If someone came up to you and told you, “Go and make disciples,” would you know what to do?
Think about the transformational relationships in your life. When I think of my discipler, she was a stay-at-home mom of two who also worked for a campus ministry. Discipleship looked like me coming to her house, going grocery shopping with her, eating meals with her, interacting with her children, observing her interactions with her husband—doing life with her. I know it doesn’t sound glamorous, but prayer was often woven into our time together, Scripture was often used to remind me of truth, the gospel was often spoken, sin was often confessed, and grace was often experienced. This discipleship relationship equipped me to multiply it with other girls I mentor.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then discipleship applies to you—not just to those in vocational ministry. However, many of us may not feel equipped to be disciplers. There are plenty of books and online resources that go more in depth, so these few are just to get the ball rolling:
To be a good discipler, you have to be a better disciple. A simple way to gauge whether you are being a good learner and follower is to assess whether you are faithful, available, and teachable. Are you doing life alongside someone who is spiritually more mature than you? Are you consistent in reading the Word and engaging in opportunities to grow in your own faith? We cannot pour out wisdom that we do not obtain. Before we seek out faithful, available, teachable people to disciple, we first must meet that criteria ourselves.
You are pouring into someone not just for their own personal growth but also so they can pour into others.
When we are ready to disciple someone else, it is important to find someone who is also faithful, available, and teachable because a discipleship relationship is an investment. You are pouring into someone not just for their own personal growth but also so they can pour into others. In fact, Paul gave this criterion to his disciple Timothy: “And what you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 2:2, NRSV). We all have limited time; therefore, we need to invest our time where it counts. That does not mean ignoring everyone else in the body; it means creating healthy boundaries so you do not burn out.
“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NRSV). As a result of my experience in campus ministry, I grew to think discipleship looked like grabbing a cup of coffee in a nice, hipster coffee shop with Bibles open once a week. I believed there was a specific formula:
60% coffee shop + 30% evangelism + 10% fun = a spectacular discipleship relationship!
However when I went to the Philippines, that method did not work. When my ministry consisted of feeding families in slum communities and I was given eight teenage girls from these communities to disciple, sitting in a Starbucks with our Bibles open once a week was not feasible. Multiplying my life there looked like taking them with me to feed their own community, having them memorize Scripture that applied to their daily realities, and teaching them practical methods for sharing the gospel with their families.
While it may look different for each of us, discipleship should always consist of prayer, Scripture, evangelism, and—of course—love, which binds all these together. There is no single formula for how to implement these. Study a book of the Bible together, memorize Scripture together, care for the least of these together, etc.—and multiply it. What did Jesus do?
Be Holy Spirit-led and Holy Spirit-driven. None of your efforts toward discipleship will matter if you are relying on your own strength and wisdom instead of on the Holy Spirit. The reasons for your investment, the process of your investment, and the fruit of your investment need to be completely dependent on the Holy Spirit—the perfect counselor and discipler. As Jesus said in his Great Commission, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). This means you are constantly tapping into Jesus through prayer and meditation. When confrontational and truthful conversations need to be had with those you disciple, he is with you always—and those are the conversations where I have learned that the Holy Spirit’s leadership is not just a supplement; it is a necessity.
Being in life together, having accountability, building up someone in the faith, and being deeply known all allow a person to experience the gospel in deeper ways.
Some of us may have a tendency to share the gospel with an individual, plug them into a church, and let Sunday school do the rest. However, this method strips away the depth of spiritual formation in a person’s life. Being in life together, having accountability, building up someone in the faith, and being deeply known all allow a person to experience the gospel in deeper ways. Pastors, disciple your church staff; staff, disciple those under you; and congregation, disciple throughout your local body so they can disciple in their workplaces, homes, and across the world. Let’s not make discipleship another ambiguous, churchy word we throw around. Let’s make discipleship the very center of how our church cultures function.