For well over two decades, Bill Hull’s name has been synonymous with disciple making. His bio speaks to this fact: “Bill’s passion has been to help the church return to its disciple making roots and he considers himself a discipleship evangelist. This God-given desire has manifested itself in twenty years of pastoral service and the authorship of many books. Two of his more important books, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, and The Disciple Making Pastor, have both celebrated 20 years in print with new and expanded editions. Add to this the third in the popular trilogy The Disciple Making Church, and you have a new paradigm for disciple making.”
Stages of Disciplemaking
New Century Disciplemaking is actually a republication of Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, with some additional helps at the end. This work is a fascinating study of how the Lord Jesus went about making disciples over His three-year ministry. Hull believes Jesus equipped His men in several stages: (1) as converts (“Come and see” – period of four months), (2) as disciples (“Come and follow” – period of ten months), and (3) as laborers (“Come and be with me” – period of twenty months), and finally (4) as leaders – on the last day before His crucifixion, He gave the Twelve a set of essential instructions for leadership. In keeping with the biblical wording of the other stages, Hull calls it “You will remain in me.”
Even if you don’t completely agree with Hull’s four neatly packaged stages in Jesus’ ministry, you will most certainly profit from reading this rich study of how Jesus made disciples. Hull extracts numerous transcultural and transgenerational principles from Jesus’ life and ministry. If you haven’t read this fine book previously, I strongly encourage you to do so, and if you read it a number of years ago, I encourage you to pick it up and read it again.
Some favorite quotes from New Century Disciplemaking:
- There is probably no more primary matter of negligence in the Church today than our failure to follow the Lord’s command to develop disciples. Because of this gross neglect, many Christians think of themselves as an audience to be entertained rather than an army ready to march.
- Every Christian needs to take time to select a few people and to determine to spend time teaching them the basic fundamentals, such as Bible study, prayer, outreach and various ministry skills. But we must be careful not only to teach the content but also to model these truths in our lives. The example in outreach is vital; it serves as the catalyst.
- Jesus believed in spiritual multiplication. He took the long view of what was necessary for a strong movement. The patient training of disciples is the only means unanimously endorsed by Scripture for building the Church. In contrast, we see in the twentieth century the shortcut, pragmatic approach. When churches try one crash program after another without strengthening the body of disciples, volumes of time and energy are wasted.
- The main goal in discipleship is to be Christ-like. Only the Spirit can make a disciple; only the Spirit can create Christ-likeness in any person. What the Spirit creates will at times not be in accordance with our master plan, but if the Spirit does it, then it is superior to our plan.
- It is not our responsibility to lead people to Christ. God simply ask us to tell others about Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to take care of the rest. If we obey God with dedication and creativity in our evangelism attempts, then we are successful no matter what the results.
- Let us open our eyes to our neighbors, work colleagues, relatives and those within our sphere of influence, identifying their needs and attempting to approach them with the love of Christ. This will make it possible for them to open up to receive their own deliverance.
- Never ask someone to do something you have not trained him to do. The training begins with our modeling the process itself.
- When people lose vision for ministry, the work becomes cold, hard, and cruel. It is frightening how easily we can be duped by the devil into majoring on the minors, creating strife by nitpicking, and becoming immersed in detail. Every day that this unholy diversion continues, our vision slowly dies.
- The Christian must be established in these four fundamentals: the word, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing. Whatever he becomes in later life, regardless of the skills he acquires, he will be only as strong as he is in the fundamentals. This never changes; there is no other way to become a consistent disciple.
- In the spiritual realm there are two primary ways to grow. The first is through trouble and trials (Romans 5:3-4, James 1:2-4). But how many of us want to sit around and wait for trouble before we can grow? Oh, it will come, but depending on trouble for growth is definitely a negative approach. The other option is stepping out in faith and experiencing the positive aspects of ministry. This second method is the one Jesus modeled for his men.
- Jesus demonstrated that fishing for men means going where they are. If people feel accepted, then they will relax and open up, which would be very unlikely if a judgmental attitude were communicated to them.
- Jesus needed fellowship with his father because he was on the front lines of ministry. The disciples needed fellowship with Jesus and one another because they were in the heat of the battle. Spirit controlled believers who communicate with God and do his will need fellowship in order to be sustained in their daily lives.
- A disciple needs to share what God is teaching him – fresh insights from the word and answers to pray. This kind of sharing will encourage others to develop a close walk with God.
- Jesus withdrew from the needy crowds because of his own needs. He took his disciples off on retreat on a regular basis. They needed time alone for rest, relaxation, and recharging their spiritual reserves. There is an axiom that describes the need for retreating: come apart or you will come apart. Ministry is not a spring; it is a long distance event.
- When your disciples see you react to both victory and crisis with prayer, they will become impressed with the priority of prayer.
- The major difference between a disciple (someone established in God’s word, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing) and a laborer is primarily that the laborer has developed deep convictions about reaching the world. Some call it vision; others refer to it as a as a burden for the loss – a deep abiding conviction that the world must be reached for God.
- Jesus called all twelve to be with him. This rag-tag band of misfits turned the world upside-down, most of them dying as martyrs. What set them apart was that they were attracted to Jesus and they weren’t afraid to show it. A disciple should always look for those who are willing to come apart from the crowd, desiring to make their lives completely for Christ.
- The proof of salvation is not a quick emotional response or a temporary faith that evaporates at the first sign of difficulty. The proof, according to Jesus, is fruit. “By their fruit you will recognize the” (Matthew 7:20).
- Today’s convert is tomorrow’s disciple and next year’s laborer and leader. The spiritual multiplication through the effort of laborers is God’s perfect plan for reaching the world.
- There is now in process a major shift in many churches of the Western world – a shift from clergy-centered ministry to a ministry of laymen equipped for service. … The goal of many individual churches to transform a congregation of spectators being led by a minister into an army of ministers being led by a pastor.
- I meet weekly with laborers who are training disciples in small-group settings. These laborers fill out reports, answer questions, and share their joys and concerns. A lot of troubleshooting is done in this context, and together we learn from each other’s successes and failures. If there were no meetings and no accountability, the quality of disciple making would be greatly diminished.
- What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means to think like Jesus and to act like Jesus. But there is one more aspect we must consider: to invest like Jesus. God gave us a life to spend, not to save. Investment refers to the wise expenditure of one’s life. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35.)
- It is easy to get excited about those who are being established, the equipped laborers who arise, and the leaders who emerge from our work. But we must never forget that the primary goal of our ministry is the salvation of people. If discipleship does not include evangelism, it doesn’t deserve the name discipleship.
- Leaders must all beware the subtle plaque of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Our foremost impediment is pride – thinking that somehow we are better than our Master. But we should not focus on having power over others; rather, we should focus on serving others.
- The Master anchored his men in the only secure harbor. He told them to place their confidence in God alone, for both the present and the future. He demonstrated that only in active humility and love can a laborer become an effective leader of others.
- If you had only a few hours left on earth to cement a limited number of truths in your disciples, what would those principles be? For Jesus those principles all focused on qualities that he himself exhibited, such as humility, love, and obedience. The Master encouraged his eleven leadership candidates to be spiritually in tune with him so that they would be in tune with God (John 14:6-14).
- Jesus revealed to his disciples the most dynamic information yet in the graphic allegory of the vine and the branches. The fruitful Christian life, the ability to lead, and the possession of joy are rooted in him. He is the organic link to God and to our fulfillment.