How Do You Know When You’ve Made a Disciple?

How do you know? How do you know when you’re going the right direction? How do you know you’re sipping the perfect cup of coffee? How do you know you’ve studied hard enough to pass the test? How do you know you’ve found true love? How do you know… that you’ve made a disciple? How do you know?

If we view discipleship through the lens of a curriculum, class or program, then we view a disciple as someone who has completed our curriculum, class or program, right? But is that really what a disciple looks like? What did Jesus have in mind when He said “go and make disciples of all nations” to His followers?

What is a disciple? It’s not a word that we frequently hear in our culture. Disciple is one of those “Bible words” that only Christians really use today, so it’s not hard to see why there might be confusion about its meaning.

In Sonlife’s 4 Chair Discipling training, we define a disciple as: One who knows God personally and pursues Jesus passionately, modeling everything in their life after the character and priorities of Christ.

This definition has two key components to it.


A disciple is one who has put their faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation, entering into a personal relationship with God.

“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12


A disciple is one who is committed to being like Jesus. The character of Christ is being formed in them. They are growing in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The priorities of Christ are being followed by them. Love God. Love People. Make Disciples.

“Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

In ancient times, the word “disciple” was interchangeable with the word “student.” The word disciple carried with it the connotation of being a student, a learner, a follower, an apprentice.

A disciple was not just a student who learned what his teacher knew. A disciple learned who their teacher was. It was the disciple’s intent to become just like their teacher. They would walk the way their teacher walked, talk the way their teacher talked, eat the way their teacher ate, sit the way their teacher sat, dress the way their teacher dressed… A disciple was to become a carbon copy of their teacher.

A rabbinical teaching from the Mishnah encouraged students to “walk in the dust of their rabbi.” The idea here is that you followed so closely behind your rabbi, desiring to learn whatever you could from him and not miss anything he might say, that you would literally be covered in the dust his feet kicked up.

Consider Jesus’ words in Luke 6:40.

“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

A disciple “who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” A disciple is committed to be like Jesus.

Now don’t miss this. It’s important.

If the teacher discipled their student…
…and the student is going to be just like their teacher…
…then the student, in turn, will… disciple others also!

Did you catch that? Built right into the DNA of being a disciple… is making disciples!

You can’t be a disciple of Jesus and not be committed to making disciples yourself. Jesus made disciples. So then it must follow, disciples make disciples. A non-reproducing disciple is an oxymoron.

Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men!” Jesus’ intent is to make His followers fishers of men, reproducers of disciples. If we’re not fishing, can we really say we’re following Jesus? It’s what He did. It’s what His disciples do.

If what we’re calling “discipleship” doesn’t produce disciples who make disciples, then it’s time to re-examine our discipleship. If what we’re calling “discipleship” doesn’t produce disciples who make disciples, then it’s time to redefine what we mean by disciple.

How do you know if you’ve made a disciple?

It’s simple. Look at the fruit.

“This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” John 15:8