How God Creates a Discipler

Were you discipled well by an older Christian?

I’m thinking of:

  • Someone who poured the best of their life into you, with love, affirmation, wisdom and godly challenge.
  • Someone who called out God’s identity and destiny in you – and wouldn’t let you settle for second-best in your life.
  • Someone who clearly knew more than you did, but who had the good sense to dole out that knowledge in small nuggets, in response to what the Lord was doing in your life and situations you were facing.
  • Someone who you knew was far from perfect, but nevertheless there was something about them that you wanted to catch.

“I wish!”

If you are thinking, “I wish!”, then you are not alone! I’m constantly amazed by how few people have had the experience of significant personal investment from a more mature disciple of Jesus. The tendency is to think that it’s something everyone else has had except for me, when actually that is far from the truth. (And some might say that just a casual look at many churches today would endorse the view that few Christians have been well discipled!) Of course, if you DID have the experience of being well discipled, then be enormously grateful – and realize that you are uncommon!

All this plays out when it comes to our discipling of others. I know that for a long time I felt like a fraud when asked to take on such a role with others, as I had never experienced it myself. Of course, there were people who had spoken into my life by their words and deeds – I can think of many people who have influenced me for good in specific areas – but I never had that deep apprenticeship over the long-term with a godly forerunner.

Your Decision
This leaves you and me with a decision to make.

Do I simply continue the cycle of poor discipleship – by letting myself off the hook of apprenticing others because I never received it myself – or do I choose to break the pattern? Will I invite others to follow me as I follow Christ, to ensure that the generation that follows is discipled in an intentional, ongoing and outstanding manner?

Of course I am not fully qualified, nor will I ever be (well, except by God’s grace – which I can’t earn and can’t control). Those who choose to follow me will know that I’m far from perfect, but nevertheless there will be something about me that they will want to catch.

And when I have a day when self-doubt rears its ugly head again, I may well still feel like a bit of a fraud. But then I’ll remember that a disciple who is weak but sold-out-to-Jesus sounds entirely like the sort of material God loves to take hold of and use to apprentice and invest in others (see the entire Bible if you would like a proof text here!).

So my challenge to you is this: who are you going to intentionally invest in during this year ahead? Who – and you need to name them now – are you going to apprentice in the ways of the Kingdom?

In a time to come, who do you want to see pouring the best of their life into a future generation – and doing so with a godly confidence because they know what it is like to be on the receiving end of a Kingdom apprenticeship? That will be your heritage – spiritual grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and there is no finer way to be remembered!

Ideally, parents should be intentional and responsible for the primary discipleship of their children. However, churches must also come alongside children and parents to encourage, assist, and equip them to fulfill the Great Commission. Thomas Sanders conducted his Ph.D. research on how children understand and describe their conversion experiences. His passion for discovering what children understand and how they construct meaning in the language of faith has led him to continue this research, along with his graduate students in childhood ministry at Dallas Baptist University, into these issues and others related to the youngest generations of the church. According to Dr. Thomas Sanders, “The purpose of curriculum should be to help boys and girls learn to follow God’s plan for their lives.” 1


1 Thomas “Tommy” Sanders. Choosing Curriculum for Children’s Ministry. Web 2012.

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Toni Ridgaway is a content editor for the Outreach Web Network, including and