And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
Jesus made disciples. He chose twelve of His closest followers in whom He invested His most intense time and teaching. And He eventually left them, asking them to make disciples as He did. This is a life's task no matter what each Christian's individual vocation may be.
Discipleship involves teaching (doctrinal, practical, scriptural, and personal). It necessitates personal mentoring that models for the disciple the life that is expected of the disciple. It means coaching, encouraging followers when they get it right and improving their spiritual and personal skills. It calls us to admonish and correct when a disciple may be struggling or even sinning against another person and the Master. It is a multi-faceted personal commitment that is a big investment of our time and energy.
To make disciples we must be ready to spend time. Jesus devoted three full years of day and night intensive constant contact with His disciples. We should expect that only intensive commitment truly makes disciples today. Discipleship is also repetitive. His men kept making the same mistakes and needed constant reminders. He often taught the same concepts so the truth could sink in and change them. It is very demanding to do ministry at this level. And it is also very personal. Jesus taught and trained twelve and seemed to spend even more time with Peter, James, and John, developing particular leadership skills in particular followers.
Sadly, the history of the church has been to replace personal discipleship with programs. Systems are built to gather a crowd. Numbers become the measure of success and not necessarily personal spiritual growth. Jesus ended His ministry with a church of eleven... hardly any seminarian's dream.
We need to recapture Jesus' model of personal growth and discipleship. We certainly have challenges in the 21st century... little time for authentic relationship as it is replaced with electronically managed personal "images". There is little time for involvement in "programs", causing churches to falter or even become involved in a pseudo-discipleship as they build their systems around programs. There is little commitment to personal growth as people expect "one minute bibles" and twitter devotionals to sustain them.
It is time to make church gatherings about the people and not the programs. It is time to make disciples like Jesus did. It is always the right time to follow Jesus by investing life with each other as His followers.