Question: How To Do Discipleship

Anonymous asked (edited for length):

Hello. I’d like you to know that I really like how you answer people’s questions … You are such a blessing, pastor. Also, I want to ask how to disciple. I don’t really know how, but I’m willing. Thank you in advance.


Thank you for your very kind words, and also for your willingness to step it up and make disciples.

With questions like these, it’s easy to start with “How To” — but I think we need to answer Why. 

I mean if you asked me about marriage, I don’t want to start immediately with “Five Keys For A Happy Home-Life.”  That might work on the surface, but if we know Why: then we can really dig into the purposeful heart of our actions and it can be sustainable.

Please feel free to skip around, and add anything you like.  Discipleship is so much more than I could write in this post, but probably not much less.


Why Make Disciples? A Bit of Theology

I could say, “You have to make disciples!” because Jesus told us so in Matthew 28 — but we need to remember that God’s commands express a reality and design in the way we are made.  His commands are NOT to restrict you or take from you, but to give you life.  They’re your true vision and your real story.  So, for example, when God says, “Sex is for marriage,” He is saying, “Sex inside marriage is the hottest awesomest most God-honoring rocking sex you will ever have.”

God made us for relational intimacy.  We’re made for Him and for each other, and this is what most brings Him glory.  In Genesis 1, even though Creation is called “good” seven times, God still says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  Consider that Adam is perfectly reflecting God’s glory and he has God all to Himself — yet God still made Eve. 

This wasn’t just to give Adam a wife.  This is the fabric of Creation saying: We need each other.  

Now that the triple-threat of sin, Satan, and the world divide us and distract us — we need discipleship.  We need to lead one another as conduits back to God’s glory.  We’re called to seek those far off from God.  We’re empowered to encourage, spur on, lift up, rebuke, teach, and guide each other as the body of Christ into the center of God’s loving purpose.

Discipling someone is to be Christ for someone so that they will be like Christ.

There are also extra-blessing benefits to this.  Discipleship protects from jealousy, because you’re promoting the growth of others and celebrating their achievements.  It protects from self-centeredness, because you must think of another and pour your life into them. It protects from vanity, because you’re passing the baton. 

Those are not the main goals of discipleship, but it goes to show: when God calls us into community, this is what makes the most sense of our very short lives.  At a funeral, no one gets misty about how much the guy kept for himself.  A life is all about how much life was given away.


How Do We Make Disciples? The Practical

Discipleship is sort of a messy mix of role modeling, teaching, hanging out, talking Jesus, and being real with the other person.  It sounds like mentoring, but that’s only a part of it. 

Most discipleship is not very formal.  When I’ve discipled a younger person, I’ve never said, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s time to be a fisher of men!”  It’s always happened from simply hanging out together as normal people, without treating them as projects, instead aiming to love them into Christ.  

I know this sounds contemporary or emergent or hipster or relevant or whatever.  Certainly, there’s Christianity 101 and Bible studies and Friday night service and learning doctrine — but I’ve never “scheduled” discipleship. 

Most Christians grow in between the warm space of side-by-side companionship, the awkward silence of night, after a water balloon fight, pondering the universe at two in the morning, having those deep talks in the car ride after the movies, in between bowling and laser tag, on Sunday evenings when the weekly blues set in, when the TV is turned off.  It’s in these moments they trust you with their life. 

When I think of my youth pastor who discipled me: my heart still leaps in excitement and nostalgia.  It was a wonderful time.

It’s very much one-on-one, confessing the heart, sharing dreams, spilling pain, admitting doubts — which can only happen the more you just hang out. 


Find someone.  Preferably a younger person of the same gender. While this isn’t always true, discipleship will often happen with the next generation of younger people.  Keep that going. Get a young person to disciple another younger person. Jesus had a group of twelve, but really he had a circle of three, and when it came down to it, he really had one: Peter.  We don’t need to disciple a whole lot of people.  It’s not favoritism to stick with one or two.

Don’t hold back on your wisdom or knowledge.  If it took you three years to learn a painful lesson in your life, you have an opportunity to share it in three minutes.  If you’re bitter about that, I suppose you don’t get it yet — but actually, you do, because I bet you wanted someone older like that mentoring you, who would share the tail end of their life-experience so you could be better from it. 

You really have a lot to offer.  You don’t know how much you know until you start explaining it to another person.  You’d be surprised.  Your unique skill-set, upbringing, sad stories, victories, and personality all make for a one-of-a-kind life that will raise another life. 

Prepare to have supernatural patience.  Be gracious.  Pray like crazy and rely on the Spirit.  You’ll see all the ugly sides of a person, the stubbornness, the pride, the dry seasons.  At times you’ll be heartbroken.  But when you see the lights turn on in a young disciple’s eyes: there is absolutely nothing better, because this is what you were made to do.  Love when you find them unlovable, like God loves you.

— J.S.

Here’s a message on the sloppy truth of discipleship.

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