In the context of this teaching, when I say the word “charismatic” I am not being negative about the Pentecostal experiences of moving in the gifts of the spirit. I am referring to a typical charismatic structure related to the culture, governance, and methodologies that pervades many of the churches in the world that are considered part of the apostolic movement.

Most people in the apostolic movement only understand the five-fold ministry individualistically. However, it is possible to have an individual (functional) apostle leading a church with a prophetic, evangelistic, or pastoral wineskin. However, unless the structure is apostolic you will not produce apostolic fruit.

Jesus said, follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men. The key phrase here, “to become”, implies a process. This is much different from the contemporary church model which is event driven. Jesus expects our churches to be process driven which has to do with teaching, accountability, small groups, and doing life together. This passage also shows the need for another person to speak into a disciple in the context of community for them to have spiritual formation.

Jesus called his followers disciples, which has to do with sitting under another person as a student in the context of community. These disciples are the only ones serious enough to warrant a person to invest their time in them. Paul instructed his protege Timothy the attitudinal and capacity criteria for selecting a potential disciple to invest in:

2 Timothy 2:1-7 says:

“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

Discipleship is tough. Disciples have to have the attitude and diligence of a soldier, athlete, and a hardworking farmer. They also have to be faithful, capable, and able to communicate the gospel clearly to others.

The progression from believing to being disciples

The sermon the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost shows that those who received his word and were saved weren’t yet called disciples.

Acts 2:41 says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Acts 5:14 says, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women”.

Note, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, did not refer to any of the believers as disciples up until this point. It seems as though they weren’t using the word disciples until Acts chapter 6:7, when the leadership team was increased, “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem”.

How did they go from being a mere “believer” to becoming a disciple?

Acts 2:42 illustrates that in order to be a disciple, they had to submit to a pattern of living and teaching, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Hence, they did not just attract crowds but submitted to them a process whereby they can become committed disciples of the Lord. Jesus built the church on disciples — the apostles did the same.

We even see the pattern of Paul the apostle when he went into a new territory, he either looked for disciples and/or made disciples. Paul did not initially set out to plant churches but to plant the gospel by making disciples!

Acts 19:1 says, “And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.”

Acts 14:21-23, 28 illustrates the methodology of Paul:

“When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed….when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples”.

Truly, the focus of the Book of Acts is on disciple making — not planning huge events or planting churches. If the goal is to merely plant a church, then you will just desire to gather a crowd and build big buildings. If the goal is to make disciples, you will create a Jesus community that will become a significant church because its culture is based on discipline, love, service and mission.

If you are interested in the subject of discipleship, order Joseph Mattera’s latest book “The Jesus Principles“, available on Amazon.