Should We be Calling Ourselves Disciple Makers?

A discipler must have neither a fixed idea of what a disciple looks, talks, and acts like nor a static idea of how to “make a disciple.” No program or person will ever make a disciple. Only God makes disciples.”

Bill Hull ~ Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker

There have been many variations on this theme expressed by commenters on the Making Disciples Facebook Page.  Restated simply, the claim is that

“People don’t Make Disciples, God Does.”

I have to wonder what end the means of these kinds of statements have?  Do they simply want people to recognize that it’s not them who converts the soul?  Do they want others to take great caution in making actual disciples and not just converts?  Do they want people to not actively pursue the command of Christ to make disciples?  I’m not quite sure.

Regardless, Jesus told us to make disciples.  Yes, us!  There’s been a heightened sense of obedience to this call in the past few years within Christendom.  Folks are saying we should “make disciples who make disciples,” and the like.  People are being called “disciple makers” and are being called to be “disciple makers.”  Just Google “disciple maker,” and look at all of the ministries, people, churches, and organizations that seek to equip “disciple makers.”

Confession: In my twitter profile description, I too once had “Disciple Maker.”  I don’t anymore.  I’ve changed it to something else.  I’m not really hung up on whether we should be calling ourselves or others “disciple makers,” but I’d like to know what your thoughts are.  And so, I’d like to ask a few questions:

Is there anything biblically wrong with calling ourselves or others “Disciple Makers?”

Is there a better biblical term for those who make disciples?

What fruitful purpose does it serve to say that “people don’t make disciples, God does.” ?  

For related posts see:

Re-Making an Already Made Disciple? 

Christians Make More Bacon than Disciples

We can’t Make Disciples like Jesus Did.

0 thoughts on “Should We be Calling Ourselves Disciple Makers?

  1. Eli says:

    —Is there anything biblically wrong with calling ourselves or others “Disciple Makers?”—
    I don’t think so depending on how we understand and flesh that out in reality. If it means only certain people make disciples or that there is such a thing as being a disciple maker but not in turn being discipled then the concept has derailed in my view.
    This ties in with your 3rd question
    —What fruitful purpose does it serve to say that “people don’t make disciples, God does.” ?—
    The fruitful purpose is an attempt to tear down the clergy/laity divide as i see it which is rife in and out of the institution. There are those who are proclaimed leaders, disciplemakers with an unhealthy dependence on their ministry, influence and persona.
    Taken to an extreme we could claim nothing good comes from ourselves, only from God so in an ultimate sense only he is doing the discipling, but I think that creates an unnecessary distance between us and god. Take the extreme the other way and we only give god lip service, essentially treating him like an absent diety, totally hamstringed and unable to effect any sort of change without our help.
    As the nonsensical and unbiblical saying goes “we are his hands and feet”. The implication is that without us god cant do anything tangible or go anywhere.

    —Is there a better biblical term for those who make disciples?—
    believers, brothers, christians, ekklesia

    I fear “making disciples” is in many circles christian speak for “making recruiters” or “making model members”.
    It is telling that one really has to manipulate scripture to read pauls letter and see an emphasis on getting believers to go out and recruit outsiders… its just not there. Now I dont think its not there because the mission of reaching the lost shouldnt be important to the body… but rather because how we do it is not by focusing on recruitment and superficial conformity.

  2. Jonathan says:

    I’m not sure that I could disagree more wholeheartedly with the Hull quote. Of course we can know what a disciple looks like (the Scriptures are clear that the disciple should be a reflection/imitation of the One being followed). Of course we can have a “static idea on how to make a disciple” (spiritual disciplines).

    I confess to not having read this book by Hull so I don’t have the context for the quote but if it is as plainly understood as you have quoted it, I would suggest that Hull is following that same destructive path that is increasingly common in North America where discipleship is seen as only being an organic activity and only the act of preaching in a corporate context is considered worthy of a highly formalized training, candidate preparation, and specifics of style and delivery.

    The answers to your questions are:
    1) No
    2) No
    3) None

  3. Should we call ourselves disciple makers?

    Hm.

    Only if THE Bible says we can. And even then only if it can be proven through research into the Greek language of THE Bible. And only if men ‘more smarterer’ in THE Bible than us say we can.

    Yep.

  4. Agreeing with most of what is said above.

    Is there anything biblically wrong with calling ourselves or others “Disciple Makers?” No.

    Is there a better biblical term for those who make disciples? Pastors, teachers, believers?

    What fruitful purpose does it serve to say that “people don’t make disciples, God does.” ? People get it all messed up. We really do make a mess of it. We need to be reminded daily that it is God’s work. People end up building their own kingdoms when we are supposed to be working in His.

    I would say that I for one need reminders throughout the day that I am but a redeemed sinner. I do not want to be a martyr, a celebrity pastor or anything. I can’t even get the good husband and father thing right and I am to think of myself as a disciple maker?

    But that’s me.

    All the best to Miguel. Are you currently in the Andes?
    Eric

  5. Jesus Labs says:

    Another way to view the question would be to ask, “Who’s disciple are we making?” The object is to bring people into an encounter with the Holy Spirit. This occurs both inwardly and through the gifts in the Body of Christ. They are then relying on Him to teach them.

    “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will[a] abide in Him.” 1 John 2:27

    • Comment win. Nicely said Jesus Labs.

      (Just wondering: Is it “Jesus Labs” as in labrador retrievers who wear WWJD? dog collars, or “Jesus Labs” as in you have some DNA from Jesus you are tampering with for inevitable world domination, say, through cloning?)

  6. Dan B. says:

    My wife and I are transitioning from a traditional church to a missional community. Our goal is to make A disciple. Not even disciples (plural) because if we state it in the plural, it implies we have a plan or strategy of our own. Our “plan” is to not have a plan and to follow Jesus wherever he leads and make a disciple — one at a time, as the Lord presents it. Practically speaking, the way it’s working so far is we get out in the community, neighborhood and our extended family. We make friends. We talk to people. Sometimes about Jesus. We listen. We spend time with them.When we open the Bible, we look for Jesus and help them obey what he’s telling them.

  7. BTW, I researched the mission to Lebanon from American missionaries that began in the early 1820’s. Forty years later they thought they still had no converts. The Secretary back home was becoming fed up. The insisted that the Lebanese in the mission congregations were still nominal Christians. What was the problem? You guessed it. The Lebanese were not looking like the converts at the revivals in the U.S. It was a culturally conditioned understanding.

  8. René says:

    To me its simple. To make disciples is the command, but it is just one of the commands and one part of our identity as described in the NT. Don’t concentrate on just that one aspect. If you do, you end up sectarian.

    To be a disciple maker you first have to be a disciple. I would rather concentrate on that, to follow Jesus in my daily live. In that intimate live as His follower He will explain what it means, the how and the when of disciple making.

  9. Jesus Labs says:

    I love the dynamic in which the world is the platform for making disciples.

  10. Mark Guinn says:

    Thanks so much for this blog, man. The questions you ask and thoughts you share are really helpful. Funny enough, i was just pondering the other day whether to add “disciple maker” TO my twitter profile. 🙂 To answer your questions:

    1. No. I don’t see any biblical reason to not use this term. There may be a missional reason not to use it, though. I’ve found most people who aren’t already following Jesus are confused by that term and they assume it means disciples of yourself in a cultish sense. It’s easy to explain, but not very intuitive if you’re not in a certain stream of Christian leadership.

    2. That said, I’ve struggled to find a term that communicates as much in as few words. I find myself using the language of “investing in” or occasionally “mentoring” a lot because those are understood and valued concepts already for most folks.

    3. No offense intended to any previous posters but that question just triggers red flags for me that someone has been wounded and (probably with good reason) is distrustful of leaders seeming controlling or empire-builders. Fair enough, but remember babies, bath water, etc.

  11. Peter says:

    If we have no idea what a disciple looks like then how will we recognize if we are helping or hindering their progress, or even if we are one ourselves? Jesus states quite plainly that we are to make disciples.

    Calling oneself anything but “God” isn’t prohibited by scripture. But calling oneself a disciple maker may cause more confusion than not, depending upon the audience.

    A good name for a disciple maker would be “faithful.”

    As for the third question, I believe the statement to be false, therefore not very fruitful. However it may point towards the fact that we must depend upon God for all things and we have precious little ability in and of ourselves.

  12. Brian Hauser says:

    I went and looked at your twitter profile. Why do you want to make fumbling disciples? (just kidding) I think “Disciple Maker” is a good, descriptive reminder of the commission Jesus gave to his disciples. A reminder of the part Christians have been apt to ignore. Maybe it would be better for the term to remain in our personal mission statements and for us to refer to ourselves simply as disciples or followers of Jesus. Wearing “disciple maker” as a title seems to imply a specialization…perhaps suggesting unintentionally that not all disciples are called to that task. Just some thoughts. I don’t really have a problem with the term, just the average Christian’s assumption that it refers to someone else.
    Thanks for the thought provoking questions,
    Brian

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