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10 Fail-Proof Ways to Disciple Like You Mean It

4. Deep Connection

The discipleship model that I learned in church revolved around group activities. We met in groups for Sunday school or Bible study. And as important as these meetings were, my soul longed for a deeper connection.

As I studied Scripture, I saw passages prescribing another way. Second Timothy 2:2 says, “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Second Timothy 3:16-4:2 describes how to do that.

And while no one came out of the woodwork to invest time in me like that, I found that didn’t prohibit me from modeling a different way to those I cared about.

I began with my children. I took them on trips with me. We ministered locally. I met with them personally. I taught them how to spend time with God daily.

From there, I moved on to my children’s friends and the staff I cared about. Spending time together made all the difference.

5. Authentic Community

How is it that I could grow up in such a caring little country church and still feel a profound loneliness? Something inside me longed to be known at a deeper level. But how? Where could I go to find that?

I harbored insecurities that I couldn’t let others touch—places so tender that I didn’t dare talk about them. Bible studies were OK, but looking back on my high school years, I was depressed and had nowhere to go for a debrief.

In graduate school, I had my first experience with an authentic community. Four couples met regularly and did life together. It was a rich, liberating experience.

One of the great discoveries we’ve made in building the World Race is that you can go through all kinds of hardship if you’ve got a team going through it with you that believes in you. We implemented a system of honest feedback so that racers get the encouragement and challenge they need to move on to new places and new levels of growth.

The abundant life Jesus promises requires that we pour out. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us to meet together regularly so that we have a place where others will pour into us. We can’t go where God wants to lead us without the authentic community of his body.

6. Intergenerational

Years ago, God spoke to me about an epidemic of absentee dads. He showed me a group of young people, and I heard him say, “It’s a fatherless generation.” And in the years to follow, I began to understand the impact that has had on young hearts. I saw how they struggled with identity, how they looked for affirmation.

Andrew Shearman points to a different model in Scripture. You see geneologies—lists of fathers and sons. You see the results of poor parenting as the inheritance of one generation doesn’t get handed to the next.

Young people need to see the reality of their parents’ faith not in words, but in action. Baby Boomers tried to outsource the discipleship of their children to youth pastors, and it didn’t work. God designed the church to be multigenerational where the old impart to the young and the young bring life to the old.

Parents ministering with their children find themselves stretched and vulnerable. And children, seeing the vulnerability of their parents, realize that they don’t have to be perfect to embrace faith.

Many of us may feel we’re failing as parents—that’s when the influence of others our age in our children’s lives can make a difference.

7. Risk-Based

I wish God loved my comfort zones as much as I do. But it seems that almost nothing happens in the kingdom without risk, without faith. We’re told, “Without faith, it’s impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

Why is that? I think it’s because God is looking for intimacy, and intimacy starts with trust. When we trust God, we do things that don’t make sense—we take risks.

When I’m growing most, I’m allowing God to speak to me and challenge me. The Holy Spirit frequently asks me to do things that I wouldn’t do on my own.

Growing in God requires change, and change requires new behaviors, behaviors that feel risky.