How Jesus Made Disciples



Photo by mallix.

Jesus final instruction to his followers was “go and make disciples”. Since he didn’t give them a syllabus, a PowerPoint or a lesson guide for 2000 years we’ve been wrestling with the “what” question of disciple making; What does a disciple need to know? We’ve tried catechisms, Sunday School classes and video curriculum to convey the correct information with varying degrees of success. The reality, however, is that Jesus method of making disciples was focused more on relationship and action and less on information and knowledge. The key is the “how” question, How did Jesus make disciples?

  • Jesus spent time observing potential disciples

He spent time interacting with potential disciples in a variety of situations before tapping them for further development

  • Jesus taught discipleship along the way

Rather than classrooms, books and exercises Jesus used birds and lilies and farms to teach discipleship. Discipleship was a natural outgrowth of hanging out together.

  • Jesus put his students into difficult situations

He constantly challenged them to lead beyond their comfort zones.

  • Jesus did not give his students a template to follow, he gave them a mission to complete
  • Jesus treated each disciple as an individual

He confronted Peter, he loved John, he challenged Thomas. In his final words on the beach in John 21 he told Peter that everyone has their own, individualized path to discipleship

  • Jesus spent three years developing 12 men

He apparently couldn’t come up with a mass program of microwave discipleship. Not only did his program take three years with 12 students, but it was 24/7/365.

Could our struggle to make quality disciples come from focusing so much on what Jesus said that we miss what Jesus did? Curriculum is easy; life-on-life relational discipleship is difficult, slow and frustrating. And, in the end, the only way to make disciples.

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About Geoff Surratt

Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Sherry. (CEO of MOPS International) Geoff and Sherry have two awesome kids (Mike and Brittainy), a wonderful daughter-in-law (Hilary) and the most beautiful granddaughters on earth (Maggie Claire and Mollie Rose) Geoff has served on staff at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church. He now serves as Pastor of Church Planting at Southeast Christian in Parker, Colorado as well coaching churches and leaders around the country. He blogs at Inner Revolution.

  • Todd Miechiels


    Amen, Amen, and Amen!

    I’m a layman who received a calling to help lead people out of their comfort zone by taking a 2,000 year old command, and combining it with two of the most terrifying things the average adult could ever face; publicly sharing their faith, and sitting in front of a video camera doing it!

    It’s called and it has enormous potential impact on individuals, churches, and the Body to make disciples who make disciples.

    I’ve received a clear vision and calling and am praying for God to bring collaborators with gifts of communication, and organization that can help me best steward what I’ve been given.

    I hope to hear from you and learn how what we are doing can be the maximum blessing in the short time I’ll have here to plant it.


  • Don Detrick

    I love this post, Geoff. You’ve expressed thoughts that have been ruminating in my spirit for some years now. Jesus spent 24/7 with 12 guys for 3 years. They were not polished or sophisticated, but the world took notice because they had been with Jesus. The whole process of discipleship with them was very fluid and organic. I’ve written a book on this topic, coming out next year, titled “Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Discipleship.” In it I leverage my years as a pastor and denominational leader, along with my experiences growing up on a farm to explore the metaphors Jesus used in the Gospels to compel growth in those around him. It’s not a program, but it is a process involving faith, life, and community.

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  • pastor prosper

    There will never be another you,so make the most of your life. There will never be another time ,so make the best of it today and make a mark in your own generation.

  • Glen Copple

    Here’s a solution, but we need your help to get people started on it. Study every event in Jesus’ live and let Him change us from the inside out.

    Getting To Know Jesus is a complete non-denominational Bible study of every event in Jesus’ life. He is our LORD, Savior and role model. Let’s become like the early Apostles by returning to and following Jesus’ example.

    Download Getting To Know Jesus – Volume 01 eBook free of charge at You can put it on your smart phone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, etc. and study the entire life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Please share this with all of your friends.

  • Jeremy Geerdes

    In general, these are tremendous insights. Right in line with what I’ve been discovering as I research Jesus’ methods of discipleship. I agree wholeheartedly that we have focused far too much on the academic side of discipleship while almost entirely ignoring the practical side. The gospel writers, though, recorded very subtle – and often surprising – details that remind us that Jesus didn’t just tell them: he showed them. So I guess that, if there was one thing that I would challenge in the post, it is the notion that Jesus did not provide a template to follow. In reality, isn’t that exactly what he did when he called his disciples? Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew all received the same basic invitation: follow me. In other words, Jesus himself is to be the template to follow. And the implicit challenge of this call to discipleship was that, eventually, the disciples would be the template to follow, too. Paul understood this. In Phil 3:12ff, he admitted that he had not yet achieved the goal of utter perfection, but nevertheless invited his readers in vs 17 to imitate him as he imitated Christ. But he also added something else that surely reminded them – and us – that he wasn’t the only one to be imitated. He said, “Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” In other words, imitate anyone else who is further along in their pursuit of Jesus, too. The natural extension of this statement is that we should expect people who are not as far along in the faith as we are to observe and imitate us as well. So Jesus was the template, Paul was the template, and we are each the template to follow. Not so much to define an academic curriculum of sorts, but to practically demonstrate the life.

    Perhaps that doesn’t make all that much sense. I don’t know. All I know is that Jesus did provide a template to follow: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Mark 1:17 HCSB)

    I recently did a presentation on this very matter. Not that it’s exhaustive (or even any good), but here is a link to my presentation notes and resources:

  • gregg farah

    Geoff, thanks for this! While I’m always searching for (or trying to create) the perfect resource, this is a great reminder of what matters most.

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