Go Make Learners:

A New Model for Discipleship in the Church

by Robert Brow


The Model Set Out in Propositional Form

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:

  1. John the Baptist used baptism with water to enroll disciples.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 another.

  4. 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.

  5. Jesus was baptized by John, and soon after, the Holy Spirit began moving him.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Jesus baptized large numbers, but as illustrated in the parable of the sower, many of these fell away.

  9. From among the baptized disciples of Jesus, twelve were chosen as leaders of the community, and these travelled with him on preaching tours.

  10. There were other disciples, including some women, who after baptism also followed Jesus more or less closely.

  11. 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.

  12. After Pentecost, large numbers of new disciples were enrolled by baptism. Disciples or learners were later called "Christians."

  13. Since a disciple was viewed on enrollment as a learner beginning to learn, no probation or tests of spiritual attainment were required before baptism.

  14. Men and women, together with dependents such as slaves and children, could be enrolled.

  15. 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 against them.

  16. The work of Jesus by the Holy Spirit as prophet, healer, announcer of the kingdom, and teacher continued by the Spirit among the baptized.

  17. 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.

  18. If the Spirit had already begun his work among a group of unbaptized persons they were baptized immediately.

  19. 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).

  20. 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 baptism.

  21. 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.

  22. Baptism was therefore no guarantee of spirituality, since many of the baptized committed apostasy, and others became false teachers and prophets in the communities.

  23. 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.