Jan 04, 2016


The Second Discipleship Essential: Time Together

Paul Worcester continues his series on discipleship essentials by talking about time together. Click here for part one on intentionality.

Discipleship is more caught than taught. Jesus modeled the most effective form of disciplemaking by giving us what is commonly known as the “with him principle” based on Mark 3:14. Mark writes, “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” Jesus spent three years with these twelve men showing them how to live and lead in the kingdom. Jesus took his disciples “with him” as he broadly sowed the gospel.

In The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman made this observation:

Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program—just letting his disciples follow him. It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation. One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations.”

I tell our students that the most effective form of discipleship training is “Monkey See, Monkey Do” training. For example when training someone how to share the gospel, it is much more effective to take them with you on a gospel appointment than just to tell them about evangelism. Let them play “wing man” and just watch as you share Jesus with someone. We have a motto for our ministry “never share the gospel alone.” If you want them to learn the importance of using a prayer list, get some time with them and have them help you pray over your list. Then help them write their own list. If you are helping them learn how to memorize scripture, have them test you on your verses you are currently working on.

Take time to really get to know your disciples and model how you are living out your faith. Make sure and explain the why and how along the way. A great model I learned from Deborah Bullock is called the “Say, Pray, Obey” strategy for walking someone through a personal struggle, an opportunity for growth, or ministry you are currently experiencing.

  • Say: Tell the person you are discipling something you are struggling with and then focus on what the Bible says about the issue.
  • Pray: Quickly and simply pray with them about the situation. Encourage them to be praying for you through out the week.
  • Obey: Let them watch as you step out in obedience despite your feelings or weakness. It is important to live an open and honest life before those you disciple so they can learn how to fight through the struggles of life.

As essential as living the life in front of them is, it is not enough. You must explain the Biblical basis for the steps of faith you are taking. Christopher Adsit says in Personal Disciplemaking, “It may be true that some things are better caught than taught, but other things must be taught before they can be caught.” Discipleship must contain both authentic relationship and systematic Biblical training. If you take a short cut in either area you will struggle to produce fruitful disciples who will make disciples.

Disciplemaking is not all serious though! Especially in working with college students, it is important to incorporate some fun into your relationship. Honestly this can be difficult with our busy schedules but with a little creativity you can learn to enjoy life together. Here are some ideas for building a deeper relationship with those that you disciple.

  • Invite them over for a meal. You don’t need to be a great cook or have a Pinterest-worthy home to practice Biblical hospitality. Simply invite people into your life as it really is! If you have young kids, the idea of inviting people over to experience the chaos of your home might sound counter productive. I have discovered that as I invite my disciples into my chaotic life it makes a huge impact on them. They get watch me as I seek to serve my wife, lovingly discipline my kids, and, sometimes, they learn more about obeying Jesus in those moments than hours of Bible study.
  • Take them on road trips. If you get to attend or speak at conferences out of town, bring one of your disciples with you. This is a perfect opportunity to talk on the drive there, goof off on the road, and share the experience together.
  • Ask them to help you with everyday work projects. The goal of this is not to get free labor. Although that can be a perk. I remember Max Barnett would call me up and ask if I could come help him with yard work at his house. I would jump at the opportunity to get extra time to be with him. I learned a lot from those days of work at his house. Do you need to go to the grocery store? Ask someone to go with you. You can build friendships around the boring, everyday stuff of life. That is actually where most of life happens!
  • Take an interest in their hobbies and include them in yours. If they are in the school play, go see it. If they are into fantasy football, join the league just so you can talk shop about all the players with them. You can also incorporate them into your hobbies. I have had some great conversations with guys as I shank my way around the golf course.  
  • Go on a summer mission trip together. This experience will help you grow together and build trust more than any other. If you get a chance to go on a summer discipleship project or overseas mission trip, recruit those you are discipling to come with you. “Come with me” is way more powerful than “you should go.” You will be amazed at how God changes students as you experience him working through you together.
  • Labor among the lost with them. Nothing will help your relationship grow more than working together to share Christ with unbelievers. Your friendship will grow tremendously as you experience the devastating heartbreaks and intense joys that often comes with trying to have a personal ministry among lost people.

On a scale from one-to-ten how strong is the relationship that you have with those you disciple?

What practical next steps do you need to take in order to develop a deeper relationship with the person you are discipling?

Click here to read Part 3 – The Third Discipleship Essential: Reproducibility.

And if you need to catch up, read Part 1 here – The First Discipleship Essential: Intentionality.

about the author

Paul Worcester

Paul and his wife Christy planted Christian Challenge at California State University, Chico from scratch. Since then hundreds of students have indicated decisions to become followers of Jesus, with many growing as disciples and learning to multiply their faith. Paul is the author of "Tips for Starting a College Ministry." He has a a passion for equipping and encouraging fellow collegiate leaders to make disciples on campus through his writing, speaking, consulting and social media. Paul and Christy have two children. Paul loves to surf and play other sports when possible.