A young pastor scheduled an appointment with me. He wanted to know how he could get his church to become active witnesses for Christ. He had a pen and paper and was ready to write down a training program or book he could use. However, my advice was to model the behavior he expected of them.
MAWL is an acronym for Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave that was developed by then-IMB missionary Curtis Sergeant, who is now with E3 Partners Ministry. The idea is that the disciple-maker exhibits the kind of life they want others to follow. Curtis also said, “Am I a disciple that Jesus would want others to be like?”
And once started disciple-making, don’t keep doing it for them or the disciples will never do it for themselves. There’s an intentional progress to live it out, help others to get it, observe them doing it, and then get out of the way!
Most church leaders are trained to value a new believer’s decision to follow Jesus. That’s a huge step. I once led a high school student to faith in Jesus, but he flinched at the idea of being baptized. For him, the decision was enough. Yes, believer’s baptism by immersion is an act of obedience.
And Jesus wants all believers to make disciples that make disciples! Too many times we train believers to lead others to faith in Jesus without giving thought to how they can pass along what they have learned—and that’s the rub.
Making disciples like Jesus did means getting personally involved. Discipline is a means to build up individuals into maturity in Christ. Apply this progression to your own situation as you seek to make disciples:
1. Establish formal and informal training times, using Bible stories to let learners vicariously catch a biblical truth. (More is caught than taught.)
2. Explain to them what they don’t understand, which involves listening. Choose Bible stories in advance that best address different scenarios they’ll encounter.
3. Coach believers by either making corrections or reinforcing spiritual progress. Spiritual transformation takes on a biblical worldview that is more than just doing the right things, valuing the right things, and knowing the right facts.
4. Support new disciples by making some tweaks as necessary. You’re not a friend at this point or a judge, just a recognized discipler of Jesus that can speak into their lives.
5. Fully authenticate your disciples’ actions by empowering them to work unaided. In other words, turn ‘em loose!
Every believer with a teachable heart can be taught to make disciples like Jesus did, but it will require a major shift in all of our disciple-making efforts. We have to be there for them over time.
Disciple-making training that keeps students on the move like Jesus did will mean that one day there will be a branching, a leaving, as new people hear about Jesus, develop a relationship with Him, and join new groups as they form. This may mean that the church has a new mature disciple-maker, or it could mean that the church sends out missionaries and church planters (Truth That Sticks, 129-134).
Mark Snowden directs the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association