The word “discipleship” isn’t used in the Bible.
I was recently reading the book 4-Chair Discipling by Dann Spader and learned that the word “discipleship” was first coined in the 1850’s by a man named Charles Adams who was trying to emphasize the importance of what he called “the second half” of the Great Commission1.
A popular online dictionary defines discipleship this way,
“The condition or situation of being a disciple, a follower, or a student of some philosophy”.
Discipleship is defined as “a condition” and by definition, it is a passive word. At Groundswell we prefer the phrase “disciple making” over “discipleship”.
This may sound like splitting hairs but words matter, and rather than viewing the first half of the Great Commission as “evangelism” and the second half as “discipleship”, we integrate the two with the phrase “disciple making”.
Even the folks over at discipleship.org would agree (see here).
Disciple making is a verb. It’s active in nature, and evangelism is a vital part of the process.
Disciple Making Starts with “Go”!
Matthew 28:18-20 tells us, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. The primary verb in this passage is to “make disciples” and it’s a three-part process.
First, Jesus tells us to “go”.
Disciple making starts with “go” (or “as you are going” in the original Greek). It begins by building relationships with lost people. It’s a mistake to think we can ONLY disciple those who are a part of the body of Christ.
Second, Jesus tells us to “baptize”.
Relational evangelism should move people toward a moment of decision and surrender, and baptism is the natural result. Making disciples includes helping people place their trust in Jesus.
Third, Jesus tells us to “teach them to obey”.
Teaching obedience is different than teaching information. The Great Commission tells us to teach people “to obey”. Baptism is only the first step. New disciples must learn how to both trust AND follow Jesus in every area of their life.
Our simple definition of disciple making is this,
”Building a relationship with someone (go) and helping them learn how to trust (baptize) and follow (teach them to obey) Jesus”.
In this article, I want to share my “Top 10 List” of inspiring quotes on the Great Commission. They are a reminder that disciple making starts with “go”!
Great Commission Quotes
1. “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Carl F.H. Henry
There is an urgency to disciple making.
I recently uncovered this website that provides a “death clock” showing the number of people who die each day.
A few of my greatest regrets in life have been missed opportunities to share the gospel. Not only does the gospel save us from eternal separation from Christ, but also frees us from slavery and addiction to sin.
2. “We talk of the second coming, half the world has never heard of the first.” Oswald J. Smith
Oswald Smith was a great Canadian pastor and author, and traveled the world to recruit missionaries to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. This quote reminds me of the unfinished task of evangelism. There are still more than 40% of people living on planet earth who have not yet heard the message of Jesus.
I would highly recommend learning more at this website, The Joshua Project.
3. “Airplanes were invented for missionaries to complete the Great Commission.” Loren Cunningham
Loren Cunningham is the former director of YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and I appreciate his perspective on innovation and technology. Every new invention has the potential to spread the gospel message further and faster.
Today we are living in a hyper-connected, digital revolution and every new innovation should be leveraged for disciple making.
4. “Don't let your church be a cul-de-sac on the Great Commission highway.” Ed Stetzer
This happens far too often.
Churches are planted with a vibrant mission to reach the lost and make disciples. But far too often, they become stagnant. This cul-de-sac analogy reminds me that there is a natural atrophy that can occur in ministry and evangelism is always the first value to “leak”.
Let’s stay on mission.
5. “Missionary zeal does not grow out of intellectual beliefs or theological arguments, but out of love.” – Roland Allen
What motivates you?
This quote reminds me to cultivate a deep and abiding love for God and others. Love is the great motivator in disciple making. There have been times I’ve share my faith with impure motives. Love should be the foundation.
Do we truly love our neighbors?
6. “Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.” Charles Studd
Charles or CT as he was often called (I would have gone by “Studd” if given the chance), was a British missionary that served in China, Africa, and other parts of the world. I love the heart of this quote and his bias.
We need more people willing to run rescue shops “within a yard of hell”.
7. “The Great Commission will not be fulfilled with our spare time or spare money.” David Kim
This quote convicts me of my priorities.
I must consistently renew my passion for Jesus and his heart for the lost. Disciple making must be the “main thing” overshadowing everything else.
8. “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.” John Wesley
This is one of my favorite quotes.
It might not specifically refer to the Great Commission, but it gives insight into the deep need for more men and women of passion, conviction, and desire. Wesley is appealing to a life cultivated by worship, prayer, the Word, community, and abiding with Christ.
9. “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” Hudson Taylor
If we aren’t making disciples we are disobedient to the commands of Christ. I share this quote often and it reminds me of my priorities.
10. “Prayer is the mighty engine that is to move the missionary work.” A.B. Simpson
This final quote is huge. AB Simpson was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and had a deep heart for prayer.
Prayer is the primary force undergirding any disciple-making movement or missionary endeavor. It is “a mighty engine” and without it, nothing of eternal significance will ever take place.
Recently a few friends of mine published a book called “The E-Word" (you can buy it here) and on the back cover they wrote a statement in bold print, “Evangelism is a dying art”.
It’s easy to capitulate to the cultural pressures of our day. In the United States 47% of Millennials believe it is “flat-out wrong” to evangelize, 60% of all adults believe any attempt to convert another person is “extreme”, and 83% of non-religious adults believe the same2.
But you can’t make disciples without evangelism.
It is the first step in a long process that helps people put their trust in Jesus and follow him as Lord through a lifetime of obedience.
Disciple making starts with “go”!
Spader, D. (2014). 4-Chair Discipling. What Jesus Calls Us to Do. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, p. 96.
Hilson, M. & Hunnicutt, C. (2022). The E-Word, An Evangelistic Manifesto. La Plata, MD: self published, p. 11.