What does it look like to provide discipleship for others? Do you think of something like this photo? I used to. Is that weird?
It’s easy to think there are all sorts of prerequisites if you want to be a source of discipleship for someone else. You have to be able to teach. You need credibility (which often requires being more righteous and older). And you definitely need to have answers.
So if I don’t have the answers, does that mean I’m disqualified? Do the younger people and those without seminary degrees need to politely sit in the back of the room and wait for someone more qualified to step forward and fill this role? I don’t want to discount wisdom or a higher education, but the answer is a flat-out “no.” God will of course use our wisdom and knowledge for His glory, and we definitely need qualified teachers who have answers to share. But let’s get one thing straight: to disciple is not to teach.
the three little questions
Providing discipleship can be as simple as asking three simple questions. You’ll likely end up answering the questions for yourself, which means you will actually end up providing discipleship for each other! (Well would you look at that!)
These are questions that are meant to simply get us thinking about how we are pursuing God, and what He is doing in our lives. And the act of speaking out our answers provides natural accountability (because we don’t want to be liars).
Getting someone to think about those things (and speak out their answer) is perfect discipleship. And it has nothing to do with your credentials.
1. Who are you praying for?
These two go together because they are both connected to the Great Commission. We grow closer to Christ by participating in the command He gave us to help others get introduced to Him. How can we be emotionally close to Him if we aren’t bought into the vision He believed in? Praying for non-believers that we’re close with helps keep our hearts focused on sharing the message of Christ with them and loving/serving them however we can in order to represent Him. That ongoing process will teach us more about God and bring us closer to Him than any seminary professor ever could. And no matter how you slice it, that is growth.
2. What are you learning?
There’s an art to looking at a difficult or frustrating circumstance and focusing on how God can grow us through it. God can use any and every situation to help us become more like the sons and daughters we were created to be. If we let Him, He will teach us more about who He is and how He loves us through the hardest times in our lives. Eventually, looking for the opportunity to grow becomes a habit, and those tough times will often become starting points for testimonies of God’s faithfulness. Verbally processing what we are struggling with and intentionally looking for how God is working inside of that situation is how we can develop a stronger trust in Him. We learn that we can count on Him to constantly make us better because He loves us. And getting in the habit of searching for Him when things feel dark and confusing is only going to strengthen our faith.
3. What are you feeding yourself?
Bible reading plans, audiobooks, documentaries, music, devotionals… there are plenty of options.
Discipleship can’t be forced. It’s impossible to give your faith to anyone else. All we can do is help them pursue their own faith. So in that pursuit, it’s critical that we are all constantly seeking the answers to things we’re curious about. I love church, but it’s not up to the one weekly message to provide you with all the knowledge you need to follow Jesus. Sermons will definitely equip you to start that process, and even help you continue. But church is equally intended to provide the opportunity and framework to worship, fellowship, and service. It’s not all about teaching because not everyone is at the same place in what they need to be taught. So the bulk of that responsibility should fall on us to pursue the answers that we need in order to grow. Simply put: my personal growth is ultimately no one else’s responsibility but my own.
We typically put a third of our lives (or more) to developing our careers. We invest countless hours of time and communication to grow in our romantic relationships. So why do we expect to see meaningful growth in our relationships with God from sitting in a chair and listening to a speaker for half an hour over the weekend? That’s a start, but something tells me it’s somewhere in scripture that following Jesus is a full time deal.
Modeling our LIFEGroup prayer request time around these three little questions will lead to transformed lives… without a single lesson being taught by the group’s leader. We are all capable of providing discipleship for each other, no matter who we are or where we come from. Just ask the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 or the crazy demon-possessed man that lived in a graveyard in Mark 5. Both of those people were bottom-of-the-barrel outcasts with zero credibility and no education whatsoever. But it was because of them that others found and grew in their faith. Funny how God uses the most unlikely of people to expand His kingdom.