A Word That Is Weird, Compelling, and Contagious

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I’ve been thinking about disciplemaking a lot lately.

That’s probably not too surprising, seeing as how I’m writing this for a blog called “The DiscipleMaker.” Between here, my work on the various resources published by NavPress, and my involvement with the disciplemaking mission of The Navigators, I hear and see the words “making” and “disciples” in close proximity to one another more than pretty much any pair of words I can think of.

So, a lot of my brain space is occupied by disciplemaking. Bully for me, I guess. As it happens, disciplemaking is not common language. Most people never come across it in casual conversation—even over donuts in the church lobby or in small group Bible studies. Disciplemaking is, by and large, an unspoken assumption, an implicit aim of God’s people that is rarely made explicit.

I’ve actually been in meetings in the past where we’ve wondered out loud if the word disciple is even intelligible anymore. There could hardly be a more biblical word, and yet it turns out the Bible is pretty much the only place most people run across it. Everywhere else, increasingly, the word elicits a blank stare, a furrowed brow, a “What in the world are you talking about” expression.

If the only place you are likely to find a word is in the Bible, it’s probably an important word.

For The Navigators, disciplemaking is a lifestyle, the logical extension of a profession of faith. If you follow Jesus, this is what you’re following him into. It involves five things:

  1. Walking with Jesus.
  2. Knowing and living the Scriptures.
  3. Participating in Christian community.
  4. Engaging those who don’t know Christ.
  5. Reproducing spiritual generations.

It’s the spiritual generations bit that confuses everyone. Like disciplemaking, that’s uncommon language. It’s meant to suggest that the normal Christian life involves a regular pattern of real, actual people growing in these five traits as an outcome of their encounters with you and, through you, God.

But with the exception of “reproducing spiritual generations,” I’m struck how down-to-earthy the language of these traits is. Disciplemaking as a word is strange for many people, but a lifestyle of disciplemaking is surprisingly common—it’s doable, observable, reproducible.

That’s part of the genius of the gospel, I think. Jesus has done for us what we can’t do for ourselves—he has borne our sin and defeated death. But he has invited us to do with him what he wants for all of us, to seed the world with the life that comes from walking with him, from honing our instincts according to the Scriptures, from gathering together in his name and under his authority, by loving our neighbors as ourselves, and by having a vision of eternal life that is compelling and contagious.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot about disciplemaking lately. Because it’s such a rewarding thing to think about.

David Zimmerman
David Zimmerman

is in his 28th year in the Christian publishing industry and serves as the NavPress publisher. He leads the team in acquiring and developing new NavPress resources and building on the strength of a robust backlist catalog, including the bestselling Message Bible.

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