapted from our book, Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking.
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The adventure of “lifestyle disciplemaking”
Many women like you and I are longing for more direction in our walks of faith than attending a weekly Bible study and the annual Christmas brunch. That longing is a desire put in our hearts by God’s Spirit to fulfill the purpose we have while on earth serving the Lord Jesus in our daily lives.
Jesus is calling you! Jesus is calling me! His commission to His followers to make disciples is given to everyday people like you and I are. Our disciplemaking mission is fulfilled in the everyday world in which each of us “lives and moves and has our being” (Acts 17:28). That means disciplemaking should be part of our lifestyle. It helps if our churches give us the training and encouragement to make disciples where we live and work and play. But lifestyle disciplemaking is not dependent on church programs.
As you will see in this blog series, lifestyle disciplemaking is for individuals. It is something you pursue in your life. You open yourself to the Lord Jesus to join Him on His mission in your everyday life. Since Jesus is the one calling you to join Him on mission every day, then He will enable you to do what He asks you to do. And it might even be fun!
Just relax, trust in Him, and begin an adventure that transforms lives and ministries. We will learn from Him just how we can make “lifestyle disciplemaking” a reality in our own lives.
You are commissioned with a purpose
Christianity is Christ! Christianity is not a lifestyle or rules of conduct. It is not a society whose members were initiated by the sprinkling or covering of water. Christianity is about Christ and our relationship with Him.
Here is our theme for this “Lifestyle Disciplemaking” blog series.
Jesus Christ calls you to a new life, clothes you with Himself, commissions you with a purpose, and empowers you to fulfill that purpose—to follow Him as His disciple and to live for Him as a disciplemaker.
Let us unpack each of those phrases.
Jesus calls you to a new life.
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:4)
I love this quote from a famous Bible teacher from the 1900s. It is the gospel in a nutshell.
He gave His life for you so He could give His life to you, so He could live His life through you. (Major Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ)
Have you accepted Jesus’ invitation to give you a new life? By trusting in His death on the cross to pay for your sins, you immediately receive complete forgiveness of sins and this wonderful new life He offers you. You are called to a new life through the gospel.
Jesus clothes you with Himself.
With this new life comes a new identity. You are “in Christ.” When God looks on you, He sees His son Jesus. By accepting God’s gift of salvation, you accept being clothed with Christ.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27)
Being clothed with Christ, you and I are the walking, talking, visible representatives of the invisible God. The gospel message rings out from us like a relay station or a relay runner. See how Paul described it to the Thessalonians.
The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
The Thessalonians were like relay stations that not only received the gospel message but sent it farther on its way with increased power and scope. That applies to us, too.
Jesus commissions you with a purpose.
We actually have a two-fold purpose: (1) to follow Him as His disciple and (2) to live for Him as a disciplemaker.
#1. To follow Him as His disciple.
Jesus continually invited His disciples to “Follow Me.”
As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. (Mark 2:14)
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. (John 12:26)
His invitation to follow Him was an invitation to be a disciple. A disciple is an active follower or learner. To follow Jesus as His disciple means that you make the choice to learn from Jesus through what is taught in the Bible and apply those teachings to your life, trusting Him to help you do that.
Remember the Thessalonians I referenced earlier? The gospel rang out from them to many others. They were committed disciples of Jesus.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
They were active learners of God’s truth and applying what they learned in their own lives. You can do the same. Through obedience to God’s Word and humility, you will see Jesus living His life through you, influencing those around you. That influence fits the second part of your purpose.
#2. To live for Him as a disciplemaker
Jesus’ plan all along was for His disciples to become disciplemakers.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:16-17)
As they chose where and when and how to do their work as fishermen, they would also learn from Jesus how to draw people into the gospel net.
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, 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)
Therefore go and MAKE DISCIPLES. That is the fishing for men and women and boys and girls.
When Jesus gave that command to His followers to go and make disciples, it was not to ordained preachers, hired church staff, or missionary organizations. Jesus gave that command to average, everyday kind of people like you and I are—as we are willing to let Him live His life through us. The commission is for lifestyle disciplemaking not “leave-it-to-the-professionals” disciplemaking.
Jesus commissions us with a purpose. Here is the truth: Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
Jesus empowers you to fulfill that purpose.
Jesus empowers you for lifestyle disciplemaking.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses… (Acts 1:8)
To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:29)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… (Ephesians 3:20)
You and I can become a disciplemaker not because we are so great or smart, have been a Christian a long time, or know the Bible well. Jesus makes us able to do what He has called us to do.
You must choose to live dependently on His power by faith.
We live by faith in every area of our lives, including disciplemaking. This is what God wants for us. Faith always pleases Him.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
The Holy Spirit in you gives you everything you need to be a disciplemaker for Jesus as part of your daily life. We are simply to obey Jesus and trust His Spirit to work through us. Can it be scary? Yes. But being scared is a good thing. It makes us rely on Him more. Go ahead and say it right now, “Lord, I can’t, but you can in me. I will trust you to make me a disciplemaker for you.”
Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
The difference between discipleship and disciplemaking
Most of us are familiar with the term discipleship. We talk about discipleship in our churches. Discipleship is NOT the same as disciplemaking. Let me explain.
- Discipleship is the normal process for Christians to get established and grow in their faith—Bible study, classes, sermons, small groups, personal devotions. Discipleship tends to be inward-focused. Think: Teaching
- Disciplemaking is seeing people trust in Christ and grow in Him while at the same time equipping them to go back and help others repeat this process. Disciplemaking is outward-focused. Think: Training and Reaching Out
Discipleship is part of disciplemaking. You trust in Christ, choose to follow and grow in your faith (discipleship) while at the same time reach new people for Christ, build them up in the faith, and help them reach their peers (disciplemaking). Discipleship is incomplete without disciplemaking. Jesus did not leave the option open for us to focus only on ourselves (Matthew 28:18-19).
Here is one of my favorite examples to explain the difference.
The movie Julie and Julia (released 2009) portrays a young woman named Julie Powell who becomes a disciple of Julia Child through her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
- As a disciple, Julie P studied the recipes and followed the procedures. She experienced the joy of cooking and eating delicious food as Julia C taught her through the book. In a sense, Julie P got to know Julia C “personally” though they never met. That is traditional DISCIPLESHIP.
- Julie P did not keep her good cooking to herself. She wrote a blog, bringing others along with her. That blog later became a book then the movie. Many women who may never have heard of Julia Child bought her book and started cooking through it because of Julie Powell’s influence. That is DISCIPLEMAKING.
- While Julie P was following Julia C as her disciple, she was also engaging and introducing others to Julia, sharing what she was learning so they could cook that way, too. Julie was a follower and a disciplemaker at the same time.
Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
How we get sidetracked from disciplemaking
While in college, I was part of a campus ministry with a disciplemaking focus. Someone mentored as I grew in my faith and showed me how to share it with others. After college, I enjoyed community in various churches, did lots of Bible studies, became a Bible study leader, and even trained others to lead Bible studies. Through the years of active church involvement, I lost connection with those who did not know Jesus. This happens so easily to Christians. I wrote about it in my “Overcoming the Holy Huddle Infection” blog.
Were you part of a disciplemaking ministry in college? Or have you heard Matthew 28:18-20 taught so you know you are supposed to make disciples? We know our purpose but often get sidetracked from it. Sometimes feelings of inadequacy or fear of rejection will make us hold back and “leave it to the professionals.” We also get sidetracked by a lack of training and encouragement for lifestyle disciplemaking.
About 10 years ago, I began to feel a restlessness. I recognized in myself that I was comfortable with growing as a Christian and enjoying community with other believers. And I realized that I had been focusing almost entirely on helping women get more Bible knowledge through the years. We were feasting on great food. We were not bringing nonbelievers to the table.
Growing believers is very important—essential! Discipleship should have a high priority in our churches and our own lives. But my church did not offer a course for new Christians to get them established in the basics of the Christian faith. Our women’s ministry trained workers for leading Bible studies but not for reaching the lost. There was no training for personally discipling new believers. There was no training for us to become disciplemakers in our daily lives. We were encouraged to invite people to church so that they could hear what they needed there.
Jesus commissioned us with a purpose: to follow Him as His disciples while living for Him as disciplemakers. When Jesus commissioned His disciples, they knew what He was asking them to do. They watched Him. Then, they were willing to bring that experience to the lost, hurting, and hopeless people they met.
Those early disciples were no different as people than we are except they physically beheld the risen Christ. We must see Him through eyes of faith and allow the gospels to leap off the page revealing our Lord. You and I must frequently read the Gospels, tell the stories, and watch movies as often as needed to know His life well because Christianity is Christ!
Hooray for the recent “Disciplemaking” movement in evangelical Christianity. At last, there is something that draws mature Christian women with Bible knowledge like you and I have towards what Jesus had in mind for us all along—intentional living to connect with nonbelievers (those who do not know Christ yet) and personally disciple believers (new and growing) both inside and outside the church. Disciplemaking is intentional and relational.
Disciplemaking is intentional and relational
Jesus’ example in the gospels reveals to us that lifestyle disciplemaking is an intentional, relational process flowing from a love for God and love from God for people.
One day, a young lawyer asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
Love God first. Out of that comes a love from God for people.
Jesus’ recorded ministry spanned about 3 ½ years. His life portrayed in the gospels reveals an overall pattern to His ministry that He modeled to His own disciples. He connected with people. He established followers in God’s truth. And He launched His committed followers out in the world to connect with and establish others for Christ.
Jesus was intentional in what He did. To be intentional means to be deliberate. That includes doing things on purpose and to be strategic. Jesus was relational in His ministry. To be relational means to be together. That includes spending time to listen, talk, know, and be known. We can do that, too.
One of our biggest challenges to lifestyle disciplemaking is our experience and what we have seen done. We have become church dependent and pastor dependent to both share the gospel and make sure everyone gets taught truth. Unless individual members are actually out there making disciples, then you have no disciplemaking going on. The building cannot do it. The website cannot do it. The church value statement cannot do it. Disciplemaking requires individuals to do it. That is what Jesus planned for us. He commissioned all followers to make disciples as part of their daily lifestyle.
As one who has already chosen to follow Jesus as His disciple and grow in Him, you can pursue lifestyle disciplemaking by:
- Connecting with those who need to know Jesus
- Establishing new and young believers in the truths of the faith
- Launching growing believers to connect with and establish their peers for Christ
Ask Jesus to give you His love for people that will lead you to be an intentional, relational disciplemaker.
You can do lifestyle disciplemaking by faith
Jesus is with you every step of the way. You can become a disciplemaker by faith:
- In your personal life and already-existing church life. Disciplemaking is a lifestyle, not a program.
- At any age or stage of life. Someone around you needs to know Jesus or to know Him better.
- Along any stage of your Christian growth. Whether you are just beginning or doing it for years, share what you already know.
- Because whatever Jesus calls us to do, He empowers us to do through His Spirit. Say “yes” and jump in with both feet. Join the adventure!
Not every Christian woman will become a director, coordinator, or small group leader. But every Christian woman from fifteen to ninety-five can become a disciplemaker. Several years ago, a 92-year-old woman who came to a Lifestyle Disciplemaking Retreat then went back to her retirement center and started a small discipleship group with the other women. You are never too old. All you and I need are the tools and encouragement to do so. I have been gathering the tools to use and am learning how to encourage others to make disciples who make disciples as Jesus did.
Stay Christ-focused as you take the next steps
If you feel stuck in discipleship as I described above, maybe the Lord Jesus Christ is making you restless so you will be drawn to become a disciplemaker, too. Throughout this blog series, I will be sharing resources to equip and encourage you so can get “unstuck” in discipleship and pursue lifestyle disciplemaking. Trust Him to lead you. Then, watch what He does!
The first step toward lifestyle disciplemaking is to CONNECT. That is the next blog in this series.
Let Jesus lead you into lifestyle disciplemaking. Jesus followers become disciplemakers.
NOTE: In this series of articles, we follow the pattern of the Navigators ministry for the spelling of disciplemaking and disciplemakers without a hyphen or separated into two words. The Navigators are a ministry dedicated to the ministry of disciplemaking—making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
- The Call to Lifestyle Disciplemaking
- Connect: Build Intentional Relationships with Nonbelievers
- Connect: Become a Designated Engager
- Connect: Prepare to Share Your Faith Story
- Connect: Prepare to Share the Gospel Facts
- Establish: Give Believers Strong Roots
- Establish: Choose to Disciple Others
- Establish: Nurture Women Who Are New to the Bible
- Launch: Multiply Impact Beyond Yourself
- Launch: Use Your Workday Lunch Break for Disciplemaking
- Launch: Transition to a Disciplemaking-Focused Women’s Ministry
- Live Out His Love Bible Study on Amazon (New Testament women, disciplemaking preparations)
- Be a Christ-Focused Small Group Leader on Amazon (prepares group leaders for disciplemaking)
- Lifestyle Disciplemaking resources on my website (including everything in this blog series)
- Host a “Leap into Lifestyle Disciplemaking” retreat
- Never Too Old to Have Impact for Christ on Bible.org
Image credit: sourced from a template at canva.com.