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My miserable experience with discipleship

As a junior in high school, my mom encouraged me to go on a two-month mission trip to Guatemala. That took a lot of effort on her part, because I was shy and had no desire to do so. She propped me up in front of her friends and had me ask for prayer support. I thought to myself, “Why in the wo…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

As a junior in high school, my mom encouraged me to go on a two-month mission trip to Guatemala. That took a lot of effort on her part, because I was shy and had no desire to do so. She propped me up in front of her friends and had me ask for prayer support. I thought to myself, “Why in the world would anyone ever want to support me?” Yet, they did. The trip changed my life and showed me that the poor had a claim to my time and energies.

But even with a mom like mine, I needed more. My middle school years were complicated. I felt as though I was being sent into exile from myself. I no longer went to my mother as a primary confidante. Yet there was no one to take her place.

One day a Young Life worker took me out for a milkshake. I had never met him before. Why did this older man single me out? I was both flattered and mystified. Someone was reaching out to me and affirming my significance. For a brief moment, a door was opened on the dark room of exile in which I found myself. Whatever he had to tell me was unimportant. What mattered is that I mattered – to him. He declared that in buying me a milkshake and spending time with me.

Unfortunately, that was the only meeting we ever had. I don’t remember his name and doubtless he’s forgotten mine. Other than my mom’s efforts, that was the sum total of my one-on-one discipleship. I’ve been clawing my way back to a balanced perspective on how Jesus intended for us to follow him ever since.

Maybe you can relate to my anemic personal experience being discipled by another person. I suppose it says a lot about the state of discipleship in America today. I’ve got a fire in my belly that says the current state of affairs needs to change.

Comments (4)

  • I have to agree with you about mentoring/discipleship in the church today. Except for sporatic encounters with youth leaders and youthgroup workers, there was little concerted effort made during my JuniorHigh/High School experience to get to know me by older believers. I really felt a need for mentoring in my life and as a freshman in college I cornered a new woman in our church and asked her to mentor me. This was the start of a great relationship and I have learned a lot from both her and her husband. But again, that was because I sought it out. I think I would have been really skeptical yet flattered if someone had wanted to mentor me. I wish there was more of an emphasis on one-on-one relationships among cirles of believers today. I guess that means I need to be looking for those opportunities to breath hope and support in to other lives, huh?

  • Contrary to many, I had a wonderful experience with discipleship in high school. My youth pastor coached in many areas, including leadership development. He set me up in situations that forced me to learn and grow and look to the Lord more. While he did this, his wife met with me once a week for about three years. She listened to me talk about life, got in the Word with me, prayed with me, gave me advice, laughed with me and cried with me. Kevin and Cathy were amazing disciplers!

    Strangely enough, I had no idea how good I had it. It wasn’t until I graduated high school that I realized how many people hadn’t had the same experience as me. That birthed in me a passion to disciple others. Additionally, I struggled through college and beyond to find someone who would continue to disciple me. That struggle has added food to the flame for me. I am now a great fan of Jesus’ model of discipleship.

    If you you’re not discipling someone younger than you, you should be! If you’re not being discipled by someone older than you, you should be! Pray, and seek the Lord on who you should have those relationships with. As Seth mentioned, it will change your life!!

  • Hanna – I couldn’t have said it better myself. You are an extraordinary discipler. I wish we could take your youth pastor and get him to train other youth pastors how to do their jobs.

  • I love discipling! God is so faithful…my first 3 years of Christianity in Germany was everyday discipleship. We were literally taught all the day by the older believers about prayer, fasting, love, fellowship, bible study, behaving godly, worship & praise..etc…and we CONNECTED! I do not think you can truly disciple unless you connect with someone. That most likely is the one thing which has driven me in my love for Christ – is the desire to disciple others to love Jesus too! I love being discipled by everyone! Old or young – show me the way! St. Mark <>< I John 1:7

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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