July 18, 2023

Eight Basic Rules For Making Disciples

Series: Discipleship

Although discipling is done by relationships and not by rules, there are certain rules that if not followed will insure failure on a consistent basis. The following eight rules are by no means exhaustive. However, ignoring them or breaking them will produce at best a less-than-Jesus’-standard type disciple and at worst a sterile Christian who spends the whole of their Christian life trying to replicate the inner essence of Christ-likeness without reproducing the outward expressions of His labors. For this reason it is imperative we get a firm grasp on these eight basic truths of disciple-making.

1. Start Smart

James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” It should be obvious that we desperately need Jesus’ viewpoint and His strategy for making disciples. For that reason we should be asking Father for wisdom so that we are operating by Jesus’ standard and not our own, or the latest how-to books on church growth and leadership. In order to start smart:

(a) We need a Clear Concept of the Product.

Biblically, wisdom is seeing things from God's point of view. It should be obvious that men do not naturally, automatically, or easily have such wisdom.

In fact, this requires a supernatural intervention by the Spirit of God. For this reason, we should be continually praying like the Apostle Paul admonishes us to in Eph 1:17-18a; "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know..." Disciple-makers should pray for themselves, and the disciples they are trying to build, this prayer continuously, "Lord open the eyes of my heart and of these men you have given me so that we may see from your point of view. Holy Spirit of Wisdom, guide me and them as to the best use of the knowledge you have given us access to."

A clear concept of obeying the Great Commission requires that we are clear on these three basic questions:

(1a) What is a disciple?

(2a) What does it mean to turn men into disciples?

(3a) How does one do it?

If we don’t have a clear understanding of what a disciple is as defined by Jesus’ standard, then we will likely turn out something that is subnormal, or abnormal. Just as architects have a blueprint and often make a “to scale” replica, as well as having specifications that will be adhered to in the construction of what the owner’s desire built, even so must disciple-makers adhere to the Lord’s specific design and dynamics in building disciples.

(b) We need a Correct Course for the Procedure.

 George Barna was right when he said, “Almost every church in our country has some type of discipleship program or set of activities, but stunningly few have a church of disciples!” One of the reasons is because they don’t have a clear concept and thus they have set out on a wrong course. A correct course should involve these three goals:

(1b) The immediate goals of getting the persons to genuine faith in Christ and then getting them grounded in the faith.  Even if the persons being discipled have been in the faith for a long time, don’t assume anything. Unless they are grounded to the point that they can tell and teach what they know to their disciple, they are not truly grounded in the Word.

(2b) The intermediate goals of growing them up in the faith getting TWI as their vision. They must grow to maturity. Just as biological babies don’t reproduce, neither do spiritual babies. The course heading must begin with TWI incorporated into their vision. Personal and local vision is far too small for a Global mission!

The Japanese produce a small tree that has been appropriately labeled “the Japanese dwarf tree”, or "Bonsai"(which means "tray planting") The tree grows to a height of only 12 to 18 inches. They accomplished this by cutting the tap root of the tree and forcing it to grow from its surface root. This stunts its growth. Application: When any of the “tap roots” of the Christian life are cut (such as worship, prayer, or the study of Scripture), the believer’s growth is terribly stunted. Too many Christians seem to sing, “Jesus loves me, this I know,  And that’s as far as I want to go.”

For a Christian to fail to grow is to experience all possible tragedies in one. You see, being introduced to a person is not the same as knowing that person. One’s wedding day is only the start of an ongoing commitment. To come to know Christ should be only the beginning of a developing romance -- one that may grow forever.

However, we need to be reminded that maturity isn't produced by the additions of raw truth or time. One can make a lot of additions without growing -- (It's called getting fat!) Physically I have stopped growing in my body and any additions I make means I just get fatter! Churches can have the same problem; that is making a lot of additions but not growing up and going out in reproductive multiplication of others for the glory of God, but instead just becoming "pew-potatoes" who grow fat and lazy. A person can grow old in the faith and not grow up in it. Paul’s words in Eph. 4:14 reveal that immaturity must be confronted – “be no more children”; instability must be corrected – “tossed to and fro”; gullibility must be changed – “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

(3b) The ultimate goals of reproducing the faith in others.  The test of any Christian ministry is the multiplication of that ministry in the lives of others. The history of the Christian church proves that the ultimate goal of this Divine concept is tragically easy for human minds to miss. If you do not make disciples, you disagree with the standard of Jesus and disobey the command of Jesus. If you do not build your disciples to the point of world-visionary, world-impacting, consummate, reproducing disciple-making, you have not agreed with nor conformed to the standard of Jesus — regardless of whatever else may be true of your life!

2. Start Small

We live in times in which the small, the few, and the weak are disparaged. If it isn't massive in numbers, and mighty in influence; if it isn't big, beautiful (and brawny); if it isn't large, loud, and lauded by the masses -- it isn’t considered worthwhile.

It is only natural that this same mindset and tendency finds its way into the church. Even where we find a people determined to take Jesus’ mandate serious, they often fail in making disciples because they try to do too much with too many too soon. Remember that although Jesus’ ministry reached 1000’s, and touched 1000’s more, He trained only 12 men. He gave His life on the cross for millions, but He gave His 3 ½ years of public life to 12 men. Miracles, multitudes, and mass ministry benefited from Jesus’ work, but they didn’t constitute His work. Men were His work. Jesus saw the masses through the man, and He built the man to impact the masses a few persons at a time.

The fact is that Jesus was too smart to start large, but we seem to be too stupid to start small.  His standard is astounding, and it is doubtful we will ever fathom all of its insights and riches.

As disciple-makers, we can start small because we understand something of the Power and Potential of the Seed!

Jesus, in encouraging His disciples not to be discouraged because of the apparent smallness of the seed of the kingdom message, declares in Mark 4:30-32, And he said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Everyone of us humans started very, very small -- one cell in our mother's womb. Nine months later, when we were born, we had multiplied to over 50 trillion cells!

Zechariah 4:10, "For who has despised the day of small things?" For us today, we would answer almost everyone despises the day of small beginnings and things.

We must decide where we want our ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for."

Disciple-maker and author, Neil Cole asks: "Why is small so big? Small does not cost a lot, is easy to reproduce, is more easily changed and exchanged. Small is mobile and harder to stop. Small is intimate, simple, and infiltrates easier. Small is something people think they can do. Big does not do any of these things. We can change the world more quickly by becoming much smaller in our strategy."

Do not despise the day of small beginnings (Zech. 4:10), and do not be in too big a hurry to get past them.

Do not despise small beginnings -- they contain the miracle and multiplying potential of wonderful hopes yet unfulfilled.

3. Start Slow

Reproduction takes time and to attempt to speed up the process is to risk abortion or deformity to the offspring. One of the reasons so many pastors reject Jesus’ standard for making disciples is because the first few years of the process that leads from additions to multiplication seems so slow compared to the mass ingathering of people in special evangelistic efforts or church growth campaigns. However, we should never let starting the process slowly be confused with the incredible potential built into the multiplication process. Yes, it takes time and requires going slow to avoid miscarriages and deformities in the disciples, and to assure reproductive maturity. But when the process is in full effect, the pervasive application and implications are swift and mind-boggling.

How effective is evangelism compared to the doubling effect of discipling? How quickly would the evangelists, making huge additions, and the disciple-maker, using Jesus' start small and slow multiplication process each reach the population of the world?

When the world population was at approximately 6.8 billion people, if you could freeze it there, it would take an evangelist winning 5,000 persons each day, which is adding 1,825,000 converts to the church per year, four thousand years to reach the world, provided the population stayed at its current size.

In contrast, consider the discipler who in one year wins one and disciples one to reproductive maturity, so that at the church’s annual conference his statistics read – saved and discipled one! How slow! What an embarrassing report! After twenty years, the evangelist would be able to report at the annual church denominational meeting that over the past 20 years he now had won 36,500,000 persons to Christ. Then the disciple-maker would report that after 20 years he now had a total of 1,048,576 disciples. Still a rather small and apparently slow process compared to the evangelist approach. However, if this process of multiplication of disciples continues at this rate, the results are mind-boggling! At the end of the 33rd year, the disciple-maker, starting with just one and spending a whole year equipping his disciple, would have multiplied through them 8,589,934,592! That is 1.5 billion more persons than are on earth at the present time. So starting slow may seem unproductive and unimpressive for a number of years – but then the process of multiplication explodes!

4. Stick to Jesus’ Standard

What was Jesus’ standard? What model did Jesus follow that enabled him to take twelve very common men and equip them to become prolific reproducing disciple-makers? How did He produce a mind-set in twelve men that eventuated in massive world impact to the farthest reaches of the known world of His day within 60 years after His death? He didn't have computers, cell phones, or television, telethons, telephones, telecommunication satellites, or texting -- just tell-a-person!  How? How? How? Negatively, nothing of His program depended on a crowd, or on preaching (though He used mass communication to minister, to teach, and to emerge potential disciples). Nothing of His program was institutionalized (this is a mere admission of fact, not an evaluation of institutionalism). Nothing of His program centered in going to church (although He went to church regularly). Then What was his strategy?  His technique? His Standard?

Herb Hodges states that, "We can get a hint by examining the Biblical lists of the men whom He called as “Apostles.” Let it be said first that He trained them to send them away from Him, not to centralize increasing masses where He was. This strategy is conspicuously unlike today’s church, which tends to evaluate its success (and the success of its leaders) almost totally by the measurement of size.

a. A Commitment to the Light One Has – A complete commitment to the light one has will result in the Lord giving more light. Begin now walking in the light you have and don’t wait for vast amounts of light or truth that would enable you to answer all the questions your disciples might raise. Remember, you only need to be one-half step in front of another person to be a leader with them following. God will not give us another word or the next word if we are failing in our obedience to the previous words He has given us. Remember the light that shines furtherest of necessity shines brightest at home.

b. A Clarity as to the Lord’s Standard for Building Disciples Jesus’ standard not only promised large dividends to those who obey at the moment of hearing, but it promised (indeed, necessitated) ever-enlarging multiplication through all future generations as long as the standard was implemented fully and correctly. The genius of Jesus’ strategy, when it is properly implemented, guarantees increasing numbers of leaders for all future generations—until the end of time. Not only so, but each follower is to become a leader, and each leader is built to train other leaders. So the test of “followship” and leadership in the “Jesus movement” is not in how many followers a leader has, but rather in how many true leaders he is building with a motivation and strategy to multiply.  When properly implemented, this ministry of multiplication will never stop.

Jesus’ standard, or training strategy, requires:

c. A Curriculum that Makes Learning Effective and Transferable

Herb Hodges admonishes, “If you are capable of creating your own curriculum, or finding curriculum from another source, curriculum that is sound in truth and will cover all of the necessary bases and accomplish the required result, by all means do it.”

Three things are essential in order to go on to maturity in Christ: (1) There are basic truths we need to know; (2) There are basic things we need to do; (3) There are basic traits we need to develop. We must Know God, Grow in God, and Show others God.

The curriculum, or subjects, we employ must be readily teachable, easily learnable, and simply transferable. Or to say it another way: It must be received personally, remembered easily, so it can be repeated strategically.

Space does not allow us to include examples of the studies that might be used in each category.

5. Stop Doing It Alone!

If you study the strategy of ministry in the book of Acts, you will discover that it was almost always done in teams. We see Peter, James, and John. Barnabas and Paul, Barnabas and Mark, Paul, Silas, and Luke. Paul, Timothy, and Titus.

The key leaders of these groups or teams were constantly training their disciples in the SACIDD.SR method of Jesus (Selection, Association, Concentration, Impartation, Demonstration, Delegation, Supervision, Reproduction).

The story about a brick layer who was badly injured on the job:.

This brick layer tried to move 500 pounds of bricks from the top of a 4-story building to the sidewalk below. The problem was he tried to do it by himself.  This is his own story taken from his insurance claim form.

It would have taken too long to have moved the bricks down by hand and so I decided to put them in a barrel and lower them from a pulley which I had fastened to the top of the building.  After tying the rope securely at ground level, I went up to the top of the building and fastened the rope around the barrel loaded with bricks, swung it out over the sidewalk for the decent.

Then I went down to the sidewalk and I untied the rope, holding it securely to guide the barrel down slowly. But since I only weigh 140 lbs, the 500 lb load jerked me from the ground so fast that I forgot to let go of the rope. As I passed between the 2nd  and 3rd floor, I met the barrel coming down. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body.

I held tightly to the rope until I reached the top where my hand became jammed in the pulley. This accounts for my broken thumb.

At the same time however, the barrel hit the sidewalk with a bang and the bottom fell out. With the weight of the bricks gone the barrel weighed only 40 lbs. Thus my 140 lb body made a swift decent. I met the empty barrel coming up. This accounts for my broken ankle.

Slowed only slightly, I continued the decent and landed on the pile of bricks.  This accounts for my sprained back and broken collar bone.

At this point, I lost my presence of mind completely and let go of the rope and the empty barrel came crashing down on me.  This accounts for my head injuries.

And as for the last question on your insurance form, “What would you do if the same situation arose again?”  Please be advised I am finished trying to do the job all by myself.

Unfortunately, most church leaders, who have been trained to believe that they are the ministers who alone are called to do all the work of the ministry, wind up like the brick layer: battered, bruised, broken on a pile of bricks, and under a barrel of frustration and isolation!

The Process for Multiplying Disciples:

Action                                                             Result

I do it: ……......………………………….......I model the process.

I do it and you are with me: …………............I mentor you.

You do it and I am with you: …………..........I monitor you.

You do it: ……………………………...........You begin to master the craft and move forward.

You do it and someone is with you: …...........We multiply the process.

6. Start Here

Have you noticed how very few people are willing to start where they are with what they have? Instead they wind up either never doing anything because they cannot begin big and powerful or they go for broke and start up with an impressive show, the big venture, the spectacular splash, only to fizzle in the end. They want to capture the attention and admiration of as many people as possible as quickly as possible. This is the American way for the most part, but it is not God’s way. He begins everything He does in a small way; with a seed, an idea, a word or a baby, sub-atomic particles, atoms, etc. With proper cooperation with His design and laws, growth, increase and steady progress come to fruition.

An old Chinese proverbs says that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Likewise the process of building multiplying disciples begins with the first one. It should be obvious that the most important one is the first one. If the multi-level down-line of disciples is to be vibrant and fruitful then the Paul and Timothy type persons must come before faithful men who then will be able to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

7. Start Now

The Chinese have a saying: "He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend most of his entire life on one leg!

The typical Christian feels like they have to have years of training and tons of courses covering every subject before they can begin to make disciples. However, persistent delay is often times nothing but a cover up for personal disobedience to the Word of the Lord. A “now” word from the Word of God obeyed will bring the “next” word. There is no need of expecting the next or a new word from the Lord if I have not put into practice the last word I heard.

Where you finish in life isn't determined so much be where you start as by whether you start.

English playwright, James Albery sums up the going to do type of persons in this little saying:

"He slept beneath the moon,
He basked beneath the sun;
He lived a life of going-to-do,
And died with nothing done."

8. Stay Steady

Don’t get discouraged because of slow learners. Consider the aggravations and frustrations that Jesus had with His twelve disciples over the entire 3 year period He trained them. Don’t get discouraged because of those who drop out or turn their back on the faith. Remember Jesus had twelve disciples, but one of them was the traitor Judas who sold Jesus to the enemy for 30 pieces of silver. Don't opt or cop out by saying, "I tried and failed every time, so I guess just wasn't my assignment." Relearn, rethink, restudy Jesus' strategy, and ask Father for a "Timothy" who will reproduce others like him.

Pray for the strength to be able to be like Paul admonished the Corinthian believers to be: 1Cors 15:58,Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Be steadfastIn other words, be firm, strong, and confident in the faith. Be fixed in the faith, and don’t let the power of sin, or the allurements of pretended philosophy, or the schemes of the devil dissuade you from taking Jesus’ Great Commission seriously.

Be Unmovable - Firm, fixed, stable, unmoved. This is probably a stronger expression than the former, though meaning substantially the same thing - that we are to be firm and unshaken in our Christian hopes, and in our faith in the gospel and from our commitment to make disciples of all nations.

Always abounding in the work of the Lord - Always engaged in enjoying His person, doing the will of God, in promoting his glory, and advancing his kingdom by multiplying the number of reproductive disciples who are reflectors of his image and glory. The phrase means not only to be engaged in this, but to be engaged diligently, laboriously; excelling in this.

Knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain - You know that your labor or work in the Lord, that is, in the cause of the Lord, will not be in vain. It will be rewarded. It is not as if you were to die and never live again. There will be a resurrection, and you will be suitably recompensed then. Yet if you build disciples according to Jesus’ standard, you will continue to live through your spiritual offspring for generations after your death.


  1. Start Smart
  2. Start Small
  3. Start Slow
  4. Stick to Jesus’ Standard
  5. Stop Doing It Alone
  6. Start Here
  7. Start Now
  8. Stay Steady


other sermons in this series