If you were invited to share the key things you’ve learned about discipleship in 15 minutes what would you share?
I was asked to do this right after I arrived at the Smoky Mountain Summer Training Program this past week. When I asked the Lord what He wanted me to share, He laid on my heart three key things:
Listening plays a key role whenever I am discipling someone.
First, I always seek to listen to the Lord regarding who He wants me discipling and how He wants me joining in with what He’s doing. This listening begins even before I meet with someone. He is the great discipler! He knows them better than I ever will! And knows exactly where He’s at work in their lives and what they truly need! This is why I find it so vital to lift them up before His throne of grace and ask Him to give insight into how He’d like me to join in with what He’s doing. It is amazing the ideas He gives! I also pray at the the beginning of our time taking God up on his offer in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom he should ask of God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to him.” When I began praying this at the start of meeting with women it totally took my one on ones to a new depth of effectiveness. As it says in Proverbs 25:11, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” I find asking the Lord for wisdom makes me much more likely to share treasure than if I’m speaking off the top of my head – no matter how much experience I have!
Secondly, I find it’s so important to really listen to what she is sharing. The longer I disciple women, the more convinced I am the most important part of our time after what the Lord says, isn’t what I say, but what she will say. It’s much more effective to scratch where someone is itching (metaphorically speaking!). Don’t just listen until you hear something you have a tool for! Has she shared what’s truly on her heart? Often the Lord will guide our time through the things the person I’m meeting with is sharing. I’ve seen people treat a discipleship appointment as an information dump! Don’t do that! One of the most powerful components of a one on one is the relationship! And one of the best ways to keep cultivating this is to listen!
Third, teach her to listen to the Lord! I don’t want her to rely on listening to me! This is a key reason why I always take us to the Scriptures and give time for the women I meet with to interact with the Lord directly during our time. Even if I’ve taught her a new tool, I want her to hear what the Lord wants to say to her about it.
Share your journey with her! Remember a disciple is a learner as well as a follower of Jesus. It’s not a designation but a direction. If you stop learning, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been discipling women or even if you’re on Navigator staff, you are no longer a disciple of Jesus – and you’ve got to be one to make one! The best thing I ever bring to someone isn’t sharing wisdom from someone who’s arrived! But to let her see how I continue to grow! And fail. And to humbly ask her to pray for me too!
A good friend once shared, “Don’t read your Bible like this…” his Bible was open in front of him and his hand was pushing outward towards others (meaning for the benefit of others or to find stuff you can share with others!). ” Instead read your Bible like this…” with his hand coming up from the Scriptures towards his own heart and then going up and out to others, out of the overflow. I’ve shared quiet times with friends in Genesis 1 and Psalm 1 more times than I could ever count but every single time I do I’m listening to hear first and foremost what the Lord wants to say to me! And this is true when I’m preparing for Bible studies I lead too! I always seek to do the study first for me, even if I’ve done it a zillion times! It’s the Living Word of God, the Author is right there with you! He never runs out of new treasure to reveal! (And things always taste better when they are served fresh from the oven! :0)
Seek to learn how she learns! People learn in very different ways! Some learn best by reading, others by hands-on doing. What works best for her? My husband and I met when we were both involved with The Navigators in college – we were in an academic environment. Seven years later we moved to a city that was mostly blue collar and he started meeting with a new believer who said he really wanted to grow. But each week Jim would give him an assignment and week after week he’d show up not having done it! Jim really wondered how interested this guy was in growing… until he learned he had dyslexia and struggled to read! I can’t stress how key it is to put effort into learning what works best for those you are meeting with!
Keep growing in learning new ways to learn! Four years ago I learned about art journaling! That has added an incredible dimension to how I learn from God… and to how I disciple! Especially after I learned how key this is in helping to process things at a heart level! No, it’s not the best thing for everyone, but has it ever added some great new tools into my discipleship tool chest! And then last year I was trained as a StrengthsFinder coach – I can’t even begin to tell you how much I am learning as I’m doing this! Or what a huge new dimension this has added to my one on ones! No, you don’t need a lot of tools to disciple! With Jesus giving you wisdom and your Bible and remembering what’s helped you, you are good to go! But the more ways of learning you add, in response to Jesus’ lead, well, it sure can add whole new dimensions to what you’re doing…and opportunities to experience Him at work!
But if I have thousands of follow up plans that are amazing, a pantry full of great resources to offer, years of experience discipling and can quote the whole Bible, but don’t have love…!!! Get the idea here? Without love, nothing you do is of any value according to 1 Corinthians 13:1-3!
I will never forget once when Jerry Bridges was speaking, he had us draw a bunch of zeros across a page, then asked how much they were worth? It didn’t matter if you have one or a billion zeros they are all worth nothing! Then he told us to put a one to the left of the zeros and shared that “one” represents love! It gives value to everything else we do! One zero with a number “one” in front of it has greater value than a zillion zeros without it!
But please know love doesn’t mean you sit around and hug the person you’re discipling the whole time! Love expresses itself in many different ways – from praying for her to coming prepared with something specific to pass on… This is huge! While it is so important to listen, I can’t begin to tell you how many people I know who tried meeting with someone one on one, but all the discipler did was meet with them to chat and they said, “After a while, well, it didn’t feel like we were doing much…” It speaks volumes of love when you come prepared with treasure to pass on!
I liken this to when someone has taken time to prepare a delicious meal or treat when they have you over for tea! That can mean the world! And speak volumes about how much you care that you took time to prepare to bless them! And yes, there are times I toss out what I prepared – if someone’s mom was just diagnosed with cancer or her boyfriend just broke up with her, it may not be the best time to talk about evangelism! But even then, I will ask the Lord to bring a passage of scripture to mind we can even briefly dive into.
As the Lord says in Isaiah 55:2b “Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare…”
You see, I consider myself a spiritual chef. Do I want to serve junk food when the Lord has blessed me with the best money can buy? God’s Word vs. my word?! It’s like the difference between serving steak or tossing someone potato chips! I can’t stress how vital it is to serve God’s Word every time you meet with someone. This is a huge act of love!
And yes, sometimes we need to get them to eat their spinach! Or foods they may not prefer. Being willing to speak only what’s helpful for building someone up (Ephesians 4:29) may mean confronting them when the Lord leads you to! But that’s love too! Love always follows Jesus’ lead!
And you know how it says in 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” and in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…” It’s so important we help them learn to love God by not just hearing His Word but by doing it! Application doesn’t come naturally! It has to be taught! And when we teach people how to apply God’s Word, to be responders to it and to Him, that is so key to loving them well as we are helping them not be deceived (James 1:23) and to lay a solid foundation for their lives (Matthew 7:24-27).
One final benefit of love in discipleship – it covers a multitude of sins! (1 Peter 4:8) Seek to love well, to truly love well as Jesus leads you and it can make up for all sorts of bumbling! And as a discipler still very much in process, well, bumbling happens too!
I’ll leave it to your imagination whether I actually managed to deliver this in 15 minutes! I forgot to look at my watch…