How to Disciple?


One of my readers, George, wants to know the following:

When you are ready to conclude the forum started by are-sermons-effective-for-discipling, might you consider summarizing the ideas/suggestions people have made about how we the readers can contribute to discipling? Small groups we all know, but what can we do to make them more effective?

Well, I wasn’t sure there were enough definitive answers to do a summary of “The Question No One Wants to Ask…,” so what say you all? How do we go about discipling? What unusual discipleship ideas have you tried successfully?

24 thoughts on “How to Disciple?

  1. Cheryl

    …..what can we do to make them more effective..
    I know as a new christian coming from a home that didn’t express conflict well I appreciated actually watching christian families interact with each other. I saw grace under pressure and kindness.
    Just hanging out with people at the dinner table or going shopping with others. Day to day stuff. People opening their home for me.
    God has blessed me over the years in placing mature christians in my workplace that have also been role models for me. He knows what we need and who we need in our lives at any particular time.

    • Cheryl,

      We live in a society that tells us that we don’t really need each other. That’s one of Satan’s greatest lies.

      I don’t know what it will take for us to wake up, but we’ve got to.

  2. Hi Dan,

    I’ve written on discipleship last week. I think that discipleship will always be a stumbling block for us today, because it is practical. The church today is the end result of what we believe. Do you see discipleship anywhere? We know it is supposed to be done, but no-one has a clue on how to do it.

    Perhaps this will help people with discipleship. Discipleship is the process of a growing friendship with Jesus, linked together by people sharing that friendship with others. It is a quality of life that is found deeply in the friendships you cultivate and how they stimulate you to live more deeply in Christ. (See Wayne Jacobson at

    To George,
    as long as you want something to be “effective”, you will struggle with discipleship. It is not an effective proccess that can be managed, but a life lived as a friend. Can you be a friend? Can you walk with friends in the everydayness of life? Then maybe discipleship is not to difficult.

    Yesterday Dan wrote about a ride in a car. Only a friend would know which car would bring Dan closer to Jesus. That is discipleship.

    • Abmo,

      And yet there has to be a process, whether it;s organic or out of duty, we can’t make the process go away because it’s God-ordained.

      Relationship has a great deal to do with it, but it’s not the only thing. The basics we all know have to be there. Sadly, many people aren’t doing the basics. They may have even had their sense of awareness of those basics obscured by the noise that can be modern Evangelicalism.

  3. The word sermon comes from a word meaning converstation and I think it’s safe to say we all enjoy a good one. Discipline involves a rod and we are not so quick to enjoy that so much. The word of God with all the laws and commandments is a big stick and I think we are sort of fearful of those who walk loudly with that stick. But when you find one who has accepted the discipline and gone through the process before he carries it knowing the cost of that word and that it brings good news you trust and are willing to hear. For me I went through the process using the five daughters of Zelophehad and comparing them to the five offices listed in Eph. 4. I started at the bottom and grew upwards. It was a transforming amazing journey.

    Eventually and I believe the key to growth is when you discipline yourself. That’s what you did with the car Dan. What your friend showed you was friendship. He loved you and was willing to trust you. You weighed the cost….and when you went through the struggle with your flesh rehashing all the possiblilities you ultimately drove the car with joy and remembrance.

    I absolutely enjoy your site. You are an encourager carrying a big stick and have learned to walk softly ministering to those like me who this side of glory can only send a thank you for your fatihfulness.

    • DS,

      Thanks for the kind words. Now I’m going to disagree with you a little.

      I think the rod is the OT way of looking at things. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden light. That doesn’t sound like a rod of punishment to me—at all.

      In fact, I think our big problem in some parts of the American Church is that we push the rod idea so hard it scares people away from discipleship. Everyday life is its own rod. I don’t think we have to add a bigger God-fashioned one to that. Yet that’s how many people see the way we present the Lord.

      It’s not about more rules. It’s not about punishment. It’s about relationship with Christ.

      • I don’t think we disagree at all. The rod is a symbol for the word meaning I believe that it is straight. I also know the rod as a great comfort, especially when I lose my way it stands higher that what I see and I can follow the rod back to safety. I even thought of the verse about his yoke when I was quickly commenting, it is indeed light. I never see anywhere that it was used as an instrument of punishment. But you’re right the rod is OT. Let’s see NT says that the only weapon we have defensively is a sword, which is the word of God. It’s not fearful for those who love him.

        I agree the do’s and don’ts are mostly what folks hear. Jesus was the example he went through the physical discipline and took the punishment for my sins because he loves me that was good news because the schoolmaster of the law was more than I could bear in my own flesh.

        The chastisement was on the back of the Lord for my peace and I rest in that.

        I didn’t always know that a stove was hot but when my mom told me it was………I had to test her word so when she left the room I touched it and you know what it wasn’t….did she lie? No cause the next time I touched that thing it burned me………why could I not just hear her word and trust her?

        Would beating me after I was burnt made the lesson better? No I had my beating from the stove…it would have helped if when she was teaching me about hot stoves to have taken the time to prove her point by showing me…a stove can be hurtful in the hands of someone not trained to recognize the danger…but it can also make some really good food.

        There’s a pretty good model for dicipleship. Teach me the Word, Show me the Power….The cutting of the Word and the healing of the Spirit all with the same sword.

        Relationship that’s the key…and that’s harder than just picking a rod up and whacking is eternal the other a temporary subdue and manipulate tool.

        Sometimes we just weild the sword and forget to apply the balm…….I’m guilty but it’s those times I remember when my Dad would whip me and my mom would comfort me or vice versa and I think if only that hadn’t been so human. The talking always was worse than the stick.

  4. Dan,

    I think we make disciples by living life in Christ with other people. Certainly our words (teaching) are part of this life, but only part – perhaps not even the most important part. And, preaching (as you have mentioned) is not the most effective method of teaching. So, if all of our discipleship is focused on preaching, then I think we are only addressing one portion of discipleship (teaching with words) in an ineffective manner, while ignoring a more important portion of discipleship (teaching by example).

    I have had people ask me to disciple them. For the most part, they were surprised when I invited them to my house. When they showed up, they were more surprised that we did not sit down together with an open Bible, but instead we sat down together and shared a meal. As we ate, we talked about life. During the meal, I learned more about them, their life, their struggles, their weaknesses. Later, I invited them back to my house to share another meal. They invited me and my family to their house (they’re learning hospitality without a “Bible study”). When someone needed help with their house, I invited my “disciples” to come along to help. This continued over the course of many weeks, months, even years in some cases. Did we ever open the Bible together? Yes, absolutely. But, more importantly, my life was open before them constantly, and they saw that Scripture was not just something that I read and studied and taught. Instead, Scripture presented the life of Jesus which I lived before them. Interestingly, I did not live that life perfectly… and they learned even more when they saw my struggles, sins, and repentance.

    How do I make disciples? By inviting people to live life in Christ together with me.


  5. Jerald

    It sonds like you are making disciples to Alan. Who are we making disciples to? Us or Jesus? If it’s Jesus, we need to look somewhere (I wonder where that would be?) to find out what He said about being a disciple.
    I don’t think I would ever disciple someone to Jesus by making them my friend. They need to be a friend of Jesus first, then if by chance we hang out together long enough, we too might become friends. I don’t need more friends. I’ve enough. But Jesus does need more disciples and as his faithful disciple, I want to be obedient to His telling me to “Go and make disciples…”
    There are plenty of texts in the Bible about discipleship. Why do people think it’s so hard? Just take a look at all that Jesus said about being a disciple and see if you make the cut. You know, all those “you cannot be My disciple unless……” passages. What do you do with them?
    Sorry to get on my high horse, Dan, but with all the disciple making tools we have today, it doesn’t seem like it should really be that hard.
    What do you think?

    • Jerald,

      Well, I would think that when I said, “I think we make disciples by living life in Christ with other people” and “Scripture presented the life of Jesus which I lived before them” and “By inviting people to live life in Christ together with me” and “Did we ever open the Bible together? Yes, absolutely” that it would be clear that I’m encouraging people to follow Christ, just as I attempt follow him. I get that idea from Scripture, where Paul says “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us” and the author of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” There are other similar passages. Do we teach the “you cannot be My disciple unless…”? Yes, aboslutely! We teach them with our words AND with our actions. People usually learn more from our actions.

      By the way… if I am making followers of Alan, then I am not living life in Christ, nor am I inviting others to live life in Christ. However, I beleive that the best way to make a disciple of Christ is to show people how to be a hearer and doer of the word. I think the world has plenty of hearers, but very few doers. If becoming my friend helps people understand what it means to be a doer of the word as well as a hearer of the word, then I will make time to be their friend.


    • Jerald wrote: Sorry to get on my high horse, Dan, but with all the disciple making tools we have today, it doesn’t seem like it should really be that hard. What do you think?

      I believe there’s a basic failure that we simply can’t understand. It’s one of the major themes of this blog and many have heard it a million times or more.

      We can have the Bible, the perfect study guides, and a million tools to equip the saints, but if we don’t have the saints, we’ve got a whole lot of nothin’.

      What do I mean by that? Simple: if we don’t form solid relationships with fellow Christians within church communities that really live what they believe, it will all be for naught.

      Despite the fact that some Godbloggers out there insist that people don’t really matter in the whole Gospel equation, the Gospel can’t be the Gospel unless people are involved. In the end, people matter.

      The Good News must be to someone. The Good News must be distributed by someone. The Good News must be applied by someone. Discipleship fails largely because we’ve gutted our fellowship and our communities. We live disconnected lives inside our family fortresses.

      It’s one reason why we care so little about the lost. Why care when we have all we need within our own little world?

      It doesn’t matter if you have the greatest Moroccan Goatskin-covered Parallel Bible with Thompson Chain References and Study Notes. All the Bible handbooks, atlases, commentaries and all that won’t be of much use. If we don’t have solid relationships one man to another, then we’re not going to get anywhere in this discipleship thing because discipleship is all about connecting people with God and with each other.

      Today, we install major roadblocks and walls to keep people separated, then we scratch our heads at our impoverished discipleship programs. Tear down all that divisive stuff, encourage community and relationships, and you’ll see discipleship happen because no one will be able to stop it.

      On the other hand, make people myopic toward each other, focus their attention on their jobs, then make their whole world their nuclear family and you’ll guarantee that discipleship will suffer.

      That’s my analysis and I’m sticking with it!

  6. Jerald

    Alan, it looks like you’ve got it, even though you might have difficulty getting it out.
    If you don’t mind, I was trying to make the point, using you as my punching bag, that we spend an inordinate amount of time and effort with “relational evangelism and, as you have indicated, “relational discipleship.
    The question is, how do you tell a month old believer how to share their faith with a non believer? How many dinners at your house will it take to get this baby believer to be “discipled enough to stand on his own two feet in the cold, cruel world out there?
    Do you really have to have the perfect person to do what Christ has called us to do? You know the answer to that. There is no such thing. So, get then innitiated into the basics and let them to at it, so to speak. I’d rather tend a bloody nose or skint knee than coddle someone with theology before sending them out.

    All that said, I really believe that we are both on the same road – praise God! You sould like a neat person to get to know. Possibly you’d invite me over sometime.

    • Jared, you asked, “The question is, how do you tell a month old believer how to share their faith with a non believer? How many dinners at your house will it take to get this baby believer to be ‘discipled’ enough to stand on his own two feet in the cold, cruel world out there?” It seems like it took Jesus about three years to accomplish that, so… 😉

      Removing my tongue from my cheek… I definitely think discipleship ought to resemble an apprenticeship more than a college course. There’s a lot that gets missed when somebody gets a whole lotta book learnin’ but not much in the way of examples of day-to-day Christian life.

    • Jerald,

      With “relational discipleship”, you don’t wait any time until you expect them, show them, and help them live a life in obedience to Christ. We don’t wait for someone to know a certain amount of information. They are a new creation in Christ already, and we help each other walk with Christ. One thing that I have found is that as I disciple, I learn as much if not more than my disciple learn by watching them walk with Christ.

      I would love to get to know you better. My email address is at my blog. Feel free to send me an email. If we’re close enough, we can even get together.


  7. Jerald

    Wow! You are right on. I’d love to see the folks at my church getting out of the house and prayer walking their neighborhoods or handing out water at the local park just so they could have someone to invite over to their home to talk about Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have all that comfortable stuff inside our houses that makes us stay in so much.
    And, for me, it is just about talking about Jesus that is the discipleship issue. It’s not what you believe. It what you do with Him.

    BTW, you’re got a great ministry here. I use it all the time to “disciple” the folks that I shepherd.

  8. I’ve really enjoyed the comments here that answered the question: What…have you tried successfully?

    I can identify a lot with Alan’s comments. My husband and I saw the Lord reveal Himself to a couple of friends of ours after spending some time in relationship with us. One was a backslidden Jehovah’s Witness, the other was a nominal Muslim. We had them over to our house, we shared meals, we shared our lives.

    And because this was my first experience with discipling others (and we were out-of-church), I wanted to make sure they got “the basics” as you mentioned. So, we did use a Bible study workbook geared at the fundamentals of the gospel and the covenant. We all were greatly blessed by that time together. And we focused a lot of attention on training the new believers to hear God’s voice (something our YWAM past really ingrained in us). It was really important to us that they learn to hear God for themselves. And we have found this relational, organic approach to be very effective!

  9. Jerald, your initial comment does appear to come across as on a high horse and extremely self-centered. I think Alan has hit the nail on the head. And, we are representatives of Jesus. How else do we read 2 Corinthians 5?

    Now, perhaps I’ve walked in your spirit rather than in the opposite spirit, so I do want to say I appreciate that you are interested in focusing people on Jesus and not ourselves, but I’m not sure that simply pointing them to a bible does that. Jesus was and is relational and He chooses to use people to continue that process.

    In fact, what I was going to say prior to reading all of the comments is that the answer seemed simple to me, using the proverbial question WWJD… Which is, He related, of course. He spent time. He lived life with His disciples. He also wants to spend time with us and wants us to spend time with others. That may seem to simple, but I don’t think Jesus meant for it to be difficult.

  10. jfn

    Dan, I think you are right on the money, that discipleship would happen and no one would be able to stop it if we stopped erecting barriers. If we could step beyond the trying to forge a group or model for relationships, and each of us begin in earnest to strive for the ‘extreme’ nature of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, and tearing down the walls that prevent people from coming to God; we would not be able to hold back the growth of disciples.

    Just returned from Bible Study, and the topic tonight was Discipleship, and the viewpoint of discipleship that comes from the Gospel of Matthew. One would think it would be impossible to come away from studying the Gospel examples of being a disciple of Christ, and be anything but a remover of roadblocks and the legalism that destroys much more than our discipleship programs. However, it will continue to happen, so long as we focus our attention away from radical discipleship, in favor of something more pallatable. Sadly some churches likes to make Discipleship seem easy, in fact little more than church attendance, if even that. Such trivialization of discipleship does little more than erect one of the highest roadblocks and succeeds in keeping the novice from that full relationship with God.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that we must start pushing the envelope and rather than preach about it, (talking especially to myself here!) we need to be ever teaching through our actions; and ever mindful of where those we are teaching are in the process. It can be a difficult undertaking in a mid-sized congregation even out here in the rural areas, however, it must be done.

    BTW love the site, seldom have time to comment, but never miss a daily check-in to read the latest. Shalom!

  11. Amy Heague

    I have been reading & re-reading this post & the comments & I thought; “hmmmm I think I have something to add to this, but I think I will ponder it some more so that I am more eloquent in my reply”.
    Then while sipping my coffee & flicking through my diary I stumbled upon this quote:

    “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be; be one.”
    -Marcus Aurelius-

    Perhaps we could replace the word man with disciple;
    “Waste no more time arguing what a good disciple should be; be one.”


    I’m off to get ready to be inundated by a bunch of twenty somethings that call my place “home” & do what I do best. Love’m, feed’em, pray with them, discuss & learn with them, love God with them, then we will probably do something crazy like watch some
    Dr Who re-runs with them whilst eating lots of dark chocolate & potato chips, & discuss the ups & downs of life.

    P.S Dan thanks for your always a little provocative blog, I love it

  12. George

    Thanks to all who have commented on ways to effective discipleship. Cheryl started off with what worked on her, and Alan described beautifully from the flip side about what worked from him. Then Sarah endorsed Alan’s experience with her own. Dan added multiple insights, all helpful as usual. Even those who struggled with what we can contribute to discipling stimulated responses from others who have (or perhaps can express) a clearer perception.

    Jerald touched on an issue that didn’t seem to get much attention here. He wrote: “I’d love to see the folks at my church getting out of the house … handing out water at the local park just so they could have someone to invite over to their home to talk about Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have all that comfortable stuff inside our houses that makes us stay in so much.” How do we encourage discipleship among disciplees?

    Alan mentioned what he does with people asking to be discipled. I’m curious if Alan also invites people he wants to disciple, even if they haven’t applied.

    I’m guessing that Cheryl might say, “Well, a disciplee (is this a word?) needs to know they want discipling. When they want it, they’ll seek to hang out with disciplers, or at least people they want to be discipled by. And maybe that’s enough. Still, Jesus’ disciples were not all volunteers.

    I believe there’s a place for encouragement, especially for people not so aware as Cheryl — for the people Jerald would love to see passing out water.

    One approach we’ve used is to organize those opportunities. Start small — do one thing to build confidence/acceptance of your church. Maybe reverse-disciple an elder first — ask him to accompany you to the park to hand out water as you do so on behalf of Christ. (While you are asking him to come to support or guide you, most likely you’ll be showing him what he can do.) Then get agreement from the church to endorse a sign-up table for a few others to join you next time. Eventually you can expand into evangelism by letting someone in your group watch you in action, then inviting him to lead it himself.

    True, as someone wrote, Jesus didn’t leave His disciples to stand alone (even filled with the Spirit) until after 3 years of exposure. However, He did send them on trial runs as teams of advance men on His way to Jerusalem. This was well before the third year, as I recall.

    What makes discipleship so hard, someone asked? And others gave the answer: succumbing to the comforts of home, being content with just keeping the friends we already have, and the evangelical culture’s preference for sermons and evangelizing. So the answer to why is discipling hard is: it’s easier to satisfy us and them than it is to satisfy Him. That’s our challenge.

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