Many Christians are intimidated by the concept of discipleship.
A disciple is someone who is in a committed relationship with Jesus. He/she believes the gospel message with his/her whole heart, and seeks to live in reverence and obedience to Him.
Therefore, discipleship/making disciples means you’re living your life of faith and inviting others to come alongside you and learn by God’s word and your example, just as Jesus did with His followers.
My friend convicted me one day when she said that people may have the desire to disciple someone, and they might even be excited about it, but they don’t ever tell the younger believer that’s their plan. They just try to make an effort to connect with him/her more often.
The problem with doing this is that there’s no mutual purpose or accountability to it.
I was convicted because I’ve done exactly as my friend described. The thought of formally discipling someone intimidated me, even when I felt passionately about coming alongside a younger believer and guiding her in her faith.
I had a parent approach me years ago and ask if I would disciple her daughter. I was honoured and took some time to pray about it, but ultimately, my fear won out and I said no.
We know as Christians that we need it. I’d go as far to say that most of us crave it, especially women. Some will be courageous and formally ask someone they respect to disciple them, but are often rejected.
The more I grow in Jesus; the more I understand the need to be courageous not only in requesting an older woman in the faith to disciple me, but also to rise up and do it for the younger generation too. I need to be more intentionally investing in their lives, leading them to the deeper truths of the Lord and His word. In fact, the Lord has grown an ever-deepening passion for this as I develop this ministry.
I’m certainly no where near perfect at it, but I’m working on it, and would love to share some of the things I’ve learned about this commission Jesus gave to all of His followers in Matthew 28:19-20,
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
So, how do you, “Make disciples?”
- Intentionality – Like the scenario at the beginning of this blog post, you can’t just get together with someone and hope she’ll open up to you, and allow you to share God’s truth. She may listen for a while, but eventually wonder why you have this sudden interest in meeting with her frequently. You need to clearly state your reason. That way, it will foster more intentional conversations.
Jesus clearly called His disciples to come and learn from Him:
“16 As he passed alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told them, ‘And I will make you fish for people.’ 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 Going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat putting their nets in order. 20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” Mark 1:16-20
Jesus was intentional about everything He did. The same is true about the apostle Paul. They knew the mission and would do whatever necessary to see it accomplished. This should be the kind of intentionality and passion you and I have for discipleship as well.
- Accountability –
Discipleship isn’t about constantly imparting every ounce of knowledge in your brain to your disciple. Jesus didn’t even do this while He lived on earth. It’s about actively listening to what your disciple is saying, and responding accordingly. The response may lead to sharing relevant Bible passages and/or searching the Scriptures together to find answers. It could look like praying together for help and answers from the Lord. It might be sharing a parable or personal experience of how the Lord helped you through something, or it could be acknowledging what he’s going through is hard and reminding him you’re there for him through this difficult time. Jesus used all of these methods.
Often, when you teach someone else, you learn the most. So, don’t picture discipleship as you needing to be a scholar of God’s word and your disciple being a young babe. Start where you are in your own understanding of the Bible, continue to study, and bridge the gap between you two, being open to learning from him/her too.
There’s a young lady I love to come alongside. She’s spiritually thirsty for more of Jesus and wanting to align her life and desires with His. The more time I spend with her; the more encouraged I am. Her thirst for Jesus spurs me on to wanting more of Him too. I find it challenges me to keep growing in my faith so I can continue to be an example for her. I’m beginning to understand how Paul could love Timothy like a son.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, for the sake of the promise of life in Christ Jesus:
2 To Timothy, my dearly loved son.
Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:1-2
If you are actively discipling someone, then the accountability will be between the two of you to make time to get together. If you remain silent about it, there’ll be no accountability, and the desire will fade away faster than you think. Be on your guard. The enemy doesn’t want this to happen. You need to be as open and active with it as you can.
- The Gospel – Everything should always point back to the gospel – the powerful story of Jesus’ redemptive gift of salvation. It’s great to discuss theological elements or share stories about your week. But if you’re discipling someone, make sure that everything always points back to Jesus.
This should be a relief to you, not a weight. It’s a relief, because you should know the gospel well as a Christian, whether you’re young in your faith or very seasoned. If you don’t know what spiritual growth points to discuss, you can always return to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. That’s where your greatest hope resides because it delivers you freedom from sin, peace and joy in this life, and the hope of glory to come.
So, don’t be intimidated about discipleship. Embrace it and make it as simplistic as needed. Just remember that it’s much more than getting together to have a good time. You can certainly have fun! But it must always be in the context of pointing your younger believer to Jesus. Be intentional and stay accountable to one another.
There’s no better time to do it either. You’re in a culture where mentorship/coaching is embraced in business, health, finances, etc. If the secular world is seeing the need for it, what does that mean for our Christian world? Perhaps they’re seeing a gap we’ve created by not fulfilling the mission God’s called us to. Or, on the other side, they see value in the model of discipleship, and have implemented it into their areas of expertise. Either way, this opens wide the opportunity to connect with those younger in the faith and show them the rewarding life they can have in Christ.
I’m excited to share that there’ll be a discipleship section in the Bible study we’ll be launching this fall; to help guide you in how to practically do this with others! Start praying now and ask the Lord who He desires you to disciple. When He shows you who to come alongside, begin to foster a relationship with him/her. You can start light by doing something fun to get to know her better. After the relationship begins to develop you can go from regular conversation to looking for opportunities to pray together and share relevant Bible passages to answer her questions. Then, when our study is released, you’ll be ready to dive deeper into God’s word together and explore the rich truths He has for you both!