Intentionally Train Disciples to Do What Jesus Did

How do I develop a discipleship process while acknowledging the organic nature of making disciples?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing in The Cost of Discipleship, states, “On two separate occasions Peter received the call ‘Follow me.’ It was the first and last word Jesus spoke to His disciple. A whole life lies between these two calls.”

Could it be possible that those two simple, yet profound words hold the key for pastors who are desperately seeking solutions to overcome the dismal state of discipleship in their churches?

The call to Peter – and to other disciples – is one of single-minded obedience. Jesus was asking them – and us – to rely on Christ’s word – the Word of God Himself.

Solution – Intentionally train disciples to do what Jesus did.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Conversion and Discipleship by Bill Hull

Discipleship occurs when someone answers the call to learn from Jesus how to live his or her life—as though Jesus were living it. The end result is that the disciple becomes the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus did.

How the church understands salvation and the gospel is the key to recovering a biblical theology of discipleship. Our doctrines of grace and salvation, in some cases, actually prevent us from creating an expectation that we are to be disciples of Jesus. A person can profess to be a Christian and yet still live under the impression that they don’t need to actually follow Jesus. Being a follower is seen as an optional add-on, not a requirement. It is a choice, not a demand. Being a Christian today has no connection with the biblical idea that we are formed into the image of Christ.

In this groundbreaking new book, pastor and author Bill Hull shows why our existing models of evangelism and discipleship fail to actually produce followers of Jesus. He looks at the importance of recovering a robust view of the gospel and taking seriously the connection between conversion—answering the call to follow Jesus—and discipleship—living like the one we claim to follow.


In Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20, which we refer to as the Great Commission, the primary action is not on going, but making disciples. Whatever making a disciple means, Jesus Himself did it. Whatever a disciple is, the twelve were.

It stands to reason, then, that understanding and practicing the principles that Jesus lived and taught His disciples is a sound starting place to making disciples. 

Develop a plan that follows the lead of Jesus and intentionally train willing disciples to become the kind of people who will naturally do what Jesus did and react the way Jesus did.

Four phases mark Jesus’ discipleship ministry. I think of these as four key invitations.

Come and See – An invitation to explore (John 1:38-39). This was a period when Jesus introduced a group of disciples to his nature and ministry.

Come and Follow Me – An invitation to learn (Mark 1:16-20). In this period, the chosen disciples and other followers left their professions to travel with Jesus.

Come and Be With Me – An invitation to serve (Matthew 9:37-38). During this period, Jesus kept his twelve called disciples with him and concentrated on training them so they could go out and preach.

Remain in Me – An invitation to multiply (John 15:7-8). Jesus introduces the new relationship he will have with his disciples and how they will relate to him as they take over the mission of making disciple. He wants them to know they will have a helper, the Holy Spirit. They will not be left alone; they will have special power to fulfill his instructions.

Bill Hull, Conversion & Discipleship


Conduct a study with your team of each of the four phases of Jesus’ discipleship ministry, beginning with the Scriptures listed above. List each of the four phases on a separate flip chart sheet, including the Scripture reference.

Work through each phase, brainstorming what it would take for your church to launch a disciplemaking emphasis that is built on these four phases. As a part of these discussions, include each of these areas:

  • Preaching – Pastors can often make a bigger difference, faster, than any other person. Develop individual sermons or a series that will encourage the congregation to be aware of, and more importantly, obey, the Great Commission.
  • Small Groups – The best way to reach the most people in the most meaningful way is through the small group. Done correctly, small group involvement makes disciples, identifies leaders, and gives people the relationships and accountability they need.
  • Leadership Development – Through small groups, leaders are identified and can be placed into a leadership development process.

Using your discovery, prayerfully develop 2-4 next steps toward a renewed emphasis on training disciples to do what Jesus did.


Consider this: Jesus only had three years to set a plan in motion that would rescue the world – both His existing world and all the people yet to come. Three years is not a very long time – it’s less than one term of a U.S. president, one-half the term of a U.S. Senator, and just a year longer than one term of a U.S. Congressman.

But Jesus didn’t come to establish a political system to rule over a world. He established a disciplemaking process that changed eternity.

We must be His disciples and make disciples.

Taken from SUMS Remix 36-3, published March 2016

This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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