Disciple-making begins with sharing the gospel with non-Christians. When a lost person receives salvation, their first defined act of public obedience is baptism. The growth process includes teaching – turning new converts into fully devoted Jesus followers – and continues for a lifetime. The ultimate goal of this maturing process is believers sharing the gospel with others as partners in the mission of expanding God’s kingdom around the world.
When discipleship is self-focused it results in Christians who define commitment by how many courses they have completed, notebooks they have filled with insights, Bible verses they have memorized, Christian books they have read, and how many Christian activities they attend. Learning new insights and participating in Christian ministries is important, but these goals are not the end-game of what it means to be a fully devoted Jesus follower.
Disciples are people who have joined Jesus (and his followers) in their co-mission to reach more and more people with the gospel. Discipleship has come full circle when a new convert becomes an effective participant in reaching others with the gospel. Disciple-making is not about pouring into other believers. It’s about pouring through other believers to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to take the gospel to every person in the world. Disciples are fully mature when they fulfill their responsibility to go global.
Going global does not mean every disciple becomes a missionary in the traditional sense. It does mean, however, that every mature disciple has the world in view and makes lifestyle choices – like about their use of time and money – toward the goal of global gospel-saturation. Disciples are Christians who know God’s ultimate purpose is gathering people for his eternal companionship from every tribe, people, nation, and tongue. They know this is God’s purpose and align themselves – in every way possible – with His purpose.
When a discipleship-renewal takes place in a church, one good way to measure it is the number of baptisms the church performs. Another good way is the attendance at various opportunities for learning and service. But don’t forget the final measure – the number of believers who consistently share the gospel locally and advocate for sharing the gospel globally. Disciple-making must always keep this ultimate goal in mind.