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Discipleship Essentials: Relational

Discipleship is more caught than taught. Jesus modeled the most effective form of disciplemaking by giving us what is commonly known as the “with him principle” based on Mark 3:14. Mark writes, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” Jesus spent three years with these twelve men showing them how to live and lead in the kingdom. Jesus took his disciples “with him” as he broadly sowed the gospel.

In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman made this observation:

“Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program—just letting his disciples follow him. It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation. One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations.”

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I tell our students that the most effective form of discipleship training is “monkey see, monkey do.” For example, when training someone to share the gospel, it is much more effective to take them with you on a gospel appointment than to just tell them about evangelism. Let them play “wing man” and watch as you share Jesus with someone. We have a motto for our ministry, “never share the gospel alone.” If you want them to learn the importance of using a prayer list, get some time with them and have them pray with you over your list. Then help them write their own list. If you are helping them learn how to memorize scripture, have them quiz you on the verses you are currently working on.

As essential as living the life in front of them is, it is not enough. You must explain the biblical basis for the steps of faith you are taking. Christopher Adsit says in Personal Disciplemaking, “It may be true that some things are better caught than taught, but other things must be taught before they can be caught.” Discipleship must contain both authentic relationship and systematic biblical training. If you take a shortcut in either area you will struggle to produce fruitful disciples who will make disciples.

Enjoy Life Together

Disciplemaking is not all serious though! Especially working with college students, it is important to incorporate some fun into your relationship. Honestly, this can be difficult with our busy schedules, but with a little creativity you can learn to enjoy life together.

Here are some ideas for building a deeper relationship with those you disciple.

  • Invite them over for a meal. You don’t need to be a great cook or have a Pinterest-worthy home to practice biblical hospitality. Simply invite people into your life as it really is. If you have young kids, the idea of inviting people over to experience the chaos of your home might seem counterproductive. I have discovered as I invite my disciples into my chaotic life, it makes a huge impact on them. They get to watch me as I seek to serve my wife and lovingly discipline my kids, and sometimes they learn more about obeying Jesus in those moments than during hours of Bible study.
  • Take them on road trips. If you get to attend or speak at conferences out of town, bring one of your disciples with you. This is a perfect opportunity to talk on the drive there, goof off on the road, and share the experience together.
  • Ask them to help you with everyday work projects. The goal of this is not to get free labor–although that can be a perk! I remember as a student when Max Barnett would call me up and ask if I could come help him with yard work at his house. I would jump at the opportunity to get extra time to be with him. I learned a lot from those days of work at his house. Do you need to go to the grocery store? Ask someone to go with you. You can build friendships around the boring, everyday stuff of life. That is actually where most of life happens!
  • Take an interest in their hobbies and include them in yours. If they are in the school play, go see it. If they are into fantasy football, join the league just so you can talk shop about the players with them. You can also incorporate them into your hobbies. I have had some great conversations with guys as I shank my way around the golf course.  
  • Go on a mission trip together. This experience will help you grow together and build trust more than any other. If you get a chance to go on a summer discipleship project or overseas mission trip, recruit those you are discipling to come with you. “Come with me” is way more powerful than “you should go.” You will be amazed at how God changes students as you experience Him working through you together.
  • Labor among the lost with them. Nothing will help your relationship grow more than working together to share Christ with unbelievers. Your friendship will grow tremendously as you experience the devastating heartbreaks and intense joys that often come with trying to have a personal ministry among lost people.

What practical next steps do you need to take in order to develop a deeper relationship with each person you are discipling?

This is the second article in a three part series. Read part one Discipleship Essentials: Intentional and part three Discipleship Essentials: Reproducible