How To Disciple Someone

May 28, 2013

I. WHY DISCIPLING OTHERS IS IMPORTANT

When a person comes to the end of his life he is going to be selective with his last words. He will only say what he feels is most important; those will be the words remembered by everyone who hears them.

Knowing the importance and significance of a person’s last words helps us to understand the importance of Jesus’ final words:

. . . Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 NLT)

My guess is that you know about Jesus. If not, here’s a little info about him:

  • he came here to earth
  • lived for 33 years
  • performed three years of ministry
  • those three years of ministry was focused on 12 common men
  • he left his followers with one command.

That command is Matt 28:19-20 (I always use the NLT version, read why here) which you read above. The most important element of those 33 years Jesus spent on earth were the three years he spent traveling, doing ministry, and teaching a select group of 12 disciples. They were 12 ordinary men who Jesus selected to be the main recipients of his teaching and to have the fullest knowledge about who he was. And, when it was time for Jesus to ascend into heaven, these were the men he gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) to. Why would Jesus want to only do ministry for three years to a select group of 12 guys, then leave them and tell them to go and make disciples among others?

Jesus left and commanded the 12 guys to go and make disciples because he knew that the only way to grow common people into mature disciples was to have a core group of 12 men who knew him and his mission. 1

Because of Jesus’ example and his teaching to us, it is imparitive that we disciple others. I am in the process of discipling a young man and I look forward to sharing more with you in the next two weeks about not just the requirement to disciple others, but also how to disciple others.

II. QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU DISCIPLE SOMEONE

One of my wife’s girlfriends recently began dating a young man who was a new Christian. I wondered if Allan (not his real name) had anyone who was discipling him. Later I learned that Allan had been connected to someone at his church to disciple him, but the person had not returned Allan’s calls.

As a result, I asked to be connected to Allan and see if he might be interested in meeting with me to discuss the possibility of me being a disciple to him. The meeting went great and we have been meeting twice a month since then. (If you’re not sure what a “disciple” is, this blog post will help.) 

Even though Allan and I have been meeting for months as part of our discipling relationship, it is important that a discipleship relationship start by exploring if there should be a discipleship relationship.

What do I mean?

I mean that before discipleship occurs, there should be some questions and a conversation between the person who needs to be discipled and the person willing to do the discipling. When Allan and I met for the first time we talked through several questions. These questions helped us get to know each other better as well as see if the discipling relationship would be a good fit for us.

Here are some suggested questions to talk through when you meet with a potential disciple:

  • What’s your story of becoming a Christian? Ask and listen to the person tell her story. This is her chance to share what God has done in her heart. It will also allow you to see areas that you might be able to compliment this person.
  • Do you need someone to disciple you? This is perhaps the most basic question, but it is necessary. A new Christian only needs one–maybe two people–to disciple her. More than one or two people will cause the new Christian to feel overwhelmed, become confused when receiving conflicting advice/teaching, and she might eventually feel discouraged because of too much information.
  • Do you think it would be a good fit for me to disciple you? This is a simple yes or no question to ask at the end of the conversation.

Remember, when you first meet with someone you are exploring the topic of being a disciple to her. You are not there because you are going to be meeting every week for ten years. You are exploring the possibility of there being a match for what the new Christian needs and what you can provide.

On a side note, be sure to “give an out” to the person. To give him an out means you say, “Let’s meet again and talk more about what we might study and to ensure we want to continue this relationship.” This says that you have not decided for sure that you are going to disciple this person, and he might not have decided you are the right fit. But, you have agreed to go forward and discuss it more. Maybe someone else comes along that the new Christian feels would be a better person to be discipled by. That’s okay.

The important thing is to ask good questions before the discipleship relationship begins. This ensures a good outcome for you as the person offering your time to disciple someone, and for the person who is on the receiving end of the discipling relationship.

III. HOW TO DECIDE WHAT TO STUDY

The process of discipling a new Christian is important and critical to the Christian faith. Therefore, deciding what to study when a discipleship relationship begins is also vitally important and must be done with care and tact.

This year I have enjoyed the process of discipling a young man named Allan (not his real name). However, the beginning of a discipleship relationship is very important because it lays the foundation for what is going to occur later in the discipleship process. In the second meeting Allan and I had we were faced with the topic of how to decide what to study.

Deciding what to study with Allan was very important because “discipling relationships are customized to the unique growth process of the individuals.” 2 Because I was committed to Allan and his growth as a new Christian, I knew that we had to pick a topic to study that would be relevant to his life as a new Christian.

When looking at what to study I came up with:

  • Big Events of the Old Testament
  • An Exegesis of Romans
  • Major Characters of the Bible
  • Simply read a book or workbook as a method of discipleship

After some discussion with Allan, I allowed him to be the one to chose which area to study. In my head, I had an idea of what I thought would have been best for him, but I wanted to see where his interested laid.

Allan decided he wanted to learn more about the Big Events of the Old Testament, which was also the topic I felt he would benefit most from.

In discipleship, it is important to remember that what is taught and how a person is discipled varies for each and every person. In their book, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed, Paul Stanley and Robert Clifton define the role of a dscipler this way:

Discipling is a relational process in which a more experienced follower of Christ shares with a newer believer the basic skills and spirit necessary to know and obey Jesus Christ as Lord. The discipler’s job is to teach and enable a mentoree in the the basics of following Christ through devotions, word intake, relationships, and ministry. 3

As Stanley and Clinton assert, discipleship is an individual process. In Allan’s case, he knew the New Testament gospels pretty well and he had read a lot about Jesus, but his knowledge and information of the Old Testament was lacking. This led us to decide to study Big Events of the Old Testament as a way improve his knowledge of the Old Testament, therefore allowing him to better understand Jesus and Jesus’ teachings.

Here are a few miscellaneous tips to help you when deciding what to study when discipling someone:

  • Look for what interests the disciple. If there is a particular book of the Bible or topic that interests the disciple, feel free to disciple the person there. Because she already shows an interest in something means she will be more engaged and more likely to participate.
  • Look for areas of knowledge the disciple lacks. In Allan’s case, he knew very little about the Old Testament books beyond Genesis. Not knowing the Old Testament greatly limits his ability to read and understand what is in the New Testament. Look for a particular area where the disciple lacks knowledge and suggest that as a topic that might be worth spending time in.
  • Look for areas you have a special expertise in. It is hard to teach a disciple in an area you know little about, so consider a topic or section of the Bible which you have a high level of knowledge or lots of experience in living out the information. This will greatly help you to teach the material to the disciple as well as show her how to live out what God’s word teaches.

In the process of getting to know Allan and discipling him we have had a great time. And, because we took time to examine ourselves and see what areas Allan wanted to study, we are both benefiting from the relationship.

Additionally, I highly recommend the Warren Wiersbe Bible study guides. These are an awesome resource to use when discipling someone and the best part is that the guides come with a supplementary commentary for the extra study. 

My hope is that you too can have a successful and productive time discipling someone. If you take time at the beginning of the relationship to study the right topic, the discipling relationship will be a success.

IV. WHAT THE MEETING SHOULD LOOK LIKE

Discipleship is core to the Christian faith. It is the way we reproduce ourselves and pour our lives into the new Christians learning to live a life obedient to the Bible and Jesus’ example. But, what should a discipleship meeting look like? How should it flow? What should be talked about?

As I shared earlier in this post I have began discipling a young man named Allan (not his real name). We have been meeting and I am doing my best to disciple him. My model of discipling Allan comes from what I was taught while at student at Fresno Pacific University and what has been modeled to me through the mentorship of Steve Elliott.

Based on these experiences, here is a picture of what I believe a disciple meeting should look like.

A. Casual Catch Up

Some common and casual conversation should take place in each and every discipleship meeting. Because one of the primary elements of discipleship is a personal relationship with each other, it is important the there be time dedicated to simply catching up on things and talking casually. A few questions you might ask are:

  • How was your day?
  • How are things going?
  • Is there anything new going on?
  • Is there anything you have struggled with since we last met?

Asking these questions of the person being discipled not only helps to develop a strong relationship between both people, but it also helps to direct you to what you need to emphasize that day’s study on. It allows you to tailor what is about to be studied in a way that is relevant to the disciple’s life.

B. Share Some of Your Own life

Successful discipleship occurs when the mentor shares authentically what he is going through and what he is experiencing in life. Discipleship is about allowing the mentee to observe and learn from the mentor’s life as well as what it means to follow Jesus Christ. The proverb that “more is caught than taught” definitely rings true when in the context of discipleship. The person being discipled is going to learn more much about Jesus and what it means to follow him by simply spending time with the mentor. In order to authentically share what you are going through and share your life with the person being discipled, here are a few areas you might want to share about:

  • What you’ve done since your last meeting
  • What you’ve learned since your last meeting
  • What you’ve struggled with
  • What you are excited about

C. Dig Into Your Study

The study of the Bible is the main element of the discipleship meeting. Yes, relationship between the discipler and disciplee (or mentor and mentee) is extremely important, but the study is perhaps slightly more important.

This is where the two people dig into the Bible, topic, or book they are studying through together. If you are the person preparing materials and a lesson in order to disciple the other person, be sure you prepare well. You have been entrusted with the highest honor of discipling one of God’s newest children. This job must be taken seriously. When I prepare for my meetings with Allan, I spend at least five hours in preparation for our meetings (right now we are studying through the Big Events of the Old Testament).

When you study, be sure that the study consists of a conversation, not a lecture. You and the disciple should wrestle with the scripture together, not as a one sided monologue  Be prepared with questions for the person being discipled to help him apply it to his own life.

D. Close with Prayer and Offer Encouragement

The final element of the discipleship meeting is to close in prayer and offer encouragement to the person being discipled. This is time to pray for God’s direction and leading in the life of the disciple. Intercede on her behalf. After the prayer say something nice and encouraging to the disciple. Encourage her to keep studying, keep learning, and keep listening to God.

This might not be an exhaustive list of what a discipleship meeting should look like, but it what I use when discipling Allan.

Notes:

  1. Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 65
  2. Greg Ogden, Transforming Discipleship (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 125.
  3. Paul D. Stanley and Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992).

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher L. Scott is a local church pastor and freelance writer. He frequently writes articles for various magazines and a local newspaper. His articles have appeared in Pacific Magazine, War Cry, The Lutheran Digest, New Identity Magazine, NET Results, The Christian Journal, and Bible Advocate. In 2020 more than 300,000 copies of his articles have been printed and distributed. Most articles are posted online and available to readers worldwide for free. He's a graduate of Fresno Pacific University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

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