I read this post about why churches do not make disciples. It Alan Knox asked for ideas to improve the situation. I then wrote what you see here.
Firstly, I think we need to see what it is, in Jesus' context and in Jesus' teaching that makes a disciple. The word is fraught with religious associations today. Dallas Willard prefers apprentice, I typically use student.
Jesus himself defines a disciple as somebody who will be like his teacher and as somebody who continues in his teaching. Dallas Willard combines them to say, "a disciple is somebody who is with somebody else, learning to be like them." That is biblical.
So, if we define disciple, then we have to become disciples as well as aim to make some. That means learning from Jesus, because Jesus said to, "learn of me for I am meek." So we learn from Jesus about God the Father, about the kingdom of God, about the defeat of the kingdom of Satan, about what true goodness is, about the Holy Spirit, about Jesus himself, etc. This process is called repentance, or changing your mind. Paul talks about it too, he says that mind changing is the key to transformation under the gospel in Romans 12:1-2. This cannot be done without specific attention to the good news that Jesus preached, that was preached about him, and the specific teachings of Jesus in the gospels and their meaning for today. It will involve being wrong, messing up, failing to live up, receiving grace and comfort from Jesus, as well as surprising results as people say, "oh, Jesus said that...better do it." That's what people who have the Holy Spirit do.
This cannot happen by accident, but it must be intentional. We must intend to follow Jesus. We must intend to teach others how to follow Jesus. Without human intention there is no discipleship. I think the myth of the “accidental disciple” came from a faulty version of Calvinism poorly appropriated and misapplied and perhaps from a bit of the “waiting on God” version of sanctification which is a breed of fatalism and Pentecostalism. The idea is that God will deal with our sins and our understanding in due time. But Jesus never gives a hint of that, he tells us to follow him and he calls the shots and forgives us when we fail and transforms us as his truth gets worked into our minds, our wills, and finally our daily habits.
So we've gotta be disciples and then we've gotta make them, probably largely within the church today, but on the outside too, that's the mandate, but the problem is that the church is no longer a body of disciples, which makes it a great mission field. Incidentally, Paul thought the same way, he was still making disciples of the Corinthian church and nothing was particularly holy about those saints, except that they called Jesus Lord.
I would then explain that convert, in the New Testament (Romans 15:6) is a word describing somebody who went through a personal change through their experience of repentance and acceptance into God's kingdom. Converts are not merely people who do some religious thing, but they are people who decide to follow Jesus...no matter how badly they stink at it of course.
I think that part of the mystique that comes with the phrase “making disciples” is the use of the great commission by missionary organizations to focus on the all nations portion of the commission, which causes people to think that making disciples is not the normative criteria for what makes the church. Wherever somebody happens to be at the time is a nation, so if they travel across cultures or not, they are still on mission for God, they are still called to make and be disciples.
One other thing that must be dealt with is the idea that disciples are perfect or perhaps a different breed of extra special Christians, when in reality everybody who calls Jesus Lord is supposed to also call him teacher. Disciples are students and they mess up, they get embarrassed, they sin, and that's why Jesus died, to save his disciples. So, once the idea that to be a disciple is to be perfect is removed, then I think more people will say, “oh, Jesus calls me to learn of him and he'll deal with perfection, but I'm just supposed to learn of him and call others to do the same.”
These thoughts are disorganized, but these problems must be addressed on the human end for discipleship to happen, or it rarely will.