How Jesus Made Disciples

[Worldview of Christ Part 18]

The Greek word mathetes is translated disciple.  It means learner.  But in what sense?  As an adjunct professor, I taught at a university and at the end of the semester, I graded the students and they graded me.  I graded them as to whether they could repeat what I taught.  They critiqued me as to whether I was a good teacher.  This is the model of learning in schools that produces repeaters who critique.

Is this what it means to make disciples?  Is a disciple someone who can repeat what he’s been taught and then critique others according to it?  If this is what it means to make disciples, the church in America is doing great.  We have Calvinists who can repeat five points, Lutherans who can repeat the Apostles’ Creed, and Baptists who can repeat the sinner’s prayer.  All of whom, along with many others, critique what happens every Sunday in churches across America.

We are effective at producing repeaters who critique.  But Jesus developed followers who reproduced.   How did he do this and are we willing to follow his pattern?  Jesus developed followers through four phases.  The four phases are:

  1. Come and See (John 1:35-41)
  2. Come and Follow Me (Mark 1:16-18)
  3. Come and be with Me (Mark 3:13-14)
  4. Remain in Me and bear fruit (John 15:1-16)


I’ll address these in other blogs, but first we have to address if we are willing to follow his model.  Unless we follow his model of making disciples, we cannot make disciples like He did.  That sounds obvious.  Then how come we disconnect what Jesus did from what we do?

We disconnect what we do from what he did even though we are adamant about teaching what he taught.  Why do we do this?  We do this for two so-called biblical reasons.   The first is because Jesus is the divine Son of God and we are not divine, we don’t call people to follow us.  As spiritual as that sounds, the apostles did not make that disconnect.  Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB).  Until we learn how to call people to follow us as we follow Christ, we will disconnect what Jesus did from what we do as disciple makers.

The second reason we disconnect what Jesus did from what we do is because the apostles were unique in that they were gifted to establish the church.   We don’t view them as disciples of Jesus who made disciples.  We view them as gifted apostles, who were trained by Jesus to establish his church.  Until we see the apostles as disciples first and apostles second, we will disconnect how Jesus trained them from how we make disciples.

This disconnect has done more harm to the church than a thousand heresies.  Church after church preaches the words of Christ but uses whatever method to “make disciples.” That’s like buying one of those swing sets that has a thousand nuts and bolts but leaving out the instructions.  Good luck putting it together.  When it’s done, it will have parts that resemble a swing set but it won’t be quite right.  That is the testimony of church after church regarding disciple making.

This doesn’t have to be.  If we were true disciples of Jesus we would not only adhere to what he taught, we would adhere to his model of disciple making.  Mathetes means learner in the sense of adherent.  A disciple adheres to Jesus.  Let’s be more than those who agree with Jesus.  Let’s do what he modeled in the way he modeled.   Jesus modeled the Great commission for us before he gave to us.

Next we’ll look at his model of disciple making.


About the Author:

Michael Peters

Dr. Michael Peters is the lead pastor of Christ the King: He is married to Linda, and they have two children and seven grandchildren. Dr. Peters graduated from Covenant Seminary with an MA and obtained a PhD in historical theology from Saint Louis University. He has written several books. His most recent is titled Cell Vision. It’s about organic discipleship and how to develop supporters into disciple makers. He taught critical thinking and Biblical worldview at Missouri Baptist University. His favorite course textbook was Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. His favorite philosopher is Nietzsche because postmodern people are just catching up with premodern Nietzsche. And his favorite Christian writer is G.K. Chesterton because he understood the difference between a poet and theologian. “The poet,” he wrote, “only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the theologian who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”