In Whose Image?
The first year I spent discipling someone was pretty rad. I was actively pouring into John’s life and John was growing spiritually. I saw a middle-aged man turn from someone who didn’t read Scripture into someone who was in the Word every day.
It. Was. Awesome.
In the back of my mind I knew what the goal was: spiritual reproduction. I didn’t just want to disciple someone to do the spiritual disciplines—I wanted to disciple someone who would turn around and make other disciples. Spiritual reproduction was always the goal. With John I felt like I had a real strong chance of making it happen.
“I’m not you”
As we carefully approached the one-year mark of our intentional relationship, I started to drop hints about what was to come: “John, isn’t this something you’d want to do?” “Can’t you imagine pouring into someone else like I am with you?”
Finally the rubber to hit the road. I geared up and decided I was going to send him out on his own to make disciples. I remember saying, “John, now is the time for you to go out and make disciples on your own.”
He surprisingly replied, “Tony, I can’t make disciples, I don’t know enough.” Of course, I retorted with something like, “Just do what I showed you.” Then he dropped the bomb that would forever change my disciplemaking process:
“I can’t make disciples like you. I’m not you.”
John’s shockingly true statement reminded me of something that is probably rings familiar for all of us: I discipled John out my strength, not what he needed.
On the scale of relational versus intentional, I am over-the-top relational. It’s my best gift. I love people. John, on the other hand, is a scientist, and his best gift is intentionality. He can work any process or figure out the most logical way to handle a situation.
I discipled him as if he were as relational as I am.* That wasn’t fair to him.
More Like Jesus
We all have natural tendencies, rhythms, things that we enjoy doing for the Kingdom. That’s important. But when we walk alongside others in their journeys of faith we aren’t trying to get them to be more like us.
We are trying to get them to be more like Jesus.
Jesus-style disciplemaking requires each of us to remember that it’s not about what we like to do. It’s about bringing that person to an intentional, relational, and reproducible relationship with Christ.
We use tools to make disciples because the tools are pass-on-able. They help us step over the personality divide and give us something firm to hand on to our spiritual sons and daughters.
Homework helps your disciples step into their own. Homework that keeps the long-term vision in front of them refines your disciplemaking process as you pour into them. For example, if you give someone homework to share their testimony, you’ll get a really good report card on how you are doing at teaching them to find their own way.
Many years after discipling John, I am still learning that I will almost always resort to what’s easiest for me. While I’ve grown a lot over the years, I will contribute more to the Kingdom if I keep evaluating myself as a teacher.
Walking alongside someone else with Jesus-style disciplemaking in mind has helped me grow as a disciplemaker and as a passionate Jesus follower.
* Note: If you are navigating disciplemaking relationships with people different from you, you might want to check out two Practitioners Podcast episodes that my friend Justin Gravitt and I made, one for introverts and one for extroverts.
About the Author
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Fifty years of experience has taught me that failures lead to wisdom. So, I want to let you in on five disciplemaking missteps and failures I’ve made and what I’ve learned from them.