We can’t Make Disciples like Jesus Did.


It’s not odd to hear someone say, “If you’re going to  make disciples, you should make them like Jesus did.  At first thought, it almost makes perfect sense until we realize that we can’t.

While there may be some who have actually left their homes, vocations, and families, chosen a dozen followers who would also leave their homes, vocations, and families, live together, learn together, laugh together, and love others together 24/7 for 3+ years, I think it would be very rare.  I’m not denying that these kinds of people or scenarios CAN exist, but it is certainly not the norm.  If you do know of people like this, I would certainly like to hear about it.

Even if there were such persons, I don’t believe we can make disciples like Jesus did, but we can make disciples in the manner that He told us to.  Would this make any difference in the manner the modern church executed the great commission?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps the nuance between the two is so slight that it will make little difference to anyone reading this.  Perhaps though, it just might relieve some of the burden that we have either placed on ourselves or on others.  There is a subtle argument which may or may not have merit, I’ll leave that up to you.  It goes something like this:

We are to be Christlike.

Christ made disciples.

Therefore, we are to make disciples like Christ did.

 While this syllogism is logically valid, it might not be biblical?  Aren’t there many things that Christ did in His disciple making that are beyond our human capacity?  Even if we are a true disciple of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it certainly is not normative to see the church doing “ALL” the things that Christ did in His making disciples of the 12.

In a recent article, the author said;

Jesus invited His disciples to ‘be with Him’ in His life and mission instead of trying to set aside extra time to disciple them.

But isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? He ‘set aside’ 3 years.  He took a sabbatical from making tables so that He could bring others to them. Jesus’ style of discipleship was certainly extra-ordinary. It was both human and divine.

The WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) style of discipleship will have its successes, but I think they are more accidental and less sustainable.  Again, our goal is not to disciple others like Jesus did, but to disciple like He told us to.

Are there things to emulate in Jesus’ style of discipleship? Certainly. Are there ‘greater things than these?’ (John 14:12-14) Definitely.  Are we to try a retrofit discipleship and leave our jobs etc. for lengthy periods of time in order to disciple someone like Jesus did? Probably not.

One final thought… Jesus’ vocation from eternity past was, well… being God.  Carpentry was a temporary assignment until He got back to the business of being God again. (I know… He was always God), relax.

All that said, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to leave all aside for a time in order to disciple people, you’ll have to find ways to disciple others through detours, deviations, and a constant barrage of distractions.

So, which is it?  Do we Make Disciples like Jesus did, or do we make disciples like Jesus told us to?

8 thoughts on “We can’t Make Disciples like Jesus Did.

  1. Pastor Karen says:

    Mormon young men leave home etc for 2 years.

  2. Michelle says:

    I don’t think its about doing it EXACTLY the same as Jesus did. Its about being ‘Christ like’ in our disipleship not actually trying to live an exact replication of his every move.
    Jesus loved people, Jesus preached, he was about love and acceptance not systems and condemnation. That is what you do too make disiples the way chest did…its about doing it wither the same attitude Jesus did…
    Jesus and his disciples did it the water the did it because it was culturally relevant…it was what Rabbis did. Today you just look a bit odd.
    However Christs attitude to disipleship transcends shifts in culture.

  3. Georges Boujakly says:

    A question that might help get ahold of an answer to the question:

    What is only descriptive in the way Jesus made disciples?
    What is prescriptive in the way Jesus made disciples?

    What is both?

    Is it certain that we know that when the disciples were called, their ordinary lives stopped completely and they did nothing but accompany Jesus everywhere he went, did all things together, etc…?

  4. Marshall says:

    instead of back-peddling on the Jesus style, why not do the things He did and prepare to “see greater things than these”?
    God in Christ does often ask of us actions far from the pragmatic or reasonable. How may we deny Christ such as, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”? What do you imagine becomes of the man who refuses, but that He finds to imagine himself as if in Christ?
    [Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22]?

  5. Tim Day says:

    Well… the way He made disciples was to obey the Father. So I’d have to say do what Jesus said to do, and by so doing, we’ll also be doing what He did.

  6. Anthony G. says:

    No…we can’t. And thank you for bringing it up. There is a lot of chatter in church circles today about “making disciples the way Jesus did.” And, you are absolutely correct-at first glance it seems so pious to say so. But when weighed against the biblical record?

    As you already mentioned-Jesus’ disciples “left their nets and immediately followed him…” What about this: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” What about the divine number “12” to mirror the tribes. What about the cultural norms of Christ’s day and the Rabbinical system he molded his ministry around? I could go on…

    I actually heard it said that Jesus specifically “came to make disciples”. He did? What about that whole “Messiah” thing? What about that “atonement” thing? Jesus came for many reasons, but he made disciples so that they in turn would “go into the whole world” making followers/students/converts, baptizing them in his name, and teaching them to observe whatsoever things he commanded them (the Apostles/disciples).

    We have the commandment from Christ, and we have the manual from Luke, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude. Christ supernaturally appointed the 12 for specific ministry-that ministry was making disciples and their “methodology” should be ours. It’s that simple.

    Proclaim, check the nets, baptize, and teach them the whole counsel of God.

    Thank you for this post.

  7. Kevin Copeland says:

    Did the apostles make disciples like Jesus did in the book of Acts? Did Peter, Paul, James and John copy verbatim the method and style of Jesus discipleship? I would say that they did not copy Jesus’ example step by step, but rather allowed the Holy Spirit to direct them in the context of where they were sent. Did it make them wrong for improvising? I don’t think so. I’m not sure that Jesus’ example of discipleship was an exact users guide to discipleship with strict boundaries that were not to breached, so much as it was a broad example of making fruitful disciples, effectively equipped for the work of the ministry through relationship.

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