Lesson 10 Multiplication In Discipleship

“The number of the disciples multiplied” (Acts 6:7). The multiplication process in the disciples of the Lord Jesus began when He called the Twelve (Luke 6:13-16). It increased when He raised up the additional seventy (Luke 10:1). On the Day of Pentecost when the church was formed by the baptism of the Spirit, the number of the disciples gathered was 120 (Acts 1:15). Their ranks soon were increased by thousands (Acts 2:41). As their number and zeal for God increased, their enemies complained, “These men … have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 RSV). They were doing exactly what their Teacher had told them to do. They had gone out into the world and made disciples among the nations.

Making disciples is the expressed will of God (Matt. 28:19). The term disciple is used in Scripture at times as a synonym for any professed Christians (Acts 11:26). However, the Lord Jesus spoke of those who were genuine or true disciples (John 8:31). They had responded to the very strict terms which He laid down in such passages as Luke 14:26-33. Therefore they took heed to His words in the Great Commission, “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). This was more than a call to being a convert or “deciding for Christ.” Disciples, like all living things, are made by God to reproduce themselves.

At the minimum, a disciple should certainly be expected to obey the Lord in baptism, be in active fellowship in the local assembly, and be serving the Lord in accordance with his or her gifts and abilities. The most humble and limited believer can certainly do this much, if willing. It is important for leaders to seek to bring everyone who makes a profession of faith to this minimum standard. That is what has been called “follow up work.” It occurs when a more mature believer accepts the responsibility of helping a new convert make a start in this new life by regularly reading the Word, praying, attending assembly meetings and getting rid of the grave clothes of the former life. The convert’s progress during this period is a good indication of willingness to follow the Lord fully despite any obstacles. It is their own attitude, not our desire, that affects development. Our desire should be to help any believer progress to the fullest extent of which they are capable and willing (Col. 1:28-29).

Beyond this stage of being a somewhat basic disciple is the one who is willing to become a spiritual worker. This entails the willingness of some to invest their lives in helping others be their best for God, just as they have been helped themselves. It also means the ability and dedication to be faithful in helping others become spiritual workers. If we are to make disciples, as the Lord commanded, then we must give ourselves to this ministry of disciplemaking. People are helped by someone, not something. If disciples are made, not born, then there is a need to be doing this. We cannot expect that merely listening to sermons or attending church will make believers into disciples who observe all that the Lord commanded. Some might become prayer warriors or fill some other key function. The final result, however, will be an increase in the number of laborers for Christ.

We face an immense task in the harvest field. It can only be accomplished by an increase of laborers. There are too few of them, according to the Lord Jesus {Matt. 9:37-38). There certainly is a shortage of those responding to the Lord’s invitation to all to become followers. Multiplication of followers who become disciplemakers is crucial to the increase of laborers who will carry out the Lord’s assigned mission. Multiplication is necessary in a world with an exploding population. A penny multiplied each day will exceed a million added each day in less than a month. Converts need to be followed up effectively, then discipled to a higher level of spiritual maturity and effectiveness. Disciplemakers can help believers mature by spiritual parenting (1 Thess. 2:7-12).

The Quality of Multiplying Disciples

There is a great need for people who are sold out to Christ and who have convictions about the kind of life God intended for His people. Such people have a vision of this life as the path to eternal glory. They know that we are merely pilgrims and strangers here on earth (1 Pet. 2:11). Such disciples are voluntarily willing, not compelled or coerced, to live a life of sacrificial devotion to the Lord they love. Even though brilliance and great talents are not necessary, they do need to be willing to obey the Lord and be faithful to Him. What are other characteristics a genuine disciple should display?

1. Love the Lord Jesus above all others (Luke 14:26).

2. Willingly carry their cross to follow Him (Luke 14:27).

3. Hold to His teaching (John 8:31-32), observing all that He has commanded (Matt. 28:20).

4. Love one another (John 13:34-35).

5. Bear fruit (John 15:7-8).

6. Share their faith (witness) effectively (Acts 1:8).

7. Be rooted, built up, established in the faith (Col. 2:7).

8. Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) as Spirit-filled people.

9. Live holy lives, separated unto God (1 Pet. 1:15-16), manifesting Christlike characteristics.

10. Have fruitful, regular devotional times with God {Isa. 50:4-5).

Since the goal of God is to bring every believer to maturity in Christ, in life and ministry, the disciple maker must be willing to labor to this end in helping others by utilizing God’s power (Col. 1:28-29). Indeed, he must have a great vision of a ministry of multiplication of productive disciples. The disciple maker must understand that the most effective means of multiplication are not to be found in techniques, sermon listening or church programs. The discipler must realize that people who are fueled by God’s mighty strength, of which he or she wishes to be included, are the only way of furthering Christ’s commands, reproducing even to the third generation.

The Process of Multiplying Disciples

One must begin right to finish right. Our time is limited and we can only give intensive attention to a very few people. Therefore, it is important to invest precious private time wisely. The Lord Jesus, our example, prayed all night before He selected twelve men {Luke 6:12-13). Some of those we contact may not be ready for special discipling now, but could be ready later. The Lord Jesus took three years to work with His men and even then, they seemed scarcely ready until after His resurrection. It is recommended that you test a person’s faithfulness over a few weeks as you initially meet together.

Effective training can be possible through two mutually complementary means.

Training In Groups

Doctrinal and factual knowledge can be best transmitted in groups. However “sound doctrine” is more than giving sermons to mere listeners (Tit. 2:1-10; 1 Tim. 1:5; 4:6). It must also be taught in a life-changing way by those who model what they teach (2 Tim. 3:10; Phil. 4:9). Ideally, there should be opportunity to interact and respond to the material with a trained discussion leader. Personal study with homework assignments and thought provoking questions will help foster the formation of personal convictions.

Training Individually

Both personal and private counsel and prayer stimulate the growth and development of believers, according to their specific and differing needs. This is a matter of parenting, not manipulating, pushing, intruding and lording it over people (1 Thess. 2:5-11). This is the true arena of disciplemaking.

A disciplemaker should seek to close the gap between what the believer knows and what he needs to be and do. Strong convictions need to be established from the Word. Teaching is best understood when given life to life, not from notebook to notebook. We should deal with issues of the other person’s life; not as someone who has already attained some peak (Phil. 3:12), but as one who is seeking to press upward towards a common goal.

The following Biblical principles will greatly enhance effective individual training:

1. Selection of faithful people willing to commit themselves to the task of ministering to others is basic to the multiplication of disciples. The Master selected and trained 12 to minister to others (Mark 3:14). The importance of careful selection is punctuated by the preceding night spent in prayer (Luke 6:12-13). Paul followed in the Master’s steps and encouraged Timothy to do the same by investing his life in faithful and capable people, who would in turn teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). It has been well said that Jesus loved all, served many, and trained a few.

2. Time Together in order to concentrate our efforts is essential. The Lord appointed His disciples to be “with Him” (Mark 3:14). This training through association took place, not in a classroom setting, but on the job—while traveling and ministering to the multitudes, at meal time, and as the Lord and His disciples retired to private discussion and teaching. Our Lord answered many questions privately arising from His teaching ministry (Luke 8:9-10). Private time is where true friendship can be developed and deeper lessons learned. This time requirement limits the number of people with whom we can work.

3. Demonstration involves joint ministry together. We should be examples (Tit. 2:7-8). In this way we can show in specific, practical ways what needs to be done and how. We can demonstrate servanthood, hospitality, care for others and prayer life. We can show that we really do depend on God. Be a model (2 Tim. 3:10; 1 Cor. 4:16-17).

4. Planning Your Time together makes for greater effectiveness. This step is often neglected entirely. How can we improve what we are doing? What is necessary to deepen the quality of his commitment to Christ?

Major Areas For Growth and Development of Disciples and Workers

The disciplemaker’s planning and working at disciplemaking needs to keep clear objectives before him. We suggest four major areas for growth and development:

1. An Effective Regular Devotional Time with God is absolutely indispensable and non-negotiable. If this battle is not won, the cause is lost. This will require the ability to make a clear personal application from the Word that is directly related to a text of Scripture. When the Holy Spirit uses His Word on the soul and spirit of a responsive disciple, there is meaning, change and growth.

2. Witnessing Or Sharing Our Faith As A Way Of Life is an integral part of disciplemaking. Believers must learn to break any pattern of timidity or apathy in sharing their faith with those in their own circle of relationships. This will require motivation, training and a vision of a lost world without Christ. Demonstration is the best method (Phil. 2:19-22). It is helpful to give training in how to give a testimony and share the Gospel clearly.

3. Character Development is a major part of God’s work in the souls of His people. It must be of primary concern in our ministry (1 Tim. 1:5; Col. 1:28). Unless deficiencies are noted and overcome, as well as strengths sharpened, disciples will pass on their weaknesses and hinder the fruitfulness of those with whom they are working.

4. Ministry Skills are important to perfect. Disciples need to know how to study the Scripture and feed themselves from the Word. This includes accurate and thoughtful study with an intelligent use of study tools. One must know how to use time wisely and to prioritize tasks in order of importance, according to God’s Word. They should understand spiritual gifts and how to use what the Lord has entrusted to them. They should memorize Scripture. It is helpful if they learn basic counseling skills. They may need to improve their ability to effectively communicate conversationally or to teach. The importance of the church as the central unit of God’s work on earth should be made clear. They need to be actively involved in the local assembly.

Resolving Problems in Multiplying Disciples

The path of helping others mature is often a difficult one, requiring careful thought and prayer. Spiritual development is often thought to be based upon the steady increase in factual information about the Scriptures, or mere knowledge. Yet knowledge without personal application and obedience to the truth can be spiritually deadening. Some of the most knowledgeable believers are completely lacking in spiritual power in their lives. Some young and zealous believers, with limited knowledge, can be very effective. Of course, they can also do harm in their zeal. The difference in people is in their commitment to do the will of God in a wholehearted manner. We seek to train those who are committed to God’s interests rather than their own.

The secret of power is in the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives (Zech. 4:6). The truly Spirit-filled person is one who fully yields himself to the work of God without reservation each day and is like clay in the Potter’s hands (Jer. 18:6). His motivation is love for Christ. He labors, with the knowledge that he is accepted already in the finished work of Christ and is fully justified, because he is in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2; Eph. 1:7). He pursues a life of spiritual service out of gratitude to the Lord and in the knowledge of potential reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10,14). Decisions, priorities and lifestyle are based upon these considerations. The Holy Spirit requires that we be holy vessels for His work. Christ is not an “add on” to our lives to make us more comfortable. “Christ is our life” (Col. 3:4). A faithful life is an outflowing of fellowship with Christ, as shown in the illustration of the vine and branches in John 15. It is vital that we persevere in appropriating His strength.

It is good to help less mature believers understand that three great foes—the world (system), the flesh (sinful natures) and the Devil (deceit, temptation)—seek to destroy their usefulness for God. Christ has given us full provision to defeat these foes. They must be appropriated daily, not just admired. Practical problems usually involve these areas:

1. Discouragement.

2. Excessive job demands.

3. Unresolved family problems.

4. Moral impurity.

5. Materialistic preoccupation.

6. Dim vision of the purpose of redeemed lives.

7. Irregular, unfruitful devotional times.

8. Failure to crucify daily the self-life.

9. Educational deficiencies (reading, listening, absorbing).

We must exercise discernment and constant watchfulness, first in our own lives and then in theirs, if we are to recognize symptoms of these problems early in their development (Acts 20:28). We can be most effective if the one being helped feels that we truly care for them in a sacrificial way (Phil. 1:8; Prov. 17:17). They particularly resent being considered as a “project.” Anyone who has helped raise children will understand the need for patience and kindness, as well as firmness, in helping them grow up. The same applies with adults. Our expectations must be realistic. Love is often demonstrated by persevering with people to help them overcome their problems.

At the same time we must convey that through Christ they can be whatever God has called them to be, by His enablement. Excuses which will not be acceptable before the Judgment Seat of Christ should not be used down here. Unfaithfulness, blame-shifting, and lack of genuine honesty in our mutual dealings should not be accepted. A good friend will not insult your intelligence by trying to flatter you or ignore what is wrong. We ought to seek to be respected before being concerned about whether we are liked.

Suppose it becomes obvious that another person does not want to pay the price of being a multiplying disciple. They should not be rejected for that reason on a personal basis. After all, most believers are in this category. God loves them anyway and so should we. At the same time, we cannot justify continuing to pour extra private time into people who are not going to be prepared to sacrifice themselves for others. As gracefully as possible, put your meetings “on hold”; and indicate that both of you need to pray about how the Lord wants you to proceed in the future. Be careful not to convey the attitude of thinking they are permanent failures. Rather, we should pray and convey hope that positive change will occur in the future.

Conclusion

The Lord has called us to make and then multiply disciples, those who are genuine, true followers. They bear His image, serve His interests, glorify His Name. The goal is that one becomes two, then two become four, and so on, to a multiplication of spiritual laborers and worshippers. We want to give opportunity to as many who are willing to pay the price to do this. Investing our lives in training a few, even as we minister more broadly to the many, is not to create a spiritual elite for its own sake, but to accomplish the task which the Lord assigned to us. We understand that God works through spiritual people to accomplish much of His great work in other people. We wish to be a part of that sacred mission.

Lesson 10 Multiplication In Discipleship

1. The Bible speaks of multiplication in two ways: physical (Gen. 1:28) and spiritual (Matt. 13:23; John 15:1-16). The Lord Jesus in John 15 talks about spiritual fruit. How can we be sure that we will be fruitful and that our fruit would remain?

2. Trace the multiplication of Christ’s disciples from the choosing of the Twelve to the Day of Pentecost (Luke 6:13-16; 10:1; Acts 1:15; 2:41).

Of the multitudes that followed Him, upon how many did Jesus concentrate?

3. What practical reasons can you give for concentrating your ministry with one or two people, yet maintain contact with many (Luke 8:49-51; 9:28-36; Mark 14:32-33)?

4. Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and Hebrews 5:12. What are the major reasons listed for lack of effective spiritual reproduction? How can these be avoided in our lives?

5. What do the following verses indicate about spiritual reproduction (Acts 14:21-22; 18:11)?

6. If you are not presently meeting with anyone, what is needed to help you get started?

7. If you are presently meeting with someone on a personal discipleship basis, how well has it progressed in use of time, personal growth and in equipping you to be of help to another person? How have you been influenced by either a meeting or a “role model”?