While leading a small group at a disciple-making conference, there were a lot of questions about how to begin a discipling relationship. Most of the men in this group had been to this same conference for three to five years. They had yet to find a fellow to begin to disciple, although they definitely had the desire.
Talking with a couple of them individually, I found that their approach was a problem that they had not considered. They seemed to consider starting a discipling relationship to be similar to starting a business transaction. Most of them met a fellow they were interested in and asked them if they would like to be discipled. When they did this, they got turned down, and frustrated.
I shared some ideas with them and thought I would flesh things out here (since a couple of them asked for more information to be posted).
We all know that Jesus spent a night in prayer before choosing his twelve disciples (Luke 6:12). However, a simple search of the chapter previous to Luke 6, shows us that Jesus was calling men to follow him even before he prayed the entire night. Luke 6:13 indicates that the twelve disciples were chosen from a larger group of disciples.
Here’s what we get from a deeper look beyond Luke 5 and 6: Jesus was building relationships with men before he ever called them. While we may assume that Jesus just “randomly” walked up to Simon and Andrew and asked them to follow him (Mark 1:16-17), most biblical scholars agree that each of the disciples answering his call had probably had several encounters with him before getting called to follow.
Here’s my point: Beginning a discipling relationship works best by beginning a relationship with a man you would like to disciple. Instead of a “forward assault” that we might use in military tactics, you’ll have must better results by asking someone to meet with you for coffee. And giving the relationship time to develop.
I went on a church camping trip several years back and one young married fellow peaked my interest. I looked for a couple opportunities to chat lightly with “Steve” (yep, one of those fictitious names for a real person!). The next week at church, I looked for Steve to say hello and catch up on a couple things we had talked about previously.
On the third week, I asked if Steve might be available to meet for lunch. I also offered to meet him near his work to make it easy on him. He said his work schedule wouldn’t permit it; he brought a lunch everyday and ate while he worked. About once a month, I continued to offer to meet for lunch. And finally, about six months after we first met, Steve said he could carve out 30 minutes at a fast food place near his work.
In the next six months, Steve continued to carve out 30 minutes, once a month, but we enjoyed the time getting to know one another. At each meeting, I shared a thought I had gotten from my quiet time and encouraged him to try to carve out some time in the word during his day.
It was at the one-year mark, at the end of our 30-minute lunch that Steve looked at me and said, “We’re going to meet like this every week, right?” That question came out of the blue. I had not mentioned meeting weekly, although I learned later that Steve talked with a couple other guys from church who I was meeting with weekly.
Steve started our discipling relationship when he was ready. He got a glimpse of the benefits other guys mentioned and enjoyed the relationship we had been building. It took a year, but it was well worth it. Steve has become one of my strongest disciple-makers; reproducing in others what I have reproduced in him.
If you are having trouble finding a man to disciple, strike up a friendship with another man at church. In all likelihood, you will have something to invest in him once your relationship grows. You will also teach him the best way to fish for men is to use bait that draws fish closer rather than scares them off.