Why Don't We Say "Disciplemaking" More Often?

Of all the terms that need to be clarified, disciplemaking is used least frequently in my experience. One can attend local church(es) for a long time and never hear this word used. It is much more common to hear the word discipleship. This is surprising since disciplemaking is the term most directly coming from the Great Commission. Jesus’ command is to “make disciples,” so disciplemaking is what we are to be about. Let’s take a look at this word.



At the heart of disciplemaking is the verb “make.” A quick look in the dictionary shows how many widely-varying ways we use this word “make.” The definitions most suitable for our purposes are “to cause to exist, occur, or appear” and “to bring into being by forming, shaping, or altering material.” Both of these definitions involve action and connote some definite outcome, result or product.


Grammar experts tell us that adding “-ing” to a verb changes the verb to a noun that names the action or process of the original verb. Thus, “making,” though a noun, retains the activity or process of “bringing something into being by forming, shaping, or altering materials.”


Furthermore, the part of the word preceding “making” tells us what it is that is being formed, shaped or altered. For example, dressmaking produces a dress, cabinetmaking results in a cabinet, and watch-making turns out a watch. In the same way, disciplemaking refers to the process or activity of producing a disciple, or, more specifically for our purposes, a mature disciple.


So in (re)Think Disciplemaking, we’re going to recognize disciplemaking as a noun formed from a verb and define it as “the process or activity of producing a mature disciple.”

As shown in the next illustration, disciplemaking, then, is the process that grows someone from being a Believer to being a Mature Disciple.


Note that disciplemaking has a definite end in mind -- producing a mature disciple. Thus, a mature disciple is the intended product of disciplemaking.


This show us very clearly that true disciplemaking is, or should be, marked with intentionality. We’ll consider this essential aspect of disciplemaking in more detail later in (re)Think. But for now I want us to recognize that merely offering some good Bible study or topical course and seeing who shows up is not disciplemaking. Using this approach lacks the needed level of intentionality. What is offered may well prove to be beneficial to the participants, but there is generally no certainty that the participants will apply the learning in their lives, let alone pass it on to someone else.


Let me finish this discussion on disciplemaking in general with this last thought: the term discipling is most clearly used when it specifically is a synonym for disciplemaking. Unfortunately, discipling often is used casually to mean all kinds of activity that is not disciplemaking in the way we have defined it here. Therefore, I rarely use discipling. I generally will just say disciplemaking when that is what I mean; I encourage you to do the same.

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