A college professor had the following question for me. See my answer below:
Q: I was discipled by a guy in my old church
about 8 years ago. In that church it was expected that when you are approximately
half way through the discipleship materials you were expected to take on
someone to disciple. I am really passionate about discipleship and I long to
disciple others. I have been asking the Lord to show me someone I can come
along side… Any thoughts?
A: First, I’d put away the discipleship
materials and that old, dusty paradigm that says discipling is sitting down
with someone and going thru curriculum.
Young people are tired of that approach.
Most of them have never had an older person show interest in them as a
person. When the offer comes to “be
discipled,” they can see the programmatic, impersonal approach coming and run
the opposite direction.
So, the first job is to find a
nonthreatening way to begin to get into relationship with a few young
people. Ask yourself: What do they like to do? Where do they like to hang out? What do they need that you can help provide?
I had a professor at Wheaton
College, Norm Ewert, who invited students over to his house on Thursday nights
to eat dinner and shoot the breeze.
were looking for more than information – they needed a place to hang and
someone they respected to banter with about social justice issues. Norm and I still correspond about social
Some professors help sponsor
clubs or help lead classes abroad. I had
a professor, Em Griffin, who owned an island in Lake Michigan. He chose eight people to take a class on
Small Group Dynamics on the island. He
flew us out there in his plane, taught us and mentored us. I think Em still stays in touch with a number
of his students.
The common denominator for
would-be disciplers is to begin by making friends and winning trust instead of sharing
information. The point of the initial
phases of any discipling relationship is to get to a place of trust where the
student will listen to and act on your advice.
After that, the best thing you can do is to ask them about their lives
and to help them process their life decisions in prayer.
Information is an important
component of any spiritual growth path, but in this world that overflows with
information, it is wisdom and love that are lacking from the curriculum-based approach.
Where does wisdom come from? The
book of James says we get it when we ask God for it. So, yes, Bible study is good. But I’d only introduce that as a response to
a felt need, not as an automatic first stage in a discipling program. Focus instead
on becoming a friend, a great listener, and coach.
A couple of other blogs on the subject: