Go Make Learners:
A New Model for Discipleship in the Church
by Robert Brow
An advantage of a model is that it can be formulated as a set of
propositions with its own internal logic. Although no one proposition can be
"proved" from the evidence, acceptance of a model includes acceptance of the
various implications and results that follow it. In our case the model hangs
together around the following propositions, which derive their meaning from the logic of their relationship to one another:
- John the Baptist used baptism with water to enroll disciples.
- His disciples grew to large numbers, and included tax collectors,
soldiers, and others who had previously been viewed as sinners, or beyond the
pale of the Jewish community.
- As a result of being baptized, the members of the community were viewed
as forgiven in the sense of being accepted by the prophet, John, and by one
- John's disciples were taught about a coming kingdom, or community, led by
a greater leader in whom the work of the Spirit would be evident.
- Jesus was baptized by John, and soon after, the Holy Spirit began moving
- Jesus began baptizing his own disciples, among them, some who had been
baptized into John's circle of disciples. To move from John's circle of
disciples into Jesus' required rebaptism in the name of Jesus.
- The lifestyle of the disciples of Jesus was radically different from the
disciples of John the Baptist. Whereas John and his followers practiced
asceticism and lived by the Old Testament law, Jesus' disciples were less
concerned about externals.
- Jesus baptized large numbers, but as illustrated in the parable of the
sower, many of these fell away.
- From among the baptized disciples of Jesus, twelve were chosen as leaders
of the community, and these travelled with him on preaching tours.
- There were other disciples, including some women, who after baptism also
followed Jesus more or less closely.
- In his final instructions, after his death and resurrection, Jesus told
the leaders to continue enrolling disciples in his name by baptism, but the
world wide growth of the community could only begin after the pouring out of
the Spirit in the community.
- After Pentecost, large numbers of new disciples were enrolled by
baptism. Disciples or learners were later called "Christians."
- Since a disciple was viewed on enrollment as a learner beginning to
learn, no probation or tests of spiritual attainment were required before
- Men and women, together with dependents such as slaves and children,
could be enrolled.
- However sinful, degraded, or unclean the new disciples had previously
been, upon baptism they were immediately viewed as cleansed, or washed from
pollution, and their past sins were considered forgiven, no longer to be held
- The work of Jesus by the Holy Spirit as prophet, healer, announcer of
the kingdom, and teacher continued by the Spirit among the baptized.
- If, after baptism, the Spirit did not begin his work, apostles came to
pray, lay on hands, and organize a community of the Holy Spirit.
- If the Spirit had already begun his work among a group of unbaptized
persons they were baptized immediately.
- The four characteristic activities encouraged by the Holy Spirit in a
new community were: doctrine, fellowship, worship around the bread and wine,
and prayer (Acts 2:42).
- Spiritual gifts such as those of prophecy, teaching, healing, exorcism
and speaking in tongues were common among the members of the community. Some of these gifts, such as speaking in tongues, occurred immediately after
- As in the Old Testament, false gifts such as those of false prophecy,
false exorcism and false glossolalia, abounded among the communities,
especially after the departure of apostles.
- Baptism was therefore no guarantee of spirituality, since many of the
baptized committed apostasy, and others became false teachers and prophets in
- As the communities spread, there were baptisms first in the area of
Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and eventually throughout the
Mediterranean world and to the east. The result was the spreading of the work
and teaching of Jesus by the Holy Spirit throughout a vast area.