Our Families and Disciple-Making

Elizabeth DeLuca asks the question, “How are the worlds in which we live shaped by the ways that households are thought and made? How does the scale of the household shape the spatial and temporal scales at which we claim belonging and responsibility?”[1]

Disciple-making establishes a person’s familial connection to her heavenly Father, Jesus, and to her spiritual siblings. The setting in which we make disciples will shape our disciple. The classroom creates students, a laboratory develops scientists, a bootcamp produces disciplined soldiers, and the familial forms disciples of Jesus.

Since love is the mark of a disciple of Jesus then an ideal place to form disciples is in the context of love in a physical family and/or a spiritual family. The family reflects the essence of God as a loving Father with His Son. God the Father relates to us as his children and Jesus relates to us as his brothers and sisters. “. . .that he (Jesus) might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans 8:29; “So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:11

It is through the bond with a mother, father, and siblings that a person learns how to connect with God, but for many their families are dysfunctional or even toxic. For those that come from broken families, the disciple-maker should engraft her disciple into a spiritual family so that she can experience healthy connection with a spiritual father, mother, and brothers and sisters, because it is our love for our brothers and sisters that is evidence that we are maturing as a disciple of Jesus. The apostle Paul and his team made disciples by traveling around initiating these spiritual families, demonstrating familial love, and then later nurturing these communities by letters and visits. Paul explains, “We were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Where to from here:

  • Listen to the story of the homelife of your disciple to discover how her relationship with her parents maybe an emotional blocker to her relationship with the heavenly Father.
  • Explore your disciple’s relationship with his siblings. Does he project his attitude towards his brothers and sisters to Jesus?
  • Encourage your disciple to meet with other disciples of Jesus and seek to build a brotherly or sisterly relationship with them.

[1] https://culanth.org/fieldsights/series/the-household

Mental Health and Making Disciples of Jesus

One way to love a person that has a learning disability, mental disorder, or who is neurodivergent is to help him attach to his heavenly Father, who is love. (Neurodivergent is a term that describes people whose brains develop or work differently for some reason. People with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, or other mental disorders would be neurodivergent.) God can seem distant to a person that is neurodivergent because the usual means of connecting to God by reading the bible, reading a Christian book, journaling, memorizing scripture, church attendance, and listening to a sermon are not easily accessible to him. The good news of Jesus is that God draws near to all people, even those that are neurodivergent.

Christianity tends to assume that a lack of spiritual desire of a person is because he is indifferent, rebellious, hardhearted, stubborn, or lazy. We suppose the problem is the person’s heart condition rather than asking the question, “What might I be missing in the life of my child or my disciple?” As a child cannot self-diagnosis a learning disability so you cannot expect that your disciple can self-diagnosis if they are neurodivergent.

A neurodivergent person’s relationship with God can frustrate him as a child can be discouraged when he is punished for poor grades when, unknown to his parents or himself, that he has a learning disability. “Why can other people connect to God, but it is so difficult for me?”

Some evidence that your disciple is neurodivergent:

• Little desire to read the Bible or spiritual books.

• Have trouble remembering or understanding what he read.

• Do things without stopping to think about the consequences.

• Addiction to alcohol or drugs.

• Read something over and over and not understand the message.

• Avoids going to church services, youth group, a bible study. (“What if they ask me to read something out loud?”)

• Relationships are difficult for her.

A couple of possible ideas to help a neurodivergent person:

• Help her/him find a therapist and get a diagnosis. (This can be very intimidating for the individual. I have driven folks to their first appointment just so they did not have to be alone.)

• Explore together ways of connecting to the heavenly Father. Read the bible together. Pray together. Listen to scripture. Listen to audiobooks.

• Engraft your disciple (or child) into a spiritual community that is sensitive to those that are neurodivergent.

Giving Access

Two important questions to ask when we make disciples of Jesus for the advancement of kingdom of God:

  1. What came into the minds of the twelve disciples when Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and make disciples?”
  2. How did the disciples do ministry because of the training they had received from Jesus?

The disciples had spent three intensive years with Jesus being trained by him to be his disciple. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show the means by which Jesus trained his disciples and what lesson he taught them.

The Means

The means by which Jesus trained them was, a) by being in a friendship with them and , b) by placing them in a community of thirteen people. The twelve disciples lived with the teacher as he coached them on how to belong to that community.

(I am reminded of the debate the disciple had on which one of them was the greatest. Jesus took that opportunity to teach them to consider the others as more important.)

The Lesson

The lesson he taught them was love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-3 This lesson was learned by the experience of Jesus laying down his life for them.

The Take Aways

To make disciples of Jesus you will need to give your disciples access to your life. This is part of the laying down of your life for your disciple. It does cost.

Engraft your disciple into a group with other disciples. This can be difficult and will take longer than you expect. Jesus took three years with his disciples.

We Become What We Measure

This month my doctor ordered several tests for me to measure all kind of things. The results will tell us where I am healthy and where I am not. (Whoever heard of a “fatty liver” anyway?)

The apostle Paul measured two things to determine the spiritual health of his disciples, 1) their trust in the Lord Jesus, and 2) the disciples’ love for one another. Six times in his letters Paul probed into the state of the trust and love of the believers to discover how they were doing.  (Ephesians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Philemon 4-7)


The first measure is trust. Trust is the confidence that your disciple places in the character, ability, and strength of Jesus. Does she live in joy and peace or is her life marked by anxiety?


The second measure is love. Love is evident when your disciple desires good for his fellow disciples and he longs to be in union with those disciples. In other words, he is not competing with the others, jealous, or intimidated but rather he serves well and seeks to live in community. His life is not marked by detachment.

Monthly our leaders look together at each disciple to measure their trust and love, knowing that our community will become what we measure.

The Belonging Factor

Disciple-making is the gospel applied to my relationships in order to restore the world to the way God intended. To be a disciple of Jesus is to belong to the heavenly father, Jesus, and to fellow disciples. For 27 months Jesus pulled his 12 disciples together for them to experience belonging by a) teaching them the love of the heavenly father, b) by cultivating their love for one another, and c) to move them towards a unity that would be clear to outsiders.

People are to be in mutual relationship because they are the image of God. Yet the America culture values individualism emphasizing personal liberty, independence, self-reliance, and self-direction of the individual. To make disciples in North America is countercultural as we move a person from isolation into connection with God and his children.

Rarely do churches or ministries check the “belonging factor” of a person to determine his spirituality. Yet Jesus teaches us that the evidence of being his disciple is love and to be in unity with other disciples. In other words, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to love and to receive love.


Disciple-Making and the Home

How do parents incorporate Jesus’s model of disciple-making into their home? Various ministries have followed Jesus’s approach but when it comes to our families we are not quite sure what discipling our children should look like.

Christianity in the West has known for years that 80% of our children are not becoming followers of Jesus.[1] Vast resources are given to children and youth ministries because we were told that it was vital to get our kids into children’s ministry and youth group, only to have our children leave God when they leave home. Parents feel spiritually inadequate and it is easier to leave the spiritual formation of their children to the professionals.

Recently I read the account of Jesus’s last evening with his disciples and I realized that I had looked at the question of disciple-making and parenting the wrong way.[2] Rather than trying to figure out how to fit our families into Jesus’s approach to disciple-making I saw that Jesus had patterned his disciple-making on a familial model so that our homes are the optimal place to make disciples of Jesus.

Jesus’s approach to disciple-making was based on the familial nature of the Trinity. He says to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9) Jesus assures them that their heavenly father has a home and in that home each disciple will have a place to belong. (John 14:2) Jesus goes on to promise them that he will not leave them as orphans (John 14:18) and that the heavenly father and Jesus will make their home with them, all familial language.

In closing:

  • Making disciples of Jesus should be in a familial way. (Jesus and the apostle Paul both used familial language to describe disciple-making.)


  • Our families can reflect the nature of the Trinity to the world.


  • Our homes can be a picture of the gospel to the world.


  • The family is a place for children to experience the nature of God and the wonder of the gospel.
  • No matter the age, create a familial environment to which your disciples can belong.


[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/24/why-americas-nones-left-religion-behind/

[2] Gospel of John Chapters 13-17

Ecstatic Love

To be one of the twelve disciples of Jesus was an experience of love. Jesus had modeled his disciple-making after the mutual love between the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Kallistos Ware writes, “The circle of divine love however has not remained closed. God’s love is, in the literal sense of the word, “ecstatic”-a love that causes God to go out from himself and to create things other than himself. By voluntary choice God created the world in “ecstatic” love, so that there might be beside himself other beings to participate in the life and the love that are his.”[1]

This “ecstatic” love caused Jesus to come to earth and as John explained This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 Jesus then formed a group of twelve men and for twenty-seven months he loved these disciples and he taught them how to love the other men in the group. One purpose of a disciple of Jesus is to be an image bearer of God to the world and a disciple cultivates this by learning to love other disciples. Jesus instructs his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34

The process of making disciples today should be little different than what Jesus first showed us. A discipler guides a group of men and women in how to receive love and how to love others. This discipling experience moves a person towards flourishing by being in mutual love with God and with fellow disciples because, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16

The evidence that disciples are maturing is their ability to love others and to receive love.

[1] Ware, Kallistos, The Orthodox Way (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminar Press, 1979), p. 44.


A Monument to Atheism

Exploring our one cemetery in Buchanan, Michigan my sister and I came upon a 25-foot marble monument dedicated to atheism. It read:

“Nature is the True God. Science the True Religion”

“The More Priests the More Poverty”

“The More Religion, The More Lying”

“The Christian Religion begins with a Dream and Ends with a Murder.”

I was stunned at the existence of such a monument and here it was in my hometown! I immediately went to our public library to find out the history of the monument.

Joseph Coveney was a wealthy orchardist in Buchanan who opposed anything Christian. In 1874 he erected the monument at the cost of $3000 dollars intending to place it on the town’s square to propagate his anti-Christian views. The town’s people blocked it from being erected on public land but they were powerless to stop Joseph from placing it on his own cemetery plot.

Coveney etched in stone that which he wanted to live on after him. Whether it be an inscription to Caesar, the Gettysburg address on the Lincoln memorial, or our own epitaph, stone is the most enduring option.

The Holy Spirit gave the apostle Paul something more enduring than stone for his ministry; he was entrusted with the tablets of human hearts, which are eternal. He writes:

“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3 

Disciple-making is an eternal venture because it changes human hearts. Coveney’s monument today is practically unreadable but 2000 years after Paul’s life his ministry is living on because he chose to etch on that which would live on eternally.

Imitate Me

“How do I make a disciple of Jesus, especially since I have never been discipled? What curriculum do you recommend?”

My answer is to allow people close enough that they will be able imitate your behavior and attitude. Your disciple needs access to your life for him to be able to pattern his life after yours. The weekly meetings at Starbucks or Bible study group are not enough. It is essential for your disciple to observe how you interact with your family, how you handle stressful situations, to witness your ministry to others, and to see how you spend your downtime. It is in these settings he will learn how to apply Biblical truth to everyday life.

Paul shows us this approach in his ministry in Thessalonica. He writes,

“You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord . . . And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6.

Paul asks his disciples to imitate his life as he imitates Jesus, and so to imitate Paul was to imitate Jesus. Paul’s disciples were then models for others to imitate and so a multiplication pattern was initiated.

The basis of this life access and bond between the discipler and disciple is love. Later is the same letter Paul writes, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9.

The disicipler is able to love others because of the love he has experienced from his discipler. He passes this love on to his disciples and they will pass it on to others.

If we could ask Jesus’s disciples about their time with Jesus, they would answer, “Love!” Those that had encountered the apostle Paul would exclaim, “Oh, how he loved!”

Disciple-making is not curriculum driven or a certification program. Disciple-making is a relationship as is a mother, father, and friend.

One can hide behind curriculum, programs, and classes but it is love that enables one to say to others, “Imitate me as I imitate the Lord.” Only love empowers the discipler to be able to open up his life so that his followers can emulate his behavior.



Making a Disciple of Jesus

A disciple is formed by imitating the life of his discipler. Jesus and the apostle Paul gave their disciples access to their lives so that their disciples could observe and then emulate their behavior and attitude. Both made disciples in the context of an intentional community in order to demonstrate for their disciples how to behave in a group with diverse personalities and also to use the misconducts of the members to correct and instruct them in the proper way to love one another.

One example of this was when a dispute broke out among Jesus’s disciples about which one of them was considered to be the greatest. Jesus corrected them saying, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. . . But I am among you as one who serves.”(Luke 22:27) Neither Jesus nor Paul ever asked of his disciples anything that he himself would not do.

Another example is from the life of Paul when the believers at Corinth were disunited and tolerating sexual immorality within their community. Paul sent his disciple Timothy to Corinth “to remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul had previously lived among them to show them the way to live as a disciple. Paul not only wrote a letter to the Corinthians but he sent Timothy so that they could once again observe the behavior of a follower of Jesus.