How A Clear Definition Helps Create Disciples

We often underestimate the importance of defining terms. Having clear definitions and control of a term or language is vastly important to your ministry fruitfulness. When it comes to disciple making, having a clearly defined term is no different. We must have clear definition and control of the term “disciple” in order to make disciples.

So many churches and ministries have a lot of activity and programs going, but no clear definition of what they’re actually trying to produce. We have all seen it before.

A newcomer shows up on a Sunday morning. They meet some people. They might fill out a connect card of some sort. Maybe they get involved in a Bible study or life group and eventually they get baptized.

Are they a disciple now?

Have you made a disciple?

After a few weeks they begin serving on a team. They even begin to support the ministry financially.

Now they’re REALLY a disciple right? They wrote a check.

Is that all it takes?

Many churches and ministries are doing a lot. Their calendars are packed with programs and events. People show up at those events. They might even be reaching newcomers on Sunday mornings. But without a clear definition of what it means to make disciples, they wouldn’t be able to tell you if they are actually accomplishing that mission.

I can make an argument that the most crucial question you will have to answer for your ministry is, “What is a disciple?”

  • What habits do they live out?

  • What disciplines do they know?

  • What skills do they have?

  • What do they learn?

  • How do they live differently than the world around them?

If I asked you if you wanted to make disciples in your ministry you would say, “Yes.” But in your ministry context what does that look like exactly? Does it simply mean…

  • Show up on Sunday

  • Serve somewhere

  • Leave a big tip at the end of service

  • Go to a Bible study

  • Stop cussing, smoking and drinking

Is that all there is to the great adventure of being a disciple of Jesus?

At New Life we define it this way…

A disciple is someone who hears the voice of the Shepherd and follows!

A clear win in our disciple making efforts is people begin to hear the voice of God and obey Him. They take next steps as they surrender to the Lordship of Jesus through obedience. And if a disciple is hearing the voice of Jesus, then they will hear His voice on the mission of making more disciples. So a disciple must also be engaged in Jesus’ mission of making more disciples. Here are the basics of what that looks like for us.

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Surrender to King Jesus

When someone decides to surrender to Jesus, they do so in baptism. Baptism is your inauguration into the life of being a disciple. Through baptism they have surrendered to King Jesus, dying to their old self and committing to follow Jesus with their life. Now the adventure truly begins.

Abide in Scripture and Prayer

Jesus said in John 15 that we will bear fruit if we abide in Him. Are you training disciples to abide daily in Scripture reading and prayer. He isn’t talking to pastors only, full-time staff and clergy. He means every follower.

Have you trained disciples to be able to self-feed from Scripture and to hear the Holy Spirit, or do they have to come to you for answers? Many pastors and church leaders are the bottle neck for growth because everyone has to schedule time with the bible answer man to progress.

Train them how to read Scripture, abide in Christ and to hear the voice of the Shepherd. If you struggle with this, here are a couple of tools to get you started.

SPECK - Scripture Reading Tool

PASSION - Prayer Tool


2 Timothy 2:1, 2 reveals to us at least four generations of disciples.

Paul —> Timothy —> Reliable people —> Teach others

One of our measures at New Life to see if we are hitting the disciple making mark is whether or not we can begin to count generations of disciples. Can those we are discipling take those tools and reproduce them in another person? Because a disciple is someone who can multiply themselves to the third and fourth generations.

Your definition should be different from ours and that’s okay.

Your list of basic characteristics might be slightly different from ours and that’s okay.

Your approach, tools and style might be different from ours and that’s okay.

No matter what this ends up looking or sounding like in your context, the key to being successful at making disciples is to clearly know when you’ve actually made one.