Posted by: Brad Beaman | March 28, 2008

The Power of Discipleship, Acts 11:21-26


The gospels record many occasions when Jesus addressed large crowds. But when we take an overview of the Gospels we discover that his speaking to the large crowds is not what made the lasting impact. What carried the ministry of Jesus after his death was the time he invested with small groups.

Jesus invested himself in a group of twelve men. These men spent three years in close association with Jesus during the time of his public ministry. This group has become known simply as the disciples.

The heart of Jesus ministry was his investment in the lives of his disciples. We call this process discipleship. It was the pattern that Jesus used, and he expects us to use, to carry on the ministry of reconciliation that he began.

The method that Jesus used, of investing his life into people, was continued in the early church. It is seen at Antioch with Paul and Barnabas pouring their lives into the believers at Antioch. Acts 11:21-26

There is more to Barnabas than just the early church rich guy. The church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch because he was the disciple maker par-excellence.

Here was the situation in Antioch:
Vs 21 great number of people believed
Vs 24 great number of people brought to the Lord

The situation is obvious. Lot’s of believers, so there is a huge need for discipleship. You have a great number of new Christians, that is a blessing, but the task is far from over. If there is to be a maximum impact, these new believers must be, nurtured, trained up discipled and helped to grow in their faith.

There needs to be the best possible conditions to facilitate spiritual growth. The task is too big for Barnabas so he went to get another to help him. Paul. This is the first rule of discipleship. Never disciple alone. Train up a disciple while you are making disciples.

Now Paul’s name is synonymous with discipleship. Paul-Timothy is the pattern for many materials written on discipleship. But Barnabas brought Paul in the scene and co-discipled these new believers. In the process Paul became the greatest disciple maker in the early church. He would have even surpassed Barnabas as the best discipler except for the fact that the student is never greater than his master. Paul’s greatness as a disciple maker goes back to Barnabas.

Paul’s theme statement on discipleship comes from his letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Here is the principle of of great discipleship: spiritual multiplication. Not simply winning a person to Christ. Wining someone is adding to the kingdom. Not 2 plus 2 plus 2, but 2 times 2 times 2. This verse transforms the additional to exponential.

The emphasis goes beyond winning one person, to investing your life in that person, who will be qualified to mature another disciple who will in turn teach others. This is producing the kind of believers in Christ that make a difference.

In Acts 11:26 we read that for a whole year Barnabas and Paul poured their lives into these new believers at Antioch. They discipled them to the point where they were ready to send them their disciplers out as missionaries. It is our responsability in the command of the Great Commission to make disciples.

It was in the context of this discipleship vs 26 that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. Discipleship is the most exciting and most challenging part of spiritual leadership.

I am thankful if the Lord leads me to a person, I am able to share the plan of salvation with them and they accept Christ. But nothing is more exciting than seeing a new believer blossom, grow and produce fruit and become a multiplying disciple. It is heartbreaking when someone is open enough to accept Christ and then gets sidetracked and dead ends in their Christian life and never makes an impact for Christ.

Making disciples is challenging because it fails to happen all too often. Babies are cute, but I wouldn’t want any of them to stay a baby all their life. They must grow and return to fulfill their purpose.

Our task is especially important and difficult in reaching people for Christ from non-Christian homes. Christian principals have not been instilled in them. They don’t receive the support at home and are more easily distracted.

Discipling new believers from non Christian homes is not impossible. When Paul and Barnabas began the discipling process at Antioch they were not from Christian homes, but they helped them grow. The first generation believers often become the most spiritually dynamic believers if they are properly discipled.

Before my marriage when I went to work for Quaker Oats I prayed about finding a roommate. I talked with someone at work about rooming together but finally I told him I wanted a Christian roommate. I was a fairly new believer myself but my new roommate had just accepted Christ. It was exciting to encourage him. He is now serving as a Sunday School teacher and deacon, multiplying himself in ministry.

Seeing a disciple become a disciple maker is exciting. It really gets exciting when you start to draw out your discipleship chain. Your disciples who discipled others who discipled others.

The Greek word for a New Testament disciple came from a word in the secular world that meant apprentice. It was a student of a trade where the apprentice would wok alongside the master to learn that trade.

We need to be intentional about discipleship. Disciple making experience will mean to work closely with a disciple. It comes through a side by side working relationship. That is why what Barnabas did was ingenious. Barnabas discipled Paul for a year making disciples together. Then they went out making disciples together all over Asia. It was field experience together not a classroom experience.

Learning by doing will sink in principals more than a lecture in a class. There is an ancient proverb that sums this up:

I hear, I forget.
I see, I remember.
I do, I understand.

Disciples are formed not informed. Lessons of Christianity sink in when in the context of ministry. Jesus did not just teach the disciples. But they learned in the situations like witnessing to the woman at the well. The impressions burned in their mind. This is the “Organic Discipleship” process.

The other side of disciple making is that you must be willing to be discipled. You need to nurture that longing for spiritual growth. Part of that is having someone who can help you rise above mediocrity. Everyone should have someone who is keeping your sharp. Don’t be shy to ask a spiritual leader to disciple you.

Pray about discipleship opportunities. Take opportunities to spend time with younger Christians. Titus 2:4 calls for women to disciple younger women. Use every available means to facilitate believers to grow. God will use you powerfully when you make disciples. Look how he used Barnabas at Antioch.

For more on discipleship listen to Dawson Trotman’s message called Born to Reproduce



  1. Hi, where did you find this picture? I would like to have it (hard copy) if possible. Do you know where I can get it? Thanks,


    • Hi Zach,
      I took this picture in Israel at a chapel in Jerusalem at the stations of the cross.
      You have my permission to download this large version and make a print. No charge.

      In Christ,
      Brad Beaman

  2. Hi! Do you know who the artist is who did the painting at the top of your blog?

  3. Hi Brad, Erin just contacted you about the image above. She was researching for it for me. I loved it and wanted to possibly use it in a booklet I am making on Discipleship. It is entitled, Pick up Your Cross and Follow Me.

    Would it possible to use your image for this project?

    Dcn. Ralph Poyo

  4. Brad. I hope you also will give permission for me to use this in a power point presentation that will be shown in classes for students for bi-vocational ministry. I will use this photo in a slide about becoming an apostle of Christ through completing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,

    Joy and Blessing, Victoria Mason

    • Hi Victoria,

      You have my permission to use this.

      Blessings, Brad B

  5. Everyone liked the picture, Jesus Christ wants us to die with him on the cross.

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