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The Stages of Disciple Making: Go and Make Disciples (Part 5)

(Here is Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 in this series on the stages of disciple making.) 

The fifth phase is the replication phase. Disciples need to be sent out to become disciple makers themselves. They have been trained to be like their teacher (Luke 6:40). Note, the multiplication phase continues to require growth—we multiply while maturing—because we do not fully arrive in this life. In fact, to get to the next phase of maturity, we need to multiply because a certain amount of maturity is only achieved in the midst of the challenges of being a disciple maker.

Jesus describes this phase succinctly in John 20:21:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

And in the great commission of Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus gives us the important details of what is involved in the commission of a disciple maker.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As described earlier, we have found that these verses provide a surprising amount of clarity on disciple making. Jesus sends his disciples out to make disciples—after he has shown them how to make disciples. Stated differently, Jesus gave the commission after showing his apostles how to fulfill it.

Please note some key elements from within the text of the great commission itself.

There is one key command—“make disciples”—and four supporting parts to that command (according to the Greek):[1]

  • Go
  • Baptize
  • Teach Obedience
  • Remember

We send people out to make disciples as Jesus made disciples.

#1 – Go

They are to go with a goal of making other disciples. Like Jesus, it starts as we go and enter into the lives of people. God has a heart for every people group on planet earth. He wants us to go and enter into the lives of people both near and far. As God’s motivation was his love (John 3:16), so ours is love. There is nothing more loving than making disciples.

#2 – Baptize

Jesus told us to baptize people because baptism, as a personal expression of faith, inaugurates a person into the possession of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[2] It marks conversion—which is both to salvation in Jesus and to a new life as a disciple of Jesus. Conversion and baptism are not the goal, but the starting point as a person starts the disciple’s journey.

#3 – Teach Obedience

Jesus taught obedience-based disciple making. He did not commission his disciples to just teach his commands (as we often do today).[3] He commissioned His disciple makers to teach obedience to all of his commands. So disciple making must include the practical aspect of obedience—what it is and how to do it. The commission envisions development, after baptism, as disciples learn to obey all that Jesus taught (sanctification).

#4 – Remember

There is an expression in Greek found in verse 20 that literally says “and remember.” This expression, often translated, “behold,” or “surely” (NIV) often loses its force. We would state the expression this way today: “Hey, remember.” Jesus wanted to punctuate for us the importance of remembering that he is present with us in disciple making. He wants us to note and remember his presence: disciple makers never go out by themselves alone.

Those four expressions are helpful to note in disciple making.

And, again, we are best served if we remember that Jesus commissions us to follow his method of disciple making. He taught his disciples the supremacy of agape love (John 13:34–35) and then he commissioned them (and us) to go and make disciples just like he did.

How do we apply the principles from this phase today?

The most important part about commissioning disciple makers is that, like Jesus, we have intentionally developed and led them to the point to where they are spiritually and practically ready, with strategies and knowledge, to become disciple makers. This is a relational, life-on-life process that takes time.

The apostles had one another so they could help and support each other as they lived out this commissioning phase. We too should walk closely with those we send out. And all disciple-makers will continue to need support and help from other disciple-makers. We will all need each other until the end.

Key points in the fifth phase:

  • Do your best to make sure that people are both spiritually ready (it is about the kingdom of God) and practically ready (they know what to do) before you send them out.
  • Pray for them and support them and remind them to rely on God through the Holy Spirit.
  • Keep them focused on the basics that disciple making includes an emphasis on baptizing people into Christ and teaching them to obey all of Jesus’ teachings.
  • Seek to ensure your disciples are ready; spiritual adults and spiritual parents should be the focus for this phase.

I hope that you have found this description of the phases in making disciple makers helpful. I summarize the five phases in the following manner.

  1. The “Come and See” Phase – John 1:39–4:46
  2. The “Come and Follow Me” Phase – Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:16–18
  3. The “Come and Be with Me” Phase – Mark 3:13-14; Luke 6:12–16
  4. The “Come Take Up Your Cross” Phase – Mark 8:27–38; Matthew 16:13–27
  5. The “Go and Make Disciples” Phase – Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; Mark 16:15–16

For a practical guide on how to make disciples today, see the book I wrote with Josh Patrick, The Disciple Makers Handbook: Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle (Zondervan, 2017). Click here to purchase on Amazon.com.


[1] See especially David Young, King Jesus and the Beauty of Obedience Based Discipleship (Zondervan, 2020). The participles in vv. 19–20 are subordinate to the command “make disciples” and explain how disciples are made. The first of these involves going and then the initiation into discipleship and the others focus on sanctification or obedience. See Craig Blomberg, Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992), 431.

[2] See Twist, Harrington, and Young, Baptism: What the Bible Teaches (Renew, 2019).

[3] For the encouraging teachings on this point, see David Young, King Jesus and the Beauty of Obedience Based Discipleship (Zondervan, 2020).

(From discipleship.org. Used with permission.)

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