Disciples Making Disciples

Disciples Making Disciples

As our church explores more of what it means to be a church of disciples making disciples, we wanted to share the journey with you from the perspective of two of our congregational leaders who have been part of the discipleship team. Tom Horvath and his wife Janet have attended Northland for 23 years. He is actively involved in men’s ministry and also serves as a longtime shepherding elder. Susan McGaha-Gurnett is newer to Northland but just as involved. She and her husband, Bob, both serve with the Connections Team, are actively involved in Belong & Grow. Susan is one of the fantastic leaders in Northland’s Flourish ministry, a one on one discipleship and mentoring journey for women. Let’s hear from them about the discipleship team’s work over the last 17 months, what God has taught them along the way and how they believe God will use disciple-making to transform the community at Northland and beyond. 


1. You’ve been a part of a group that’s been gathering for over a year to talk about discipleship. Can you tell us a little bit more about that team and what you’ve been working on together?

Tom:
The team is a mixture of staff and lay leadership. Everyone on the team is committed to creating a disciple-making culture at Northland - we often talk about how to make disciple-making a part of the Northland DNA - something core to who we are individually and collectively.

Susan:
Jesus gave us a command to “go make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our team has been and still is on a journey of discovering what it would look like at Northland to be intentional in making disciples who will make disciples the way Jesus did it. As we have studied Jesus’ strategy together as a team and other leaders, we are amazed how the Holy Spirit is using all our insights from the study to bring together an approach to disciple-making appropriate for our context at Northland those in our spheres of influence.

 2. How is this different from other “initiatives” we’ve rolled out at Northland over the years? 

Tom:
In my experience, one difference is the amount of time we have invested in prayer, discussion, research, and learning the “leading practices” of churches and ministries that make disciples. Another difference is that I don’t believe we would call this an “initiative” - our goal is not to design another initiative or program but rather to be obedient to what the scriptures teach all believers to become - disciples that make disciples. Disciple-making is a way of life.

Susan:
I have only been at Northland about 2 ½ years, so I’m not sure about other “initiatives”; however, our intentionality to equip Northlanders to “go make disciples” is not a “program” or “initiative” that is here today and gone tomorrow. Disciple-making should be the lifestyle for every follower of Jesus, and it is Northland’s responsibility to equip everyone who calls Northland their church home to make disciple-making part of their lifestyle with those in their spheres of influence as they move through day-to-day life.

3.What does being a disciple mean to you?

Tom:
A disciple is someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus (Matt. 4:19).

Susan:
Tom’s definition nails it!

4. What’s the difference between being a disciple and being a Christian? Is there something about being a disciple that’s different than our view of being a Christian, going to church, studying the Bible, etc… How does this view impact the priorities in our life or what we value in our church

Tom:
The term "Christian" describes anything associated with Christianity (Christian believer, Christian music, Christian church, Christian doctrine...).  “Disciple” is a personal calling and identity - a person who is actively imitating both the life and teaching of King Jesus. Jesus specifically commanded his followers to “Go and make disciples” before he ascended into heaven - nothing more and nothing less - disciples.

Susan:
Back in Biblical times, when followers of Jesus were first called “Christians,” it was because of their identification with Jesus. Unfortunately, today people consider themselves Christians if they go to church at least on Christmas and Easter, or even if they believe in God. A “disciple” is a follower of Jesus, a learner, someone who strives to be obedient to the commands of Jesus and be transformed by His teachings...and all this is motivated out of love for Jesus. A true “disciple” of Jesus alters their priorities to align with those of Jesus and is willing to submit their perceptions and preferences to Jesus’ priorities in personal life or the church’s corporate life.

5. What’s the difference between being a disciple and a disciple-maker?

Tom:
A disciple is in a life-long journey following King Jesus. A disciple-maker is a disciple of Jesus who enters into relationships with people to intentionally help them follow Jesus, be changed by Jesus, and join the mission of Jesus.

Susan:
There should be no difference between a disciple and a disciple-maker. It is so easy for us just to want to soak up information like a sponge to become a better person for Jesus, but not squeeze it out to intentionally pour into someone else’s life for Jesus. However, Jesus wants us to be more like Him so that we can be an example to others and pour into the life of others who need Jesus. Therefore, there is no distinction between a “disciple” and a “disciple-maker.” Part of being a “disciple” is being a “disciple-maker.”

6. What does the future of Northland look like when we are a church where discipleship permeates all we do? What does that mean for our congregation, our community, and our world? 

Tom:
A group of disciples who make disciples are themselves transformed, and they change everything around them to the glory of God. We sit here today in the 21st century because men and women who followed Jesus in the first century obeyed Jesus by making disciples.

Susan:
As we grow as a church in making disciple-making permeate all we do, I believe we will experience a passion for Jesus greater than ever before. We will hear testimonies of how God has worked in discipling relationships within our church, our spheres of influence, and ultimately impact our immediate communities and the world beyond.

7. If someone wants to learn more about becoming a disciple who makes disciples, what is their next step?

Tom:
Learn about King Jesus - read your Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you, get connected with others who are following Jesus. Here at Northland, in 2021, we will be providing specific opportunities to learn more about disciple-making at Northland - some potential first steps include Belong and Grow, First Steps for New Believers, Essentials to Becoming a Disciple. 

Susan:
Leaders are being trained to help each of us determine our next right step wherever we are in our spiritual journey.  Reach out to your class teacher, small group leader, ministry leader, or staff person. There are opportunities to help you whether you are new to Northland and want to know what we are all about and where you fit in, curious and exploring Christ, or you want to go deeper in understanding and application of God’s Word. We are here to help!

Whether you are a new Christian, new to Northland, or a disciple who is already making disciples, we want to help resource you. If you’re ready for your next step in making disciples, you can get more information by filling out this short form, and a member of our team will connect with you soon! NorthlandChurch.net/disciples

Here are some other ways you can explore your next steps:

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