Image for The Stages of Disciple Making: “Come and Be with Me” (Part 3)

The Stages of Disciple Making: “Come and Be with Me” (Part 3)

Photo of Bobby HarringtonBobby Harrington | Bio

Bobby Harrington

Bobby is the point-leader of and, both collaborative, disciple-making organizations. He is the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (by the Harpeth River, just outside of Nashville, TN). He has an M.A.R. and an M.Div. from Harding School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of more than 10 books on discipleship, including Discipleshift (with Jim Putman and Robert Coleman), The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (with Josh Patrick) and Becoming a Disciple Maker: The Pursuit of Level 5 Disciple Making (with Greg Weins). He lives in the greater Nashville area with his wife and near his children and grandchildren.

(Here is Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.) 

The third phase in which Jesus raised up disciple makers is punctuated by a night of prayer. Luke 6:12-13 shows this inflection point—in a ministry that began with forty days of fasting and prayer and regularly showed a daily focus on prayer—as Jesus seeks the Father’s guidance before selecting the Twelve.

“In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”

It is hard to over-emphasize Jesus’ dependence on prayer as he made disciple makers. We do not know exactly what Jesus was praying about, but there is a clear connecting from his time of extended prayer (and staying up all night) and the 12 men that he chose to be disciple makers.

These men are called apostles. From this point forward these men will be the focus of his time and effort. There are three in whom Jesus will most deeply invest–Peter, James, and John. Bill Hull describes the nature of Jesus’ selection:

“Jesus was willing to disappoint hundreds of disciples who just wanted to be near him, to literally touch him. He could have chosen them all and they all would have said yes. But Jesus had a plan, he knew what was ahead, he knew many wouldn’t make it.”[1]

From this point forward, Jesus entrusts them with the message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), they watch him being anointed by the sinful woman (Luke 7), and travel throughout Galilee together (Luke 8:1–3). He teaches parables publicly and then explains them in private to the twelve (Luke 8; Matthew 13). He exposes them to various miracles and circles back to them to see what they understand with regularity. Jesus’ concentration on the three (and the Twelve) show leaders today the importance of an intense focus on developing leaders.

How do we apply the principles from this phase today?

The first and most important lesson from this phase is how to select the right kinds of people to be leaders. It is grounded first in prayer. Secondly it is grounded in praying about people that you have come to know. We have a great acronym that may help you select future leaders in which you will invest yourself: F.A.T.S.O. people

  • Faithful (Luke 5:4–5)
  • Available (Luke 5:1–3)
  • Teachable (Luke 5:6–10a)
  • Sendable (Luke 10:1–4) and
  • Obedient (Matthew 28:19–20)

Jesus surfaced a focused leadership team and prioritized them. Selecting the right people may be the most important decision a disciple making leader makes.

Secondly, I think Jesus was clear about why he was investing in the twelve. The word apostle in Greek means sent out. We think it is important to be clear about our intentions, and to do so early on. “I want to spend extra time with you so that we can grow closer and I can help you to become a disciple maker,” are words we might use. You establish the relationship as something that will result in your disciples being sent out.

Thirdly, during this phase we want to not only expose and teach our future disciple makers to the teachings of Jesus, we want to be constantly debriefing them so that they gain practical and strategic guidance on what we are doing. Disciple making models should not just involve teaching and imitation, but also coaching, explanation and “the debrief.” Here is a simple but life changing formula.

  • I do. You watch. We talk.
  • I do. You help. We talk.
  • You do. I help. We talk.
  • You do. I watch. We talk.
  • You do. Someone else watches. I do. Someone else watches.

The expression “we talk” is key—we are intentionally and regularly establishing a disciple maker’s DNA every time we do that.

Key points in the third phase:
  • In-depth prayer should guide those seeking to select disciple makers in this phase.
  • Chose those who are FATSO people.
  • Be explicit about your intention to send these people out as disciple makers.
  • Be intentional about debriefing and explaining why you do what you do for your apprentice.
  • Mature spiritual children (ready for the next growth phase) and young adults are most common in this phase, but it can also include mature adults and spiritual parents who have been discipled in other churches or contexts before you got to know them personally.

[1] Bill Hull, Conversion and Discipleship (Zondervan, 2016), 230.

(From Used with permission.)