I was visiting Giancarlo in Little Rock and we were talking about his past experiences with the church and discipling. I mentioned that new believers are sometimes told “read your Bible and pray” as the only discipling help. This little “poem” came out of that conversation:
Here’s how to read your Bible,
Here’s how to pray,
Here’s how to witness to others,
Now go away.
Of course, no church is going to tell someone to go away. But it often feels like you’re being told to go away if you want more than the usual “read your Bible and pray” fare.
When Mike was visiting from Germany last month, he came with me when I was getting man-to-man time with Andrew. At one point he asked Andrew how long we had been meeting together. Andrew thought about it and said, “over six years.”
Later that day I reminded Mike of his question and commented that he seemed surprised by the answer. He had never considered that someone could be disciplined for more than a year or two. Part of that thought process is based on his being in a college discipling ministry – people just don’t stay that long, so there is a natural end to regular meetings.
He asked me, “What do you talk about for six years?” I responded, “Well, you sure don’t check his quiet times every week for that long!” I then told him the topics that Andrew and I had covered over the past year. And he saw the value in long-term discipling.
Discipling may sometimes come to an end because of the mobility we experience in America; people move on. It may also end because people feel like they’ve gotten what they wanted; they’ve been grounded in the basics of the faith and can feed themselves.
But it’s important to keep the door of a discipling relationship open. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a guy I had discipled over fifteen years ago. A typical military guy, he had moved to another base, and then he got out and found a job in the southeast. He had settled down, raised his kids, joined a church, played in the praise band, and his walk with Christ was consistent. Yet, as we talked we both realized that something was missing. His Christian life had become “routine.”
As we talked, it was like I was able to throw some gasoline on his smoldering life and see a fire grow. And we set up a plan to do a better job of staying in touch and talking more about the “good stuff.” Of thriving in the Christian life, not just surviving.
Sometimes it may look like a guy has everything he needs for his Christian walk. That’s a deception. The natural law of entropy (things left to themselves will break down to their simplest form) seems to have a spiritual counterpart: men left on the back burner will cool and harden. We need to consider how to stir the pot from time to time.
As you disciple men around you, make sure that you see them as lifetime relationships, not just another notch on your gun.