This site was desiged for standard modern browsers. Please upgrade your internet browser to Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

8 Principles for Making Disciples

Lorna Johnston /Wednesday, November 23, 2022


A few years ago, I spent several months reading and re-reading the book of Acts. I was trying to understand how the Church had gone from a handful of people hiding out for fear of the authorities, to a bold and fearless community growing at an exponential rate.

As I read, a pattern began to emerge:

Prayer preceded Holy Spirit empowerment,

which led to bold, public witness about Jesus Christ,

accompanied by affirming signs and wonders,

resulting in many coming to faith AND

active opposition from others,

which then caused Jesus’ followers to go back to prayer …

… starting the cycle all over again.

Some disciple-making principles have become crystal clear to me from the Acts accounts:

1. Everybody is involved

While it’s true that the first sermon, recorded in Acts 2, was given by Peter, and the early stories in the Acts record are of Jesus’ disciples, pretty soon we read “those who had been scattered preached…” (Acts 8:4).

Jesus’ disciples had made disciples who were making disciples. Everybody was obeying Jesus’ last command to “go and make disciples”.

2. Prayer precedes activity

A very small sampling:

  • Acts 1:14 – They all joined together constantly in prayer…
  • Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
  • Acts 4:24 – When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God…

The powerful stories recorded in Acts flowed out of prayer.

3. The Holy Spirit empowers; the people respond in courageous obedience

At no point in the accounts recorded in Acts does Holy Spirit empowerment seem safe or logical. The Holy Spirit’s empowerment was so that the ‘impossible’ would be done.  

4. Gospel truth is proclaimed—often publicly.

Bold proclamation that confronted the questions and objections of the individual, group, or crowd, irrespective of the consequences, is recorded in scene after scene.

Sometimes it was well received, other times not.

Receptivity of the audience was not the deciding factor in whether the message was delivered.

5. Their courageous witness flows from an intimate relationship with Jesus

Acts 4:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” 

Courage flowed from relationship with Jesus—in person and later through prayer—and that relationship with Jesus (and the courage that flows from it), is accessible to everyone who wants it.

6. God credentials their message with miracles.

Miracles demonstrate God’s power and his presence. Miracles confirmed the words being spoken and the ones who were speaking.

7. Some respond

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41)

Whether in crowds or one at a time, as the message of Jesus’ redemptive work was preached, people responded and joined the community of disciples and became bold witnesses of the forgiveness and transformation they had received.

8. Some oppose

>Power structures, whether economic; religious; or political, did not (and still do not) necessarily respond favorably to the powerful and radical message of the Gospel.

Witness may require suffering. We see this evidenced around the world as Jesus’ followers suffer for proclaiming the Gospel.

Make Disciples

It’s easy to discount the stories of Acts as being ‘for their time’ with little relevance or applicability to our context. We look around at our experience of the church in our culture and don’t see the kind of fruitfulness they experienced. But stories emerging from around the world insist that when these principles are practiced great fruitfulness follows.

I invite you to wrestle with me over the implications of these principles, learn from our global brothers and sisters, and count the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Will we obey Jesus’ command to make disciples?

Subscribe today to receive our weekly Simply Mobilizing Canada blog directly to your inbox -- encouraging you as you seek to be fruitfully engaged with God on mission!

Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC) and Loving Muslims Together (LMT). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.



Show All Blogs

An Invitation to Pray: Week 3

An Invitation to Pray

In this time between Easter and Pentecost, let's embrace the strength of communal prayer. Just as the early followers assembled with one purpose, let's raise our voices in harmony, seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance and blessings. During this third week, let's lift up prayers for the mobilization efforts to flourish, seeking opportunities for collaboration and fruitful partnerships in reaching diverse communities across Canada.

An Invitation to Pray: Week 2

An Invitation to Pray

As we journey through the sacred season between Easter and Pentecost, let us come together, Christians united in faith, to embrace the power of collective prayer. In this second week of our initiative, let us deepen our commitment to intercede for our communities, nations, and the world at large. Let us not underestimate the impact of our collective supplications, for in unity, our prayers resonate with greater resonance before the throne of God. Join us in this sacred endeavor, as we strive to be vessels of love, peace, and healing in a world yearning for divine intervention.

An Invitation to Pray

Join the SM family in Canada in a Season of Prayer: Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday (March 31-May 19)

This Sunday we celebrate Easter, remembering the death, burial, and resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. On that Resurrection Day everything changed. But it wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came, that the power of that change was fully realized in the early disciples’ lives.

We need that same power to be at work in our efforts as the Simply Mobilizing family in Canada to awaken the church, the ‘sleeping giant’.  Our mobilization efforts shifted online during the pandemic, and much good has come from that. But the Canadian context and the Canadian church have changed. How shall we respond to these changes? 

Nowruz Mobarak! Happy New Year!

Nowruz Mobarak! Happy New Year!

For many in the northern hemisphere, the first day of Spring (this year falling on March 19th) is a cause for hope and anticipation. Warmer weather, sunshine, and outdoor living is just around the corner.

But for people from places that have been influenced by Persian culture, such as Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and the countries of Central Asia the spring equinox marks Nowruz, their New Years Day, and the start of thirteen days of celebration.

While the celebration of Nowruz varies between ethnic communities, it is an important celebration—including among the diaspora here in Canada. Perhaps even some of your neighbours are celebrating Nowruz?

Here are some ways to pray for those who are celebrating Nowruz

Love Your Muslim Neighbours this Ramadan: Ways to Pray and Engage

Why do Christians Pray for Muslims During Ramadan?

During the month of Ramadan Muslims devote a lot of time to prayer and fasting, seeking Allah’s favour and the purification of their sins, though they are never sure if they have been forgiven or if what they have done is ever enough. Muslims everywhere are seeking God’s approval through a system of works, and yet, they don’t have assurance of their salvation and forgiveness.

As Fouad Masri, the founder of Crescent Project, puts it: “For followers of Jesus, Ramadan is an opportunity to focus on God’s heart for Muslim people, many of whom are desperately seeking God’s approval through a system of works.”

Discover Opportunities to Pray and Engage with Muslims During Ramadan!

Empowered to Influence: Part 3

Paradigm 3 – Worship that Adds Value to Communities

Most unchurched people wouldn’t imagine participating in one of our events because we are completely irrelevant to them. In this third paradigm, Ken Chua explores the shift in thinking that we, as Christ-followers, must make to have any relevance or attract the interest of those in our community. 

Empowered to Influence: Part 2

Paradigm 2: Labour, The Premier Worship

For many, 'work' is a four-letter word, a necessary means to enjoy the desirable. In this second paradigm shift, Ken Chua suggests that the issue lies in how we perceive work/labor and whether God is involved. Your 9 to 5 could be your path to worship!