Vital Elements of a Disciplemaker

Dawson Trotman, the founder of The Navigators, often posed the question: “Are we still engaged in making disciples the way Jesus laid out in the Great Commission? It’s a question that bears repeating today: as believers, are we investing deeply in the next generation of Christ-followers? Are we discipling others well?

When we view the disciplemaking of Jesus, we can see numerous principles that undergird the model He set out for us. But as I’ve reflected on disciplemaking over the years, I’ve narrowed it to six vital elements that help us gauge how closely we are walking in Jesus’ footsteps as disciplemakers.* 

First, disciplemaking must be intentional.  This means scheduling consistent time to meet with those we are discipling and always including prayer and the Scripture in our time together.

If we are to disciple others as Jesus did, we must also be highly relational. When Jesus called His disciples, Mark 3:14 says that His purpose was for them “to be with Him.”  This means disciplemaking is more than a transfer of information. It is the transfer of life—which happens relationally. Another verse that speaks to this is Paul’s words to the Thessalonians, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well”(1 Thess. 2:8).

Our disciplemaking must also be biblical. Scripture changes the life of a believer, which is why Jesus prayed these words to the Father for His disciples: “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17 NLT).

Effective disciplemaking is also personal. We must relate to people as people, not as projects, and tailor our investment in them to fit their unique needs and situation. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach, but one that considers each person as uniquely made by God, with their own story.

Our investment in others should be pass-on-able, creating a ripple effect outward. If the people we are discipling are going to disciple others, the tools and wisdom we give them needs to be simple and easy to replicate.

Finally, our aim for disciplemaking should be generational. Spiritual generations are God’s answer to a broken world, as represented in Jesus’ prayer in John 17: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20).

Pam and I are constantly referring to the example of Jesus as we seek to help others grow spiritually. Even now, as we build relationships with neighbors, we are being refined by the Holy Spirit in each of the traits listed above.  We recently began The 2:7 Series® with neighbors who long to know Christ more. Pam and I are meeting with some of them individually to pray, read Scripture, and tackle life issues.

Even so, we have found there is no such thing as autopilot when it comes to disciplemaking. We must earnestly rely on the Holy Spirit to equip and instruct us in the way of Jesus. We must hold our efforts and intentions with open hands, asking God to lead us as disciplemakers for His glory.

* A great resource on this topic is Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism.


  1. Thank You so much for posting the elements of Love for people as Jesus did. Sometimes we lose sight of how to be fishers of men. It is all about Jesus love for each person. ” With love and kindness have I drawn thee” Thank You so much. When God opens the door for me a speak to His people I would like to use each reference point you have written about and lived.

  2. Doug, I sincerely appreciate these wise and concise thoughts on Discipling. May I ask an honest question?
    Could you please elaborate a little bit on your first statement: “First, disciplemaking must be intentional. This means scheduling consistent time to meet with those we are discipling and always including prayer and the Scripture in our time together?”
    Could you clarify (what it may look like?) “Schedule” and “always” from your perspective as it coexists with your other fine (five) points? Thank-you for considering. I was just thinking about Jesus, and going deeper in these points.

  3. We meet with 7 couples from our church and share BS leadership,and serve the community. If my wife and I did not approach each year of BS… intentionally, encouraging them in the direction of discipleship, they would not understand why they sense the Holy Spirit is not content with their praying for the sick, faithfully serving the church and family prayer request. Although these are all good things and praise worthy. Lorne Sanny gave a message called Going Far Enough for the Fun. The fun is being there, being used, watching, encouraging, praying as Jesus changes lives, including your own life. What is the Law of Christ?

  4. Oh my Lord and My God! How you speak to me! I was just relating (not 20 seconds before I started reading this email) with a missionary friend of mine that I need help with discipling. And then I opened this email. I now can tweak what I do and have some direction to go forward.

  5. With the virus, I have had to Go to old fashioned letter writing to guys in the local prison. What an unexpected joy to get handwritten letters back. Kind of reminds of when I was a kid going to the mailbox and seeing a letter for ME.

  6. Thank you for this post. I am curious about the 27 series… our big church has had such a hard time with discipleship over the years. I think a solid curriculum is an important link that we need to unify our ministry.

  7. Awesome, just spoke with my little brother yesterday, who said he left the church because,”I didn’t feel invested in it cared about.” Spirit-led discipleship is so key.

    1. Very concise and thorough. Passing this info on to several believing inmates that are interested in discipling fellow inmates.

Leave a Reply

By commenting, you agree to our Code of Conduct.