Alice Matagora: Everyday Disciples

As told to Jessica Hanewinckel

I believe the kingdom needs everyday people to make disciples. It can’t just be on pastors and those serving in full-time ministry, or we risk losing the advancement of the kingdom to all places. Some people will never set foot in a church. And that’s why Jesus gives all his believers—people who are literally everywhere, in every corner of the world—this beautiful calling to make disciples right where they are, because the kingdom needs everyday people. 

According to Barna research, only 30% of American Christians are making disciples, and only 19% have actually been discipled in their lives. So there’s a big gap between Jesus’ calling for all his followers to go and make disciples of all nations and the 20–30% who have actually [practiced] it.

I wonder if this idea of disciple making falling out of practice has been a result of our culture’s fast pace. I mean, the church is not in a silo apart from what’s going on in the world around us. And American culture is all about efficiency, speed and maximizing our efforts. But when you think about discipleship and disciple making, it’s not efficient. It’s one-on-one. Why would I spend time one-on-one with someone when I can preach a message to hundreds at one time? Has the American church traded the slower-paced depth required of disciple making for more breadth of ministry? Both are needed, but I wonder if we’ve leaned too far one way. 

Research illuminates so many areas we can hit as the church to get this disciple-making movement going again. We need to make disciples, but we aren’t. From the data, it seems that people just lack an awareness or are unfamiliar or uncertain about terms such as discipleship, disciple making and the Great Commission. They are like, Well, that sounds really super spiritual. I don’t really know that that’s something I could do. But when you describe discipleship as passing on what you have learned spiritually to somebody else, they can get on board with that. 

Other things holding people back from discipleship are what they perceive as a lack of confidence and time. But those two issues actually are quite conquerable—people just need to know where to look in order to overcome them. And that can be done in churches. The church has such a unique opportunity to model a disciple-making culture. The more normal we make it part of the Christian life, the more we can help people to see that it’s not intimidating. 

And regarding time: I don’t think you necessarily need to set aside extra time, but you can build discipling into your life. Ask your congregants, “Where has God called you to already? Where are you working? Who are the people around you in your neighborhood, on your kids’ play dates, at your sporting events?” Then you can explain that it’s not something completely extra to add on to a really full life. It’s something to do when you’re already in your really full life. You might be discipling just one or two people, but Jesus can multiply that.

Alice Matagora is the program coordinator for a leader development initiative in The Navigators. She is the author of How to Save the World: Disciplemaking Made Simple (NavPress).

Alice Matagora
Alice Matagora

Alice Matagora is the Leader Development Initiatives program coordinator for The Navigators and Navigators Collegiate staff at the University of California at Irvine. She lives in California with her husband and children. How to Save the World: Disciple-Making Made Simple releases from NavPress in August 2022.