Sometimes words are used in different ways, causing confusion. In an effort to be clear, some key terms are explained here to show how they are used on this site.
Disciple: Literally a “student” but specifically a student of a person (in this case, Jesus.) In that sense “follower” is perhaps a better synonym. The disciple’s goal is to learn so much from the master that he/she becomes like the teacher.
Disciple-making: The making of disciples!
Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20 (and common sense) show that disciple-making involves 2 things:
- bringing people to faith in Jesus (evangelism,) Jesus described using the words “baptise them”. Baptism implies that the gospel has been proclaimed and people have come to faith and are celebrating that in baptism.
- bringing people to maturity in Jesus (discipling). Jesus said, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” There is a whole process of live change until our lives allign more and more with Jesus’.
Unfortunately, some people, when they hear “disciple-making”, think only of the second half of the process.
Discipleship: Discipleship is the state of being a disciple. It covers everything involved in following Jesus from becoming a follower through to all aspects of serving Jesus.
N.B. sometimes (actually, quite often) “discipleship” is used to describe helping someone else become a follower (“evangelism”) or helping someone grow as a follower (“discipling”). This is a very strange usage and should be avoided. Part of being a disciple is making further disciples but the two are not synonymous.
Discipling: Helping Christians grow in their discipleship towards spiritual maturity i.e. “discipling” is the second half of the process described under “disciple-making”.
Evangelism: Sharing the good news of Jesus and encouraging others to put their trust in him and become followers.
Sometimes “evangelism” is used to describe all sorts of activities that might help build relationships or meet a need but that don’t involve the sharing of the good news or the encouragement for the other person to make the decisions to become a follower. “Evangelism” literally means “telling good news” and should be restricted to that.