“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
When it comes to the topic of making disciples and discipleship, everyone thinks their way is the best way. They think this because it’s the way that has been effective for them. What it ends up being is just their preference. Is there one right way to disciple? If the answer is yes, then it logically follows that there are wrong ways to make disciples. Is there one right way to do discipleship? Again, if the answer is yes then there must be wrong ways to do it as well. What I'm not saying is that method doesn't matter. What I am saying is, without relationship method doesn't matter. With this post I’d like to explore why different forms of discipleship are all equally valid.
I say equally valid because I believe more goes into discipleship than simply method. Personality, mine as well as the person’s I’m looking to disciple, plays a role. Knowing that I tend towards the introverted side of life, I lean towards the one-on-one method of discipleship. This allows me to focus better as well as help the other person open up more easily and quickly. If I’m having trouble getting someone to be open, adding a person or two to the mix might be what they need. While it’s not my preference, I’m open to do whatever to help that person grow in their relationship with God.
Another reason I say equally valid is because we can’t become so stuck with a method that it doesn’t take into account relationship. All true “ministry” is first and foremost relational. Some people respond better one-on-one, while others thrive in a more community based environment. It doesn’t make one better over the other, just different ways of accomplishing the same goals.
There are those who talk about a particular method of discipleship as being more biblical and therefore more effective. My biggest question to someone in this camp is, how are they measuring effectiveness? If the goal of our effort is to make disciples, who in turn make disciples, the effectiveness of method may not be seen right away. It takes time.
Discipleship is more relational than it is methodological. Discipleship is something every believer is called to do. So, while acknowledging your preferences (and sometimes setting them aside), recognize that sometimes discipleship will look different depending on who is involved. Sometimes it will be one-on-one, while other times it will be in a small group, while still other times it will be in a larger group. All are valid ways of reaching the goal of making disciples. Find what works best for you and those you are trying to disciple and get to it! Try something. It may not work out the way you planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t effective or a waste of time. God is big enough to work through your weaknesses and failings to bring about His purposes. Be faithful and obedient to serve those around you.