I’ve seen disciple-making relationships transform people’s lives.
I’ve also seen disciple-making relationships become dysfunctional – even damaging.
Here are Seven things I value in Disciple making relationships:
1) Grow Authentic Relationships with People. Jesus said the world would know we’re His disciples by our love for one another. Love is not selfish or ego driven. Discipling relationships work when they are based on love. A discipling relationship is about a special kind of sacred influence and trust you gain with people – not control or blind submission.
2) Focused on Knowing and Experiencing Jesus. Legalism is an attempt to conform someone’s external behavior without them experiencing a personal, authentic, life-altering relationship with Jesus. Head knowledge is important, but authentic relationship with Jesus is what produces a healthy heart and actions. These only happen when people personally experience Jesus. If you bring people toward Jesus, their life will change. He is the true changer of lives. Discipleship is guiding someone in that journey.
3) Holy Spirit-Empowered. When I was just out of college, I led a Buddhist student to Jesus. After he prayed to accept Jesus, a friend and I prayed for him to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. He fell down and started convulsing, screaming at the top of his lungs. We found out when he was a child, his parents had dedicated him to an idol in an attempt to heal him of a sickness. We led him in a prayer to break any tie he had with the evil spirit behind that idol that was influencing him. We commanded the evil spirit to leave in Jesus’ name. He began rejoicing and praising God in the Spirit. We baptized him in my bathtub late that night. He grew as a disciple of Jesus and within a couple years he went on to plant churches in a closed nation in SE Asia.
This was a life-altering lesson that discipleship is not dependent on our human effort alone. People need to encounter the person and power of the Holy Spirit.
4) Selection is Important. Jesus was undiscriminating with His love, but He was highly discriminating with His time. Jesus prayed all night before specifically selecting who He wanted to become his first disciples. When I disciple someone, I’m looking to prayerfully choose who I want to invest my time in, so their life can be better – and so they can spread that to other people they will disciple in the future.
Jesus discipled future disciple-makers. From the beginning of a discipling relationship, have this same view in mind that you’re preparing someone to make other disciples in the future.
5) Giving over Getting. Discipleship is the process of giving yourself away to invest in someone else’s walk with Jesus so that they are fruitful in every aspect of their lives.
Similar in some ways to good parenting, the joy of making disciples is to watch them grow and surpass you. This is the kind of leadership that Jesus modeled for us. We should follow His example as we lead others.
My goal is to help disciples get to a place of personal character and dependence on God so they can go make their own networks of discipling relationships. Discipleship is an act of service, of giving yourself away so others can succeed.
6) No Discipleship without Evangelism – Jesus said, “Follow me and I’ll make you become a fisher of men.” The first skill he said he would impart to His new disciples is the ability to “catch” other people. In the West, we often separate Discipleship and Evangelism. In reality, evangelism is an invitation into the life of being a disciple. Discipleship is the act of teaching people to live massively influential lives that draw others to Jesus.
The best kind of discipleship focuses immediately on equipping people to spread the message of Jesus’ kingdom wherever they have influence.
7) Disciple to Grow Communities of Disciples
From the beginning, equip people you are discipling to reach their network of unsaved friends and families. Many times, one disciple can open up a whole new network of people who begin following Jesus together. In the context of making disciples in an existing church, this isn’t always possible. But in the contexts where I focus most of my time it is. Gatherings of new disciples can happen in a house, a business, a college dorm room — wherever people do life together. When disciples gather together to love God, love each other, and love the lost, this is church in it’s simplest form. One discipling relationship can be the beginning of a new church – and a multiplying movement for the gospel.