Disciple-making is not something to be undertaken only in a classroom. It is also not something to be done only while sitting and drinking a cup of coffee or having a meal. Disciples aren’t just made in one-hour weekly meetings to discuss doctrines, Bible passages, or life issues. It may certainly can contain each of those things, but if that is all our disciple-making is, then we are leaving out one of the most important components of Jesus’ methodology: the with-me principle.
And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons.
Jesus’ appointment of the disciples was, first, so that they could be with him. Where? Everywhere. Anywhere. The disciples left everything and followed Jesus, remember? Jesus walked throughout Galilee, Judea, Samaria, Tyre, Sidon, and even in the Decapolis and the disciples were with him every step of the way. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to meet with him only once a week at the local synagogue for Bible study (although they did study a lot of the Bible together in the synagogues). Jesus didn’t only ask the disciples to do homework and come back the next week with questions (although He did give assignments and they asked lots of questions). Jesus’ main focus wasn’t only to help the disciples figure out how to make a major life-decision either (although Jesus did change the way they thought about decision-making).
Jesus wanted His disciples with him – in close proximity – so that they could learn to live their lives the same way as He did.
When I was a youth pastor, I was running an event one evening for our students and realized that we didn’t have enough drinks for the entire group. So, I grabbed one of the guys I was discipling and said, “Come with me. I need to get some more soda.” So we went. The trip would only take 5-10 minutes at the most (or so I thought). I didn’t see why I should go by myself, though, because I could at least get some good conversation with the young man before we got back.
Well, just down the street, I failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Naturally, a police officer happened to notice my handiwork and kindly pulled me over. The student I had brought along was a freshman in high school, so his eyes were wide because he had never been in a car with someone who had been pulled over. They were also glued on my every move – watching to see what I would do. Afterwards, as we were driving back to the church debriefing the experience together, I realized that I never would have gotten that chance to model for him in our weekly small group meeting. If I wouldn’t have brought him “with me” it would have been an opportunity lost.
If we want to make disciples the way Jesus did, it must be our first intention to get those disciples with us as much as possible, whenever possible, wherever possible. Then, and only then, can they take the content of what they are learning from us “in the classroom” and meld it together with the stuff of real life. Here are some suggestions for getting more “with me” time with the person(s) you are discipling:
1. Ask them to come with you. In our day and age, the disciple won’t always be able to leave everything and follow us. Besides, we’re not Jesus, so I’m not sure that’s appropriate anyway! Nevertheless, the gesture of the disciple-maker asking the disciple to come along is meaningful even if the disciple isn’t available. They feel valuable knowing that the disciple-maker actually wants to be with them. Regardless of the obstacles, keep asking and hopefully the disciple will soon find the value in dropping what they are doing in order to get a few extra minutes with the disciple-maker.
2. Bring them into your life. Whenever they are able to come, bring them where you normally go. No need to do anything special or creative. They want to learn how to follow Jesus in the everyday situations of life; they want to catch a glimpse of how you handle anything from getting pulled over to how you have dinner together as a family. Here are some suggestions for good “with me” time:
- Working in the yard this weekend? Why work alone? See if they can come work alongside you and get a picture of your work-ethic.
- Need groceries? Why grocery shop alone? The grocery store is a great glimpse into anyone’s life – especially if you run into people at the store that test your patience.
- Got a kitchen table? Why not invite your disciple over for dinner on a regular basis so they can see your family rituals and dynamic. Maybe you even let them see bathtime/bedtime (and sometimes discipline) rituals for your own children.
- Working out anytime soon? Easy opportunity for them to be “with-you” and see a side of your following of Jesus they wouldn’t normally get to see.
- Going out with a bunch of your friends? Whether it’s fishing, going to the hair salon, or to play a round of golf, if your friends are cool with you bringing a disciple along, they stand to learn a lot not just from you, but also your friends. Perhaps you’ll even inspire your friends to begin the process of disciple-making while you’re at it!
- Going to a PTA / HOA / City Council meeting? What better chance for you to model what it looks like for a Christian to take responsibility of his or her community?
3. Debrief the experience. The “with-me” principle won’t work if this step is left out. In these moments of discussion after they have been with you, the disciple-maker is able to blend past (or present) teachings with real life experiences. Give the disciple insight into why you behaved the way you did (especially if there was a Scripture that guided your behavior). This question and answer time is pivotal for the experience to turn into learning. We must remember: knowledge must turn into experience and experience must turn into learning. As disciple-makers, we are shepherds of this process for the disciple and we orient our time with them accordingly.
Whether we are discipling our own children or someone else’s, we have the unique privilege to teach them how to follow Jesus by modeling a following of Jesus in front of them. The more opportunities we give our disciples to see what we model, the more our disciples will have opportunity to translate those opportunities into their own following of Jesus.
12 thoughts on “The Missing Piece in Making Disciples”
Great reminder, Matt. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I shared it on my Facebook wall, so hopefully my homies will benefit from it, too!
Cool! Thanks for sharing it!
As a follow-up, what advice would you offer regarding discipling others to guys like us who are husbands and fathers? This is an issue I often struggle with.
A great question! I was actually writing this post with husbands and fathers in mind. I would say these same principles/steps apply with your own children as much as they do with someone else’s. The main thing is that our sons learn to become men more through watching us be men than us teaching them at the dinner table. Thus, the more we can keep them in our presence, the more they stand to learn. This is generally less convenient for the father/disciple-maker, but such is the life of a servant. Does that answer your question?
Somewhat. I’m thinking more along the lines of how to make disciples of others in such a significant way without sacrificing my family. It seems difficult to show value to my children uniquely while investing that amount of time in others.
Thanks for clarifying; I understand what you’re asking. My wife and I have been wrestling with this question and what it looks like for us with the Forge students that we work with and we have come up with this basic philosophy: instead of trying to outline the countless number of times and areas where my disciples can’t follow me (so that my family isn’t sacrificed), we’ve decided to pursue the lesser number of opportunities when my disciples can follow me. Instead of focusing on the boundaries, we focus on the opportunities. We regularly ask ourselves, “Can we bring a student with us? Do we want to?” Also, for the times when I know I have to travel with the students, we are now starting to ask the question, “Can one of our children go along? How about the whole family?” Instead of fighting to keep the two worlds separate, we look for opportunities where they can integrate. We’re finding that there are places where they fit together quite nicely and neither my family nor my disciples feel like they are being left out.
Makes me think of 1 Thess. 2:8 of “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well”
Right on, Shawn. My favorite passage on disciple-making. Paul modeled this reality very well for us.
Matt, for some reason I cannot reply directly to your last comment to me, but your philosophy on that is really helpful. I have always approached this issue from the negative (i.e., when can’t others be involved in our lives?) rather than the positive (i.e., when can others be involved in our lives?). Thanks, my brother.
My pleasure, Chad! We’re trying to figure this out too – I’m sure I’ll change my thoughts by next week.