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Discipleship Essentials: Intentional

December 9, 2019
“Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4

Years ago my mentor, Max Barnett, was inspired by this scripture to ask God not for ministry “success” in the eyes of the world but for people–people who would be changed by the gospel, discipled in a deep and transforming way, and sent to multiply disciples to the ends of the earth. 

You may have never heard about Max Barnett, and honestly he is fine with that. Right now there are thousands of people around the world (including me) who are making disciples because of Max’s ministry.

Isaiah 43:4 says nations and people will be impacted “in exchange for your life.” We all only have one life to give for making disciples. And as college ministers, we only have limited time to invest in each student. In order to best leverage our lives for this Great Commission, and most effectively point students to Jesus and fulfilling His mission, we must narrowly focus on what is most essential in discipleship. We must be intentional about what we reproduce.

A Simple and Reproducible Plan

What do you hope will be true of the people you are discipling a year from now? How about ten years from now? Forty years from now? 

These questions should shape how you invest in students. 

In our ministry we have a list of basic biblical principles and training objectives we walk everyone we disciple through. We want our students to understand and live out basics such as the gospel, lordship of Christ, daily time alone with God, scripture memory, prayer, evangelism, world vision, and fellowship. Notice I said “training objectives” instead of lessons. Yes, lessons are an essential part of the process but the goal is that these concepts will be integrated into the disciple’s life. We don’t “move on” beyond the basics until we are convinced of true progress in the bottom line essentials of what it takes to have a vibrant walk with Jesus Christ.

LeRoy Eims, author of Lost Art of DiscipleMaking, said, “In helping a young Christian grow, you need a step-by-step building program in mind. You can develop certain objectives you want him to attain before he undertakes others. You want to see him go from taking in spiritual milk to partaking of spiritual meat.” 

We wrote free reproducible discipleship lessons and posted them on our website so students can simply print them and use with minimal prep time. This has greatly helped the students who are starting to disciple others focus more on helping students live out the training objectives rather than spending lots of time preparing new Bible studies.

Having an easily accessible set of our own lessons has sped up the turnaround time from students being discipled to discipling others. These “required” lessons are not exhaustive. They can easily be finished in a semester. We want to make our disciple-making process as simple and reproducible as possible.

Strategic Tangents

We intentionally train our staff and students to be flexible in the order that they go through the lessons based on the needs each person has. For example, if a student starts a new dating relationship, I may take a break from the lessons I am going over with them and spend a couple of weeks doing Bible studies, reading books, and listening to messages on dating. Then I help them craft a strategic plan for how they will glorify God through their relationship. How a student chooses to date in college can make or break their spiritual life and ability to have a personal ministry. It makes sense to focus on that for a few weeks until there is a good plan in place. This is just one example of a “tangent” I may take with a disciple. Other times, I will spend extra time helping a student with an addiction to pornography or time management.  Also if a student I am discipling leads someone to Christ, I will focus the next few weeks on how to follow up a new believer.

After a strategic tangent, we always encourage our team to resume working through the rest of the training objectives. Once they are done with our basic list of training objectives, it’s up to the discipler to follow the Holy Spirit in discerning what the person they are training needs in order to continue growing and multiplying. We do provide suggested resources and book suggestions for further study on relevant topics as well as coaching from the person discipling the disciplemaker. None of our student leaders is ever left out on a limb with no one helping them craft their strategic plan for their disciples. Having a set list of training objectives for our students to work through has united our leaders and helped us multiply. I would encourage you to consider a “basic training course” of some sort to incorporate into your ministry. Feel free to use or adapt ours.

Disciplemaking is not a linear process. Making disciples means dealing with real people in the context of the complexities of life. Our goal is not to create cookie cutter versions of what we picture as the “ideal disciple.” Rather, we are on a mission to instill in students a passionate love for Jesus and equip them to do their part in fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation. Each person has unique gifts, abilities and callings from God. I believe if we are faithful to help people gain traction in the basics of following Jesus, then Jesus will guide them to maximize their fruitfulness. 

Intentional Discipleship Ideas:

Here are a few more practical ways to be intentional about your investment in students:

  • Keep a discipleship journal. Track the progress you are making with those you disciple. I keep a journal of everyone I am discipling including specific prayers for them, what lessons I have already gone over with them (it can be awkward to forget and try and do the same lesson twice), goals they have that I helped them come up with, custom accountability questions based on their goals, which training objectives and materials I will focus on with them next, and anything else I need to remember when I am meeting with or praying for this student.
  • Regularly ask them questions that will help you assess where they are and how you can help them. Questions I regularly ask are: “What is one aspect of your character you most need to grow in right now?” “What is one skill you would like to develop in order to serve God more effectively?” “What is your next step if you are going to have a personal ministry that multiplies disciples?”
  • Use cross training. Get them around wise godly men and women who can influence them and give specific help in various areas of life. Don’t create a culture in your ministry where the only input people are getting is from their discipler. Your local church should be an essential component for discipling your students. Students love to learn from older men and women who have walked with God for years.
  • Be intentional with your time together even when you didn’t have much time to prepare for the meeting.
  • Pray for them every day. This sounds obvious, but seriously you will be amazed at how God will give you ideas as you labor for them in prayer.

What next steps do you need to take to become more intentional in your disciplemaking?

What is one missing element in your current disciplemaking process?

What resources does your ministry use? Are they simple and reproducible?

First of a three part series on Discipleship Essentials.

Discipleship Essentials: Relational

Discipleship Essentials: Reproducible