Through the years, I have been often asked, “What character qualities should mark a disciple maker’s life?” and, “What are the essential qualities that must be cultivated if I am to be used by God to make disciples?”
After pondering and praying about what a disciple maker ought to look like, I have come to believe that there are five qualities that are absolutely essential for those who make disciples.
1 – Heart for God
A heart for God could be described as a desire to know Him in an intimate way and to make Him known, to have a heartfelt desire for a rich fellowship with God, and to love Him more than anyone or anything!
Notice what Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel:
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22: 37-38) ESV
Disciple makers ought to have a desire to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind. Jesus identified this as the greatest commandment.
My friend Chris Adsit surveyed more than 500 disciple makers from all over the world and asked them what the most important qualities for making disciples were. More than a third of the people he talked to ranked “having a heart for God” as number one, and the majority them ranked this quality in at least the top three.
In his book Personal Disciple Making, Chris quoted Casey Bartels, who was a staff member with Athletes in Action, saying, “A growing love relationship with the living God is vital. When all of our self-effort and external obedience comes to a halt, all that matters is a personal relationship with Christ.”
2 – A Heart for Your Disciples
You must not only cultivate a growing love relationship with Christ, but you must have a heart for those you disciple.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39 ESV)
We are not only to have a love for God; we are to have a love for people! More than anything else, your disciple must know that you love him. As Peter says:
8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. (I Peter 4:8) ESV
You must never look at your disciple as a “project.” He or she is someone you are called to love. As John Maxwell says:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Do not allow your talk to be cheap; prove your love by spending time with your disciples. You show them you really care about them by cultivating a real relationship with them. You “earn the right” to speak into their lives because they realize that you really care for them and their families.
One of the first guys I discipled in campus ministry was a young man named Shawn. Shawn was a student who began to hang out at our campus ministry building, the Nicholls Baptist Student Union. As I got to know Shawn better, it became obvious that he lacked a man’s influence in his life. His dad was an alcoholic and absent from the home.
I began to invite Shawn to cookouts with our family, other outings, and events. Before long Shawn became one of the family, despite the fact that he, being an African-American, looked quite different from my family and me! What was the difference that made the difference? The love of Christ.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) ESV
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