In my early 20s, I was in a morning Bible study with Richard who became one of my lifelong mentors. As the time for one meeting came, Rich pulled up in his pickup truck and called out, “Jump in the back, guys. We are going into town for a cinnamon roll!” As a young man, I was focused and intense in everything I did. I was all about business: “If you were going to do Bible study, let’s do Bible study—and go deep while we are at it!” But we jumped in the back anyway, driving the winding roads that led to town.
We got back to Bible study later, only after taking time growing as friends. I don’t remember what we studied that day, but I do remember the looks on my friends’ faces, the wind in our hair, and the sweetness of those Ozark mountain hills. It was a trust building time that knit our hearts together as Christ followers and friends.
When Jesus called His disciples, Mark 3:14 says that His purpose was for them “to be with Him.” Robert Coleman, in The Master Plan of Evangelism, calls this the “with him” principle. Disciplemaking is more than a transfer of information. It is the transfer of life—which happens relationally.
Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, said this about disciplemaking:
The answer is the man, not the materials. Maybe the greatest problem today is that we try to put into printed form that which should go from lip to ear and heart to heart.
Trotman wasn’t saying materials are bad. He’s saying that discipling materials are no substitute for the transmission of life that happens life-to-life in a discipling friendship.
Effective disciplemaking is relational.
Paul wrote this to his spiritual children in Thessalonica:
We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
Keeping it simple: Make sure that the people you are discipling are more than projects! You are building into the life of precious sons or daughters of God. Relate to them as people: hear their needs, love them in the moment, and carve out times to make memories together!
Intentionality and relationship can sometimes pose a tension for some of us. Does your personality tend more toward being intentional and goal oriented or toward relationship?
How might that tendency affect your disciplemaking? What adjustments might you need to make?