I admit that math is not my favorite subject. I got through the required courses in high school, took the one necessary class in college, and have not looked at the subject since then. Although much of what I have learned has leaked out over the years I do still remember my multiplication tables. I will admit that multiplying can be fun. When something multiplies, we can see exponential growth. The book of Acts records this type of exponential growth with the early church in their efforts to make disciples.
This command to make disciples originated in Matthew 28. We know this command was not just for the apostles or early Christians. We are all called to make disciples as well. But the question remains of how do we go about this process? How do we make disciples in such a way that we can even see exponential growth from a multiplying discipleship movement? Mike Breen suggests that this kind of discipleship contains three elements; information, imitation, and innovation.
In Matthew 28:20 we see an example of the information component of discipleship when Jesus tells us that making disciples will involve teaching. Genuine discipleship requires the transfer of information to the disciple. This information is the “all that I have commanded you” that Jesus alludes to in the passage. Therefore, we are called to know the truths of God’s Word and not only pass this along to those whom we disciple but also teach them to study and learn for themselves.
But in order to effectively make a disciple we must provide a model for the disciple to imitate. 1 Corinthians 11:1 and Philippians 3:17 provide us with a couple of the many examples in which Paul highlights the importance of imitation in the context of discipleship. He calls us to imitate not only his own life but the lives of other godly examples. Paul did not claim to be perfect. But he knew that his life provided a living example of what it looked like to follow Jesus in the grace and power of God. We too are called to live a life worthy of imitation for others to see how to follow Jesus. And so, we must open up our lives to those whom we disciple to allow them to see in us a pattern they can follow.
A final key component to discipleship is innovation. This stresses the importance of training the disciple to make disciples. The discipleship process is not complete until the one being discipled begins to disciple someone else. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul stresses the importance of Timothy taking all that he has learned and entrusting to others. But he is to entrust these truths in a way that trains those whom he disciples to train up others as well. In this passage we see an example of how we can make disciples who will make disciples.
Making disciples will not be easy. But fortunately, Jesus gives us an incredible promise at the end of Matthew 28. He will be with us through the entire process. So ask yourself, am I making disciples? If not, maybe it is time to prayerfully begin the process.