“I don’t know if I’m ready to disciple anyone right now” says the person you’ve been discipling for a while.
That statement can be a punch in the gut to anyone who wants to raise up disciple makers in their ministry. After weeks, months or even years of investment into someone’s spiritual life, that phrase can feel like a small betrayal when you’ve repeatedly been talking about disciples who make disciples.
So how do you deal with that phrase and the attitudes that produce it? Here are a few tips:
1. CONSIDER THAT MOST PEOPLE FREAK OUT ABOUT DISCIPLE MAKING FOR THE FIRST TIME BECAUSE OF FEAR.
You may think it’s laziness or misplaced priorities but more often than not, people just don’t want to screw up and they’re scared they will. Addressing those fears head on is a must. Ask them what they’re scared of and train them past it. If they say they don’t know what to do, then give them a plan and have them practice or role play with you.
Remember that their fear may not just be tied to “what to do” during discipleship meet-ups. It often comes from not knowing how to initiate a discipleship relationship with someone. “Let me spiritually mentor you” is a very uncomfortable phrase for so many people. One way to help them out is by inviting the person you want them to disciple to meet with both of you for a while. Continually reinforce that you trust your “disciple maker in training” by constantly deferring to them and letting them lead more and more of your meet-ups. Pretty soon you should stop showing up.
This approach will also help if time is more of an issue than fear. You have to have the courage to tell the person you’re mentoring that you’d rather sacrifice your time together to get them started with someone else than just to just keep going without reproducing.
2. CONVINCE YOUR RELUCTANT DISCIPLE MAKER THAT THEY’RE ALREADY DOING IT (EVEN IF THEY DON’T REALIZE IT).
Any Christian with influence is already participating in disciple making. When others know we are Christians, we are showing them what following Jesus looks like- the very definition of disciple making. Unfortunately, when we do it passively instead of actively, we’re not giving people the whole picture of what it means to be a Christ follower. They don’t see how we’ve prayed privately about things or how we’ve wrestled with Scripture. These are all things people get to witness in an intentional discipleship relationship.
You need to help your reluctant disciple maker see that they are already influencing others concerning Jesus. The question is…are they doing it well? Without the intentionality of a discipleship relationship, the answer is “no” or at best it’s incomplete. Motivate them to just add intentionality to their existing influence.
Take advantage of their existing influence whether it comes from being a spouse, parent, upperclassman, or a neighbor. Instead of introducing reluctant or any first time discipler to a potential discipl-ee, let them start with people they already have a natural connection with. This both minimizes their fear factor and your risk factor within your ministry. Once they get the mechanics of intentional disciple making down with someone they already have relationship with, you can trust them to work with other new or raw believers in our ministry.
3. CONCEDE THAT THEY MAY REALLY NOT BE READY
It”s a deflating thought but it’s true. It’s also a thought that many disciple making movement experts will disagree with. But there are some people who are not ready to be given the title of “mentor” in your ministry even if you’ve invested in them. Whether it’s a life crisis or continual unconfessed sin, you shouldn’t connect people with reluctant disciple makers who will cause more damage than good.
That doesn’t excuse them from the command to make disciples. You should continue to challenge them to leverage their current influence for Jesus even as they work some things out in their walk.
Sometimes it’s helpful to think about four different kinds of disciple makers:
- The Passive Disciple Maker– Any Christian with influence over someone
- The Active Disciple Maker– Someone who is combining intentionality and influence to make disciples of people in their life
- The Trusted Disciple Maker– Someone who you can connect with new or raw believers in your ministry
- The Missionary Disciple Maker– Someone who goes beyond their existing relationships and the regular attenders of your ministry to make disciples
Sometimes, without thinking about it, we’re asking people to go from being a Passive Disciple Maker to an In-House Disciple Maker in one move. That maybe part of the reason they say they’re not ready. Make sure that you’re clear about what you are asking and consider adding an intermediary step like Active Disciple Maker to help them build their confidence and to protect your ministry.
In the end, remember that disciple making involves people not cogs in a machine. Remember how patient God has been with you so you can show grace to others. But don’t ever stop working towards a disciple making culture in your ministry.
For more tools to help you work with Disciples, click here.