Most followers of Christ understand that Jesus asks us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). That seems non-negotiable. Introducing others to our Savior and mentoring them toward faithfulness to Him is one of our primary responsibilities. Those of us who have embraced the responsibility also consider it a great privilege.

Seems simple.

The difficult part is this: No two believers we commit to discipling are the same, they don’t have the same problems, look at Scripture from the same perspective, or respond to the teachings of Jesus with the same questions, doubts, excitement, and fears.

Discipleship Begins With Relationship

We can’t improve upon Jesus’ incarnation model.⇦Tweet that! Jesus descended into the brokenness of humanity, and He’s asking us to step into the brokenness of the ones we disciple in His name.

Jesus related intimately with a few over a long period of time. The three (His inner circle), the twelve (His band of disciples), and the seventy (the group of followers most associated with the Master) knew Him and He knew them. He considered them friends, and they loved Him for it.

When we reduce discipleship to filling out blanks on a page or answering questions in a workbook we divorce relationship from the equation and it will always fall short.

Since no two disciples are alike, the one-strategy-fits-all approach misses the mark.⇦Tweet that! Think of the difference between the way Jesus related to Peter and the way He related to John. He was sensitive to their individual needs because He spent time with them.

He spent time with them even though, as the Son of God, He knew their heart (John 2:23).

Since we’re not capable of immediately knowing what is in the heart of the ones we disciple, we’re compelled to know their story.

Story Sensitizes Discipleship

I remember back when I was a “just the facts” type of disciplemaker. A man walked into my office one evening and stumbled through memory verses and seemed disinterested in stumbled through the review questions. I stole a look at his workbook and noticed that he hadn’t completed any of the assignment. The pages were blank!

Immediately judging this man as uncommitted and maybe a waste of my time, I was about to tell him this wasn’t working when the Holy Spirit gave me pause. “Ask him what’s going on?”

Wondering whether I had actually heard from God I grudgingly asked, “What’s going on? You haven’t done any of the work and you’ve whiffed on the memory verses?”

I’ll never forget what happened next.

He melted, broke into tears, and forced the hurtful words from his lips. “I just got a phone call from my dad. He has terminal cancer.”

Before I knew this dear friend’s story I had the absolutely wrong discipleship strategy for our time together that night.

Listening Galvanizes Discipleship

“I’m so sorry. Tell me about your dad.”

He talked late into the night.

And I listened.

To stories of a loving father who had poured into his son.

The Spirit did something special as I listened. He welded our hearts to one another in ways that became the foundation to one of the most sustaining and stimulating friendships of my life.

All because God pushed me out of my one-size-fits-all discipleship comfort zone.

One size does not fit all. Discipleship begins with relationship, is sensitized through story, and galvanized by listening.⇦Tweet that! 

Question: Why do you think we tend toward the more programmed approaches to discipleship rather than the incarnational Jesus approach?