How Jesus Made Disciples 1


No one was worthy to receive the invitation. No one expected it or could believe it when it happened.


They did not advance to the next level in school. They were not reared in prominent families. They hardly stood out in a crowd. Instead, they followed the footsteps of the generations before them. Ordinary people living ordinary lives . . .


Until the day extraordinary happened.


They were going about their lives, minding their own business, trying to earn a living when He approached. Jesus walked up to the edge of the water, looked at them with love, and said these words that changed their lives forever: “Follow me” (Matt. 4:19).


Something powerful happened inside their soul with that invitation. Not only were they seen, but also they were wanted . . . and found worthy.


Their culture said otherwise. Jewish children in first-century Israel attended bet sefer (elementary school) until the age of twelve. Boys studied and memorized the Torah as girls trained to lead worship. Only a few male students, no, only a few gifted male students went on to beth midrash (secondary school) to continue learning the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Day after day, these highly gifted students diligently studied in the hopes of being a talmid (disciple) of a famous rabbi (teacher). Only the best and the brightest dared ask to follow a rabbi.


The summa cum laude student would muster the courage to ask his chosen rabbi, “May I follow you?” Which meant, “Do I have what it takes to be like you?” The rabbi would size him over and either accept his proposal or encourage him to return to his father’s trade. It was a bold ask, but the outcome was worth it. For years, the talmid would follow his rabbi, study his rabbi, in hopes of one day becoming just like his honored and respected rabbi.


But these folks Jesus chose didn’t make the cut. They didn’t learn the rest of the Scriptures. They never got the chance to ask to follow a rabbi. Instead, in a counter-cultural role reversal, Rabbi Jesus asked them.


Why Jesus chooses those the world deems inadequate or insufficient, only God knows. (Thank You, Lord.) He looks at the heart, not the resume—motives, not mission statements—dependence, not self-reliance. He called the Twelve, and they responded wisely: they followed Him.


For the next three years, they followed and studied Rabbi Jesus in hopes of becoming like Rabbi Jesus. They heard Him preach to the public about the Kingdom of God—the “what.” But in private, they asked Jesus questions to understand more fully—the “why.” Jesus invested in this inner circle day in and day out. In a roughly 36-month discipleship experience, Jesus transformed these men’s lives (an women’s lives, Luke 8), and they went on to change the world. Their approach? The same as their Rabbi Jesus’, of course—invest in a few people at a time in a self-replicating process to impact generations.


Fast forward countless generations later to where we find ourselves today. Rabbi Jesus’ approach is just as life-changing and world-impacting as when He first uttered those two words: Follow me. We grab hold of the baton handed from the previous generation, knowing it’s our turn to run our Hebrews 12 race and make disciples.


Yes, we are commanded and commissioned by Jesus to “go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20). We are equipped and empowered by the Spirit to “teach them to obey everything.” Best of all, we are not alone. Jesus is with us, and the Holy Spirit fills us. So, how do we start to obey this command?

We start where Jesus started.

  1. We prayBefore Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, He checked in with Our Father. “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13, ESV).


    • Make a list of those in your life who are far from God, and regularly pray for them. God changes circumstances and changes hearts to draw others to Himself. Being intentional by creating a list or a relationship map helps keep prayer a priority.
    • Invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to people who want to hear about God and deepen their relationship with Jesus. When we ask God to take over this process, He answers that prayer. It’s His will, and it’s His way. You’ll find doors open, hearts ready, and words flow when we pray before we plan.


  1. We invite. There was a time in our culture when people didn’t wait to be invited to someone’s home. A Sunday drive would unexpectedly end in a friend or family member’s driveway. Warm conversation and hot coffee were only a few perks away. Much has changed since those drop-in days. Today, people wait to be invited. When the Holy Spirit keeps bringing someone to mind, follow His lead to extend an invitation.
    • If the person has not started a relationship with Jesus, look for an opportunity to ask questions to invite her/him into a spiritual conversation: Do you believe in God? Do you have any spiritual beliefs? Has anyone ever shared the gospel with you? Can I share something that changed my life?
    • If the person is new in their walk with the Lord (or worldly 1 Cor. 3:1-4), invite them to a weekly gathering to learn how to grow closer to God. Offer different ways to connect to find the approach that works for all of you (online, phone, in-person). Best to invite two or three to join the conversation.*


  1. We share. Most people think discipling others is time-consuming and difficult. It doesn’t have to be. Let God lead you. The apostle Paul discipled believers by visiting people, sharing God’s story, writing letters to those far away, and praying for them. It’s not complicated.


In the coming weeks, we’ll provide follow up articles offering more direction on Jesus’ approach to teaching. For now, start by sharing the love, life, and teachings of Jesus with an open Bible and relaxed conversation. Read Luke, John, and Acts together, and ask questions: What does this say about God? About people? Focus the conversation on what God is leading us to know, value, or do.


Like Jesus’ disciples, we may not feel worthy or sufficient for the mission, but our sufficiency is from God (2 Cor. 3:5). If we feel sufficient, we risk making disciples of ourselves, not of Jesus. When we humble ourselves and exalt Jesus, we discover God’s grace is all we need. “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, NLT). Investing in a few people, like Jesus, will not only change their lives and future generations but also will change yours.


Right now, Jesus is inviting you to follow Him. What is your RSVP to His life-giving invitation?


*Read Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden for a powerful triad approach to discipleship.


Susan Freese

All In Ministries International, Founder / President