The word “disciple” (μαθητής or mathetes, meaning disciple, student) appears 261 times in the Gospels and Acts. The word “Christian” only appears three times, twice in Acts and once in 1 Peter. The very last words that Jesus left us with before ascending back to the Father were these:
Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 CSB
The command is “make disciples of all nations” or “disciple all nations” by going, baptizing, and teaching them how to obey or observe Jesus’ teachings and commands. It’s not a hard thing to understand. This is the command, plain and simple. This is our mission, and we are to live on mission.
If Jesus’ command isn’t simple enough, Paul provides us with a simple framework:
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 CSB
Take all the things you have been taught to do, find faithful people to teach these things to so that they will teach others. Here, Paul provides a glimpse of the replication model of making disciples. Just do it. Don’t study about discipleship. Don’t hold meetings about it. Just find some people who are spiritually hungry and invest your spiritual life into them until they are mature enough to repeat the process.
We have no reason to complicate disciple-making. Jesus intended for it to be simple. I will be the first to admit that making disciples is not easy, but it is simple:
Find two or three people who are spiritually hungry and teach them how to imitate Jesus. Then, turn them loose to repeat the process. Over and over.
It takes time, and it can messy. We can’t enter a disciple-making relationship with the expectation that the new disciple will be made in microwave fashion, but in crock-pot, slow-cook fashion. Making disciples requires a persistent long-term commitment (about 12-18 months) to invest myself into the lives of others. And we have to remember that we cannot transform the new disciple. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.