Making Disciple-Making Disciples

Making disciple-making disciples (or making DMD’s) sounds redundant.

Yet, very few are actually doing what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28:18-20. Instead, the commission to “make disciples” is often interpreted in one of two ways:

  1. Some “make disciples” by making converts and then outsourcing their “discipleship” to a church program.
  2. Others gather converts together and attempt to “go deeper” but place no emphasis on being a witness to their neighbor.

This is the danger of separating evangelism and discipleship. The former is engaged in evangelism, the latter is engaged in what he or she believes to be discipleship. Evangelism without discipleship isn’t evangelism. Disciple making without evangelism isn’t disciple making.

That’s why we need to recapture a true understanding of what it means to make disciples.

Discipleship Training or Transforming Disciples?

“Discipleship training” is usually a class that informs our knowledge of God but it doesn’t always encourage us to live for God.

Making DMD’s is a much more robust commitment to the spiritual transformation of another. When Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples, He was basically telling them to make disciple-making disciples. Just as Jesus invested in them, now they were to invest in others.

Matthew 28:20 was a charge to the disciples to teach more disciples to observe all that Jesus commanded (ie “Love God,” “Love people,” and, oh yeah, “Make disciples!”).

Paul also reminds us of this in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

Making DMD’s isn’t just about teaching, it’s about a lifestyle that invites others into your life. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” This goes beyond the important teaching aspect to the equally important but much more scary lifestyle of making disciples. Sermons, seminars, and classes need to be extra-curricular to the more risky and time consuming core curriculum of modeling a transformed life in front of others.

Reproducible DMD’s

So what does it mean to “make disciple-making disciples”? The point of stating it redundantly is to emphasize the necessity of reproducibility.

Once you have the motivation for reproducible disciple making, the “how” becomes clearer. For example, in order for discipleship to be reproducible it can’t be left to the specialists and professionals.

Making DMDs is much broader and less specialized. It should be universal to all followers of Jesus. All who desire to follow Jesus will be compelled to share Jesus with others; mostly for their love for Him, but also because He commanded it. (So why do only 1 in 20 self-proclaimed Christians actually share the Gospel?)

Sadly, not everyone calling themselves Christians are truly making disciples who are making disciples.

Responsible DMD’s

Making disciples who reproduce themselves should be the goal of all activity that is labeled “discipleship”. It’s the responsibility of all followers of Jesus to be involved in making DMDs.

The seminary student might be studying Greek and translating passages of Scripture (a worthy and important activity) but must not forsake making DMDs.

An Administrative Pastor might be responsible for the finances and logistics of a church but he must also be involved in making DMDs.

A musician might do her best to learn the guitar and play it well for God’s glory but she must also make DMDs.

In the same way, a business person or a stay-at-home mom or a consultant must also be involved in making DMDs if they desire to follow Jesus.

This is our responsibility and our privilege!

Making DMDs goes beyond calling people to the least common denominator of devotion. Jesus’ call was to radical commitment, so why do we call people to a fraction of that commitment? Worse: why do church leaders often model a fraction of the devotion and commitment that should be inherent in the life of any Jesus follower.

It’s like we’re selling life insurance rather than showing someone how to live the transformed, vibrant, abundant life that Jesus offers. Jesus doesn’t offer life insurance, He offers a new life.

Making disciple-making disciples is about calling people to live that radical new life and walk along the Way with Jesus and inviting others to walk alongside. Christian, is that what you are doing?

Nathan is the pastor of City Life Church in Ridgewood, NY. He and his family are committed to making and multiplying disciples in the most diverse county in the US. Read more about Nathan here. Visit the City Life Church website here.

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Matt P

    Love the phrase (“DMD’s”). My current church is much more comfortable w/ (and skilled at) “discipleship” than with evangelism. I might share your post w/ others on staff and see if using “disciples making disciples” as a synonym for “evangelism” might help break thru this impasse. Thx!

    • Great Matt! I definitely think that they are two sides of the same coin and I commend you for encouraging others on staff at your church to develop a vision for making disciples that brings honor to our Master.

  • I like the phrase DMDs, too. Thanks for the great article.

    • Thanks J.O. I wish we didn’t have to clarify it like that though.

  • This line…

    “Worse: why do church leaders often model a fraction of the devotion and commitment that should be inherent in the life of any Jesus follower.”

    stings me in a good way. I listened to a discussion yesterday about whether the church existed for the lost or the saved. What a dumb argument. If it’s either, it’s probably neither. It needs to be both. I love that you think in terms of reproducing and multiplying as discipleship and not just adding.

    • Good thoughts Brandon. Definitely two sides to the same coin. Thanks for dropping by the blog. I love what you are doing for pastors and planters!

  • You struck a chord with me…a good chord. You need to check out You are speaking our language.

    grace and peace…

    • Gibby, I appreciate the encouragement. I’m familiar with the facebook page and thought I had already “liked” it before. But, I did so and really like seeing “Nathan likes Making Disciples” in my status update feed! 🙂 Thanks for sharing my articles. There might be a couple more in here you might like. Just click on the “making disciples” topic on the right sidebar.

  • Seems perfectly natural to me. I am disheartened by the disassembly if this simple concept. Calling Disciple Making Movements or Disciples Making Disciples “Amway Methods,” or any such thing is not helpful to the Body of Christ and in fact may be harmful. I believe in what you you posted, I live it, and I have seen the results. 7+ generations of disciples made in the span of about 3 years. I also echo what Gibby said, You should join in on the conversation on

    I know you already follow me on twitter, and I follow you as well. Blessings on your Pressing On Miguel

    • Miguel, I recognize you from various social media outlets. I always appreciate your content. You are prolific!

      I agree with you, comparing disciple making to an Amway marketing scheme is misguided at best and blasphemous at worst. To suggest that THE way Jesus empowered his followers to make more followers to make more followers (as seen in Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:2, and etc.) is reminiscent of multi-level marketing is unacceptable.

      Side note: I noticed your organization is serving in Ecuador. I led two teams of 100+ each on short-term trips to help some long-term missionaries to help start churches in Ecuador. I think the missionaries were able to start around 40 reproducing churches as a result. Do you happen to know any SBC missionaries? I worked with David and Debbie Butts, Fletcher and Ruby Dickerson, and Russ and Kyleen Bare back in 2004.

  • I just read a similar article on SBC Voice blogs. The writer was showing, mathmatically, how much faster disciples would be made if “DMD’s” were made one-on-one as opposed to using churches. His idea was that if each disciple made one disicple maker for one year, then it would multiply. At the end of the first year, there would be 2 disciples. At the end of year two there would be 4 disciples. But at the end of year 10 there would be 1024 disciples. Something to think about, for sure. God bless!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Wayne, I’ve seen that same math before (interestingly, the word mathematics comes from the same Greek root for disciple). It’s good to keep showing from every angle how important it is to simply obey everything Jesus has commanded us to do.