The 21 Practices of A Disciple-Making Movement Leader
—From The Keystone Project Training Manual by Richard Greene
Making disciples requires much practice and hard work. It is similar to being a parent. The best way to learn is through experience. There is no “one” way to make a disciple. Nor is there a “right” way to do it. Every disciple is different and responds to different ideas, goals, and techniques. As you work with your disciples, you will have to “customize” (or make personal) your approach for each one. The following tips may be useful to you as you begin your discipling ministry.
1. Take Care of Yourself – As a discipler, it is very important for you to be in good spiritual, emotional, financial, and physical condition. The key to keeping your whole life “in shape” is to discover and maintain your personal priorities and to be balanced in all things (1 Corinthians 9:27; Philippians 4:5). Your personal priorities should include your own relationship with Jesus, your family, your ministry in the church, and your job. Keep your spiritual life focused through prayer, Bible study, fasting, and ministry. Maintain your key relationships with love and gentleness, especially with your family. Avoid going into debt. Pay your bills when they are due. Learn to be content with what you have. Do physical exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet. Remember, your life must be an example to your disciples. What you excuse in moderation they will practice in excess.
2. Be Accountable to Someone – Accountability is the key to successful disciple-making. The word “accountability” means “to give a record of; to answer for.” To be accountable to someone is to be responsible to them for a specific area of your life. The 12 disciples were accountable to Jesus after He sent them out to do ministry (Luke10:17). Paul and Barnabas returned to the church at Antioch to give a report of all they had done (Acts 14:26-28). When we are accountable to someone, we are acknowledging our need for God’s authority in our lives. As a discipler, it is important for you to be accountable to someone else for your own life and for your discipling ministry.
3. Be Faithful – One of the marks of a disciple is that he is faithful. To be faithful is to be “worthy of trust.” That is, you can be counted on to do what is expected and required. As a discipler you must be faithful in all things – to your church, to God’s Word, to your spouse, to your employer, and to your disciple. Keep your word. If you make a promise, keep it (Psalm 15:4). Be faithful in little things and God will give you greater things (Luke 16:10-12). Be on time to your meetings and appointments. Do not make excuses for a lack of faithfulness. Do not live carelessly. As you learn faithfulness, you will also recognize faithfulness in others. In choosing a disciple, the number one requirement is that they be faithful (2 Timothy 2:2). Discipleship is passing on to others what you have learned. As you begin your discipling ministry the devil will bring to you many people who are not faithful. These people will waste much of your time, energy, and resources because of their lack of faithfulness.
4. Be Flexible –What works with one disciple may not work with another. What has been helping your disciple grow may become an obstacle to growth as his situations change. You must be able to make disciples in a variety of situations and settings. Your goal remains the same – to guide them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ – but your methods may change. This is especially true as you work beyond your first generation. Your disciple may use tasks and techniques with his disciple which you did not use with him. That will be normal and is a sign of growth.
5. Be Loving – Whatever Jesus does is rooted in His unconditional love for all people. To follow Jesus is to follow the path of love. The first commandment we teach our disciples is the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:37-40. Love is more important than any ministry, miracle, or work we can do for God. Love is greater than any sacrifice or worship – even to the giving of our own lives (1 Corinthians 13).
6. Pray for Your Disciples Every Day – Perhaps the greatest treasure we can give our disciples is our fervent prayers (Matthew 6:21). Young Christians are very open to attack and temptation. They need to be covered by the prayers of those who are watching over them. Your prayers will do two important things: (1) they will keep your heart and love towards your disciple, and (2) they will act as a covering of protection over him.
7. Be Discerning –Discernment is instinctively being able to see or know what is not obvious. This is not the same as the spiritual gift mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:10. That is the gift of discerning of spirits – being able to identify spirits in specific situations. The discernment we are speaking of here comes from the Holy Spirit as we walk closely with Him. The discipler must be very discerning in his relationship with his disciple. It will be important for you to know his motives and intentions or goals, especially as you counsel him about the situations and problems in his life.
Here are some things you can do to develop discernment:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment.
- Develop the habit of listening carefully.
- Do not answer or respond too quickly.
- Fill your life with the Word of God.
- Understand God’s ways by knowing His character and purposes.
- Look for that which is not obvious – spirits, motives, agendas, fears, and needs.
- Be sure to confirm every discernment or word with the Word of God, and reliable witnesses or people in whom you have confidence (2 Corinthians 13:1).
8. Build a Relationship with Your Disciple – The power of the discipler to influence his disciple comes from the quality of their relationship. To build a strong relationship with your disciple you must take time to get to know him.
9. Meet Your Disciple’s Family – Every disciple is an individual and must be treated as a unique person. Remember, your disciple is also part of a family and a community. His family and community have a great influence and effect on his life and faith. It is important for you to visit his family and get to know them as much as possible.
10. Keep Good Records – It is a good idea for you to develop and maintain a good record keeping system for your discipling ministry, especially if you are discipling more than one person at a time. Good records can help you in several ways: (1) they can help you keep track of what you have assigned each disciple; (2) they can help you remember important facts and dates (birthdays, etc.); (3) your records can give you a way to measure your disciples’ progress and growth; (4) and they can also help you as you plan your discipling appointments.
11. Plan Your Time Together – While you must be careful not to “over-program” your time with your disciple, it is also important for you to plan your time together to accomplish your discipling goals in his life. What do you want to accomplish in your time together? What things did you assign to your disciple in your last meeting? Each meeting should have a specific goal for spiritual maturity and growth.
12. Use Spiritual Growth Tasks – A spiritual growth task is an assignment you give to your disciple that helps him to grow in Christ. It may be to pray for someone, or to fast for a day, or to read a book, an article, or a portion of the Bible. It may include memorizing some Bible verses, writing a letter, witnessing to a neighbor, or doing something special for a loved one. Be creative and keep the tasks simple and focused. Don’t go too long without including overtly missional tasks that include serving and blessing the non-Christian community.
13. Listen – Develop the skill of good listening. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Remember, “He who talks the most, listens the least.” Listening is more than hearing words. It is important to listen for feelings as well as facts.
14. Ask Questions – Asking the right questions is one of the most important tools you have in making a disciple. Asking the right questions will help you to get the information you need to help your disciple. The purpose of asking questions is to guide your disciple as he discovers God’s will and heart in his life.
15. Learn the Skills of Coaching and Mentoring– A discipler is more of a coach than a supervisor. There are seven steps to effective coaching:
- Listen actively
- Celebrate wins
- Care personally
- Strategize plans.
- Do skill training
- Develop character
- Challenge specifically
16. Develop Credibility – Credibility is the quality of being believable, reliable, and trustworthy. Your disciple must be able to trust your spiritual judgment and have confidence in your personal integrity. There are four things that contribute to the development of credibility.
- Your Position – this is when your relationship with your disciple is based on your official position to him (perhaps you are his elder or pastor).
- Your Expertise (or skill) – this is when your disciple recognizes your experience, knowledge, and abilities.
- Your Spiritual Authority – this is when your disciple is confident in your spiritual judgment, gifts, wisdom, and discernment.
- Your Relational Authority – this is when you have built a strong relationship with your disciple and he has great confidence and trust in you.
17. Use Discretion – In most instances, it is not appropriate for a man to directly disciple a woman or for a woman to disciple a man. If you must disciple someone of the opposite sex, try to do it in a group setting or have an older woman do it for you. Set guidelines to prevent being alone and avoid temptation or even the appearance of evil as it can give the enemy opportunity to destroy you (1 Thessalonians 5:22).
18. Keep it Simple – Simplicity is doing the same thing with fewer resources (2 Corinthians 1:12; 11:3). Jesus lived a simple, uncluttered life. In discipleship, as in most other things, the best way is usually the simplest way. Keep your lessons and spiritual growth tasks simple.
19. Build a Prayer Foundation – As we mentioned earlier, it is important for every discipler to have a strong prayer foundation.
20. Maintain Confidentiality – Confidentiality means you do not share personal information your disciple has entrusted to you. Your disciple must know that whatever he shares with you will remain with you. This will keep his trust in you strong.
21. Multiply! – Help your disciple to reach out to his family and social network and help him to make a new disciple within the first two months. Then work with your disciple as he leads his disciple and follow this process through until the fourth generation. Once you have a fifth generation disciple, the DNA of multiplication should be embedded into the movement and you can then focus on finding a new first generation disciple.
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The Keystone Project is a global missions network of churches and leaders committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation.