Discipleship is Intentional Relationship

As you know, I am passionate about discipleship. But it often happens that as soon as I speak my passion with some people they get a glazed look in their eye, and then start backing out the door! I think they feel some potential pressure and guilt coming their way, or maybe another program they need to give time to.

But, of course, those are things I don't believe in. I love relationship.
For me, discipleship is relationship. Not just hanging out relationship, but intentional relationship. I love investing in people, encouraging them, trying to discern what God is up to in their lives, and then intentionally identifying with what that is to encourage their walk with God.
In fact, I believe every relationship is a discipling relationship if I am intentional. Some and are deep and involve lots of time, others are not so involved...but every relationship is a gift from God... and an opportunity to invest in people's lives. What a privilege.
So how does it work? This thing called discipleship? How does "intentional relationship" work? First, a couple things it doesn't mean...
It doesn't mean getting ahead of where people are in their journey with God. It doesn't mean imposing an agenda on people. It doesn't mean pressuring people or controlling them. It doesn't mean I'm responsible for them...
Whew! That's a relief!!
God has put me and you in people's lives to serve them, and in some cases, to very deliberately invest in their journey with God. With that in mind, here a few suggestions of things I have found helpful:
1. Ask questions - find out where people are in their journey with God, and start there.
2. Try to discern through prayer and listening how you might encourage the person. That is intentionality...discerning, listening, and praying... then speaking encouragement. When you frame what you say with encouragement you will never be far off the mark.
3. Define the relationship. Figure what people want or expect, then define what you can give, and how, for how long and how often. Be positive, not demanding.
4. Always come back to Scripture - somehow, someway, involve the Word. With pre-Christians, I ask if they would like to discuss some of the teachings and sayings of Jesus. If not, that let's me know that they are not ready for spiritual input, so I will focus on the friendship, and set my expectations accordingly. Then I look for others that I can be more directly involved with spiritually. I keep the friendship with everyone, but search for those who are hungry to learn and grow.
5. Expect obedience. Discipleship is obedience to Jesus. Little obediences lead to big obediences. I suggest small things for people to put into practice or do, or ask what goals or what God is impressing them to do. Then I watch to see how the person does in obeying what God is saying to them.
6. I involve them with others at the same level of spiritual growth... I introduce them to others who are seeking to know Jesus, or others who are already on the journey, depending on where they are.
7. Celebrate weakness of failure if a person is honest about a mistake or need. Make your relationship a safe place for them to grow.
Okay, those are a few ideas. What has helped you be intentional about discipling people? Share with me so I can pass on your ideas. Thanks!!

Take Your Disciple Making to the Next Level

To take your discipling to the next level, start by listing those you are discipling who fall into one of two groups:
1. occasional disciples - write a list of their names, how often you meet with them by their names, and the goals they have set for themselves and the goals you would like to see them attain
2. intentional disciples - those you disciple weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly, and make the same list as above, goals they have and goals you have for them
As a condition to meet with those you disciple, ask each of them to list who they are discipling (or at a minimum, who they plan to initiate a discipling relationship with and when). both you and those you disciple should include both pre-christians on your list, as well as already following jesus disciples.

Discipleship is Intentional Relationship

Discipleship is intentional relationship …

  • Discipleship in intentional relationship by initiating spiritual conversations.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by asking people their dreams.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by hearing a person’s story.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by coaching people to share with others what they are learning about God – before they are saved.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by encouraging people to gather their friends in intentional relationship to discuss God’s word.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by mentoring people to hear God speak to them in the Bible, before they come to faith.
  • Discipleship is intentional relationship by affirming people.  Jesus called Peter to be fisher of men before he was born again.


Great Questions to Ask Someone You’re Discipling

 1.             What is God saying to you these days?

 2.             If you could do anything you long to do, what would it be?

 3.             What do you do that is most life giving to you?

 4.             How would you describe your times alone with God?

 5.             When you’re under pressure or attack, how do you respond?  Why?

 6.             Describe your personality & spiritual gifts when you’re in the flesh, not the Spirit?  What’s that look like?

7.             If you could have anything your heart desires from God, what would it be? For example, if God gave you a blank piece of paper and he signed it and said, “Fill it in... ‘I will give you anything you want’ “, what would you write on that paper?

8.             Where would you like to be in your relationship with the Lord a year from now?

9.              What are your spiritual growth goals? How can I assit you in achieving those goals?




How Do You Initiate Discipleship Into a Relationship

To initiate intentional discipleship into an existing relationship that is not intentional about discipleship, I suggest you introduce a level of intentionality to your friendship, remaining relational but seeking to be purposeful. I did this last week with a friend who is also an emerging leader... I invited him out for coffee to a local coffee shop, and we caught up on personal news and how we are each doing. As we talked, I looked for areas to encourage and affirm him, which was easy and natural to do. Then I lead into a discussion about a key topic pertaining to his leadership development. I asked a couple questions that I wanted to stimulate his thinking and add some intentionality to our relationship, albeit very low key at this point.

At the end of the conversation, I suggested we get together again in a few weeks. He was very warm to the idea. I will suggest at that time we meet "regularly" to build our relationship and encourage each other. I don't mind if a person sees our time together as peer mentoring... I let the description be determined by the person so long as we are investing in one another intentionally. If a person seeks to disciple me and it is appropriate, I would receive their input, no matter their maturity level, as I believe good discipling always involves a degree of reciprocity, and humility is always good for the soul.