Over the last few years, I have learned through the grace of God that Jesus had a method or strategy for making disciples. Two great, extra-biblical resources have informed my understanding of how Jesus made disciples. The first is a book entitled, The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman who is a Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. The title of this book could well be, "How Jesus Made Disciples." The second resource is a book by A.B. Bruce entitled, The Training of the Twelve. Bruce, a Southern Baptist preacher of the 19th century, compiled an incredible book on Jesus' method of making disciples.
Dr. Coleman outlines eight steps to Jesus' plan of disciple-making: 1) Selection 2) Association (sharing of life) 3) Consecration 4) Impartation 5) Demonstration 6) Delegation 7) Supervision and 8) Reproduction (what we often refer to as multiplication). I highly recommend this accessible and easy-to-read book for anyone interested in learning and executing Jesus' method of making disciples. I also highly recommend Discipleship Essentials from Greg Ogden as a small group study that helps teach disciple-making.
In our reading this week in Luke, we see Jesus ministering in the lives of Peter, James, and John before He calls them to be His disciples (which we will read in a few weeks in Luke 6:13-16). Primarily, we see Jesus preparing Peter to become His disciple.
First, it's helpful to have a little background about Peter. Peter's given name was Simon. He was a fisherman who lived in Capernaum, a food processing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Gospel of John tells us that Simon was introduced to Jesus by his brother Andrew (John 1:42). Andrew was following John the Baptist as his disciple when he first met Jesus and became convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Upon meeting Simon, Jesus changes his name to Peter, meaning "rock", signaling that Jesus' work of disciple-making was going to primarily focus on His work in the life of Peter.
Some time after meeting Simon Peter, Jesus begins living with Simon and his family in Capernaum. During this time of what we might call pre-discipleship in Peter's life, Jesus is spending time with Peter and getting to know all about his character and his life. It is during this pre-discipleship that Jesus is already actively and intentionally beginning to disciple Peter by giving him demonstrations of His ministry and signs that He is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.
One demonstration given to Peter is the healing of Peter's mother-in-law in Luke 4:39. Another demonstration is Jesus' preaching in Luke 5. We notice in verse three that Jesus chooses to preach to the crowds from Peter's boat. We can rest assured that Jesus' choice of Peter's boat was no accident. He wanted Peter to hear His message, but Jesus had more in-mind. After the message was given, Jesus instructs Peter to let down his nets for a catch of fish (vs. 4). Now take into consideration the fact that verse two tells us that Peter was already washing his nets. He had fished all night and had caught nothing (vs. 5). Peter is tired, he's finished, and he's ready to go home.
It is here where we learn some very valuable characteristics about Peter. In verse five, even though Peter is finished fishing for the day and doesn't expect to catch anything, he is humble enough to follow the Master's command to let down his nets again. Jesus, no doubt, had called Peter to be his primary disciple because Peter was humble, coachable, approachable, and willing to learn. It is helpful for us in our own disciple-making to look for people who have this same characteristic.
Upon letting down his nets, Peter is overwhelmed with a catch of fish so great that it is heavy enough to sink two boats. In response, Peter says, Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man. Peter realizes his own inadequacy in fulfilling the Law as he stands in the presence of the Living God. Nevertheless, Jesus calls him to freedom in a discipleship no longer based upon the Law, but based upon His life-giving grace and faith in the One who will take away his fears and enable him to "catch people" (vs. 10).
Throughout the remainder of Luke, we will see numerous examples of the relationship between Jesus and Peter, and we will witness Jesus equip and mature Peter to become a triumphant preacher of the Gospel. Jesus' relationship with Peter teaches us that disciple-making is exactly that...a relationship. Disciples are formed over time through intentional, active relationship where the disciple-maker continually points the disciple to Jesus through the sharing of his/her own life and the Gospel.
Reflecting on Jesus' command to Peter to put out his nets for a catch, Maximus of Turin, Bishop of Turin during the fifth century writes:
The church is called out into the deep, delving, as it were, into the profound mysteries of
the heavens, into that depth concerning which the apostle says, "O depth of the riches
and wisdom and knowledge of God!" For this reason he says to Peter, "Put out into the
deep," - that is to say, into the depths of reflection upon the divine generation. For what is
more profound than what Peter says to the Lord, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living
God?"...This boat (the church) sails upon the deeps of this world, so that, when the earth is
destroyed, it will preserve unharmed all those it has taken in. Its foreshadowing can be seen
already in the Old Testament. For as Noah's ark preserved alive everyone whom it had taken
in when the world was going under, so also Peter's church will bring back unhurt everyone
whom it embraces when the world goes up in flames. And as a dove brought the sign of
peace to Noah's ark when the flood was over, so also Christ will bring the joy of peace to
Peter's church when the judgment is over.
-Ancient Christian Commentary, New Testament III, Luke, pg. 88
Dear disciple, dear church, let us put out into the deep and catch people for the kingdom of God as we follow Jesus' method of making disciples!