Summary: Christians are commanded to make disciples. The process of discipleship includes: going; baptising; teaching. The responsibility devolves upon each follower of the Christ.

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“It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” [1]

Discipleship is expected to be integral to the daily life of every community of faith. However, the process of discipling is woefully neglected among the churches of our Lord. To be certain, there are churches that take discipling quite seriously; but for the most, discipleship is lost in the rush to gain adherents. Let me say quite clearly for the benefit of all who listen—not every individual in attendance at a service is a disciple. Candidly, not every person in regular attendance is engaged in the process of being discipled. To appropriate a common saying, “Disciples are made, not born.”

The process of discipleship is presented concisely in the words of the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20 NET BIBLE]. The command is to “make disciples.” The means by which disciples are made is given with the participles employed—going, baptising and teaching. These three words define the discipling process. Congregations are to be engaged in discipling through going, baptising and teaching. If any one of these activities is neglected, whatever else we may be doing, discipleship cannot take place.

Evangelism and discipleship are conjoined—they cannot be separated. Where evangelism is taking place, discipleship (of necessity) is taking place. Where discipleship is practised, evangelism is being conducted. I am not suggesting that there is no room for learning how to be more efficient or how to be better equipped for doing either evangelism or discipleship, but I am saying that it is not an issue of either/or, rather it is an issue of both/and whenever we are discussing evangelism and discipleship. Evangelism is not complete until we have discipled those coming into the Faith of Christ the Lord; and discipleship means that we are equipping new converts for evangelism. This dual responsibility is evident in the account of some “disciples” whom the missionaries met in the city of Ephesus during the Apostle Paul’s third missionary journey.

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