Disciple-making ends (and begins again) here. This center circle on the target represents the third step to present every man complete in Christ. Helping others follow Christ advances from Evangelizing to Edifying to Equipping.
Spiritual birth and spiritual growth toward Christlikeness mark every disciple. One of the clearest signs of increased spiritual maturity is that the disciple is capable of reproducing, that is, making a disciple of their own. Not only is this an important sign of health, it is necessary for fulfilling the Great Commission in coming generations as well as among all the nations.
Therefore, training–equipping–others to reproduce themselves is the final level of disciple-making. To equip means to prepare, to train, to furnish someone with tools necessary to accomplish a task. For those in this center circle on our bullseye we train and reproduce. By instruction, example, delegation, and critique the discipler equips the disciple to disciple someone else.
God gives leaders to the church for this very reason: to equip the saints for the work of ministry. But note that while the pastor initiates and oversees the process, the work of the ministry is done by the saints. In other words, disciples make disciples who make disciples until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. Pastors/elders and Bible study/small group leaders should be the first disciplers but never the only disciplers.
The center of the bullseye is the smallest circle because it typically includes the fewest number of people. In fact, this target level is aimed at the faithful, those who can be entrusted with passing on truth to others who will be able to teach others after them. While we want everyone to end up here eventually, disciple-making requires us to focus on the few, faithful followers to reach the many in the outer circles.
This is probably the weakest sphere for most churches, including churches with sound doctrine. Equipping certainly includes solid teaching in big church but it involves much more than that. We don’t expect our children to mature by handing them a book to read, is it different for spiritual children? Disciples don’t learn to take responsibility from a distance, so making disciples from the platform or sermon mp3s is only a small part of the process. Jesus modeled for us at least five stages of development with His disciples (which I plan to post about soon). Suffice to say for now, each stage involved more than relaying a message, it involved imparting His very life.
On another practical note, you can always find someone who knows less than you do. So get in someone’s back pocket who knows more than you and then pass that on to someone else. That’s what it means to make disciples, following Christ and equipping others to follow Him. It is every disciple’s mission.