The Most Effective Way to Disciple

Anyone who knows me knows I am all about radically responding to the needs of those around me. Helping build a home a long the border in South Texas; repairing a home of a working poor family in the midst of affluent neighbors in Lake Travis; meeting the need of  a homeless person; defending the orphan, even adopting a child; supporting and serving alongside those on the foreign mission field—these are all ways I have responded.

Helping build a church in Louisiana

Helping build a church in Louisiana

However I can fool myself into believing that I have discipled others through these actions. They are a good first step, but they don’t necessarily disciple anyone. The challenge with this list is that for most of the activities my time spent with people is/was brief, a few days at a time at best.

Now I am not saying I will stop doing these things, but when we think that these brief interactions focused on meeting a need accomplishes the mission, we miss the mark.

We perpetuate this when we over celebrate how many needs we are meeting and use head counting evangelistic tactics. This results in a “dive bomber” mentality. Get in there, do the deed, and get out! Then let’s make a video of all the great work we are doing!

People become projects and numbers tallied in a spreadsheet as if an investor wants to see bottom line results to validate the return on his investment. Granted we plant seeds and open doors for others to follow and disciple. The question is—who is coming along behind us to do that?

So what is the most effective way to disciple?

Shift the focus from the deed to the person and invest in relationship.

I like how Jill Roberts says it in this blog found on

I believe in the power of radical generosity (separate from random acts of kindness) and I think if Christ followers bought into the practice, it could have a profound impact on our city and culture.  Some people literally hold a sign telling you exactly how to meet their needs, and we should be obedient to do so as God leads, but the needs of others are less obvious and not always consistent with appearances. The needs of the heart are harder to identify and less apparent, because they take time and investment to be revealed, but when they are met, transformation follows.Jill Roberts

That’s it! Discipleship happens when transformation happens. I agree with Jill—this takes time and investment. It takes a willingness to live life alongside someone.

God gives us a practical, common sense way to disciple someone when he told us how to teach our children about His ways:

You shall teach them (God’s ways) to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.Dueteronomy 11:19 ESV

That’s what it looks like to live life alongside someone. This kind of discipleship allows for natural conversations within the rhythm of life.

As I live life with others, I learn the needs of their heart as Jill Roberts suggests. When I learn of these needs, I can talk of God’s ways. And His ways transforms lives.

That, I believe, is the most effective way to disciple.

If you are a Christ follower, how were you discipled? If you are not a Christ follower, how would you prefer someone share about God with you?

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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One thought on “The Most Effective Way to Disciple

  1. When I was working in hopes of planting a church – the slogan/motto I wanted to use was “let’s do life together.” Consistently being involved with others, no matter where or what you are doing, gives you an ‘in’ to that person, allows you to develop a relationship, and then, only after that relationship is developed, do you gain permission/the right to delve into their life on a deeper level. It is at that deeper level that we make the major impact, not on the superficial or exterior level. I like what you said about people becoming numbers. It always bothered me (and still does) to see a church bulletin list how many were in attendance and the offerings of the previous week. Some may use that to show a need for more, but it would appear to me that many use it as a measuring stick, a bragging right, or a method of shaming others. What if you weren’t present or didn’t give? The shame or embarrassment of that might be enough to keep someone from ever coming back. To me, and it is just my opinion, that kind of stuff is not how you spur one on to good works. Too many churches use the dive bomber approach. It’s sort of like someone involved in the stock market – a trader trades many stocks a day just trying to make a buck, an investor puts his money in and leaves it believing that seed money will grow into a much fuller and robust amount at some point in the future. With doing God’s work, there are times we will only be traders – short term mission trips, house upkeep for a person in the community, etc., but there are also times we are investors – long time church membership, small groups/Sunday Schools classes, teaching children/teens, continuously visiting with and helping a homeless person. Each one is a seed that is planted and how that seed is tended to, weeded, watered and eventually harvested isn’t always our responsibility. There are those that are, however, and we should see that we are good gardeners and harvesters. Great article, great topic, and certainly a great thinking point. Blessings to you and your family.