In order to answer the question, we need to have some consensus on what it means to make a disciple. But first, let’s dispel any notion that “we don’t make disciples, Jesus does.” It would be better to say that “no one regenerates the heart other than the trinitarian God.” (Ezekiel 36:26) No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws them.” (John 6:44)
There is a sense by which the words believer and disciple are synonymous, and there is a sense where a disciple/learner/student/follower may not yet be born again. He spoke “to those Jews who had believed Him,” and He said to them, “if you continue in (abide in) My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” John 8:31-32. I’d be glad to discuss this idea further in the comment section, but for now I think we can agree that there may be persons “following” their way into being a disciple.
Discipleship, or the process of Making a Disciple begins before one believes, and in this author’s opinion, continues unto the end of our earthly lives. Also, and for the purposes of this post, I’ll place “evangelism” within the actions of discipleship. I’ll take Mark 16:15 – (Preaching the Gospel to all of creation) and place it within the “Go” of Matthew 28,19,20 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
One of “all” the commands which Jesus would have passed on to all generations of the church is “Make Disciples.” Not only did Jesus command it, He also gave the manner in which we were to obey/observe the command.
In the Great Commission, (Let’s not squabble over the term, but instead embrace the heart of our savior in it) Jesus said that the “means by which” we are to Make Disciples are as follows:
“Go” – Going is not simply “as you are going about your lives.” It would be better translated as “Go, and having gone.” It is an intentional departure with God ordained purpose.
“Baptize” – Baptizing or immersing people in the Name of the Father, Son, and Spirit in much more than water is also a component of Making Disciples.
“Teach” – Teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded. The command to “Make Disciples” included.
All three of these words, “Go,” “baptize,” and “Teach,” are not verbs in the strict sense, but participles of means. In other words, they are the means by which (according to Jesus) disciples are made. Can the execution of the tasks of going, baptizing, and teaching take on different forms? Can they be expressed in different ways? Can a diverse body with different gifts and talents execute these means with flexibility? I would answer yes, but…
For me, it’s either go or don’t go. It’s either Baptize or don’t baptize. It’s teach or don’t teach. But, the manner in which I intentionally go may look a bit different than your manner of going. The manner in which I baptize may look a bit different than the manner in which you baptize. And, the manner in which I teach may certainly look different than the manner in which you teach.
So, back to the original question:
Do we really all Make Disciples in different ways, or do we execute the means by which we make disciples in different ways. Does it make a difference?