by Craig Etheredge: Once your have chosen the persons God is leading you to disciple, approach them and ask if they would begin meeting with you and a few others for the purpose of spiritual growth. How does one have that conversation with a potential disciple? The best example is Jesus, so lets look at how he cast the vision of discipleship with his few men.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water. They caught fisher for a living. Jesus called out to them, “‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!’ And they left their nets at once and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-20).
Notice that Jesus took the initiative here. He approached them. In the beginning, Andrew and John took the initiative, seeking out Jesus with their spiritual questions. They were showing eagerness and teachability, but when it came down to inviting these men into a discipleship relationship, Jesus took the initiative. That means, you need to reach out first. When you see a person who is eager and ready, approach them first; don’t expect them to approach you.
Have the Conversation
When you approach them, pick the right place to talk. Meet with them in a setting that will be comfortable and natural for them. Jesus talked to these men at their workplace, which was on along the Sea of Galilee. This was a very comfortable place for them. Maybe you could invite your friend to lunch at a restaurant or coffee at a local shop. It needs to be neutral ground and a place where they will feel the most comfortable. The reason is because what you’re asking them can feel very intimidating. The more comfortable they feel on the front end, the easier it will be for them to process what you’re inviting them to do.
This is from Craig Ethredege’s eBook, Invest in a Few. Download the eBook here in your favorite format at no cost.
Also, try to pick the good time. Jesus didn’t try to force this type of conversation in the middle of the workday. These men were about to get off of work, mending their nets and making preparations for the next day. In the same way, choose a time when a potential disciple will be most responsive to you. If they are really busy during the day, then try to meet on the weekend. If they are exhausted at night, try to meet in the morning.
I try to make it a practice to say, “God has really put you on my heart and I would really like to get together with you. Is there are time that would work best for you?” Let them set the time and the place.
As you settle in for your meeting, begin by just getting to know what God is doing in that person’s life. Ask questions like, “So how are things going in your life right now? What stressors are you facing? How can I be praying for you?” Questions like this help you know them better and demonstrate your genuine concern for their well being. Then, you can pivot the conversation toward disciple making. You can say something like, “I wanted to meet with you today because God has been teaching me something lately that made me think of you.” Now you have their attention.
Make the Ask
I’m going to give you one method you can use to make “the ask”, but feel free to adapt it or use another method. There’s no silver bullet, but ways of moving the ball down the field. Get out a piece of paper and write to words “Explore, Connect, Grow, and Multiply” across the top of the page. Explain that these are the four major steps Jesus used to make disciples that changed the world. The “Explore” stage is when a person is exploring the claims of Christ and seeking answers to spiritual questions. The “Connect” stage is when a person comes to Christ, becomes a part of a church, and begins to serve in some way. The “Grow” stage is when a person meets with a smaller group of people so they can grow spiritually. Then, the “Multiply” stage is when a person begins to invest their life in others to help them grow.
Once you have established Jesus’ plan with them, share your own story. Tell them about the time you were exploring God and what life was like before you met Jesus. Then, briefly tell about how you came to Christ and connected with a local church. After that, share how someone approached you to join a discipleship group and tell them the difference Jesus made in your life as a result of their investment. Then, tell them that you desire to invest your life, just as others have invested in you. Once you’ve gone this far, you can simply ask them, “Has anyone ever invested in your life to help you grow like that?”
This is a great time to hear more about their spiritual growth progress. If they have never been discipled, then show them that their next step is to move to the “grow stage”. At this point you need to make the ask: “I would like for you to pray about joining me and a few other people in a discipleship group.”
It is important to clearly state what you are asking them to do. After asking them to join your group, tell them what is involved. Let him know how often and where you will meet. Ensure that the group will pick a time that works best for everyone. Assure him that the first goal is to impart practical help on how to walk with God in a deep and personal way.
Cast the Larger Vision
Once you have communicated some of the practical details, its time to cast the overall vision. This is what Jesus did so powerfully. When Jesus saw them fishing on the Sea of Galilee, he knew there was more for them. For their whole lives, these men had dreamed only of catching fish and making a living for their families—doing what their fathers had done before them. Jesus had a greater vision. No longer would they give their lives to just catching fish, from now on they would fish for men! Their lives could count for more. God could use them to ignite a movement that would change the world. This is the vision you need to cast.
You can say something like, “I have become convinced that God has a better plan for our lives than we have for ourselves. Many times we have a small vision for our life: being successful in business, having nice things, being happy, or attending church services. But these things are temporary and too small. God has a bigger vision for your life. God wants you to walk with him in a deep and person way, God wants you to reach your world and help people come to know Christ, and God wants to use you to invest in a few people who will be world changers.”
Put these things into your own words—that’s important—but the key is to cast a vision of something much greater than what they are currently experiencing. There is, wrapped up in every person, the potential for greatness. Often times, though, it is the person you least suspect whom God uses in incredible ways. So cast the vision and allow the Spirit of God to draw them to this next step.
After casting vision, give them a clear next step. You might say, “I want you to pray about this for the next few days and I will call you to see what you think.” There is no need for them to make a decision right away. In fact, Jesus said it is important to count the cost (Luke 14:28). Close in prayer and assure them that you will be following up. If they are ready to get started, set a place and time for your initial meeting.
This initial meeting, where you ask them to be discipled by you, is an exciting one, but it can also be intimidating. Let me encourage you: it is not your job to try to convince a person to be discipled—it is only your job to give them the opportunity to be discipled. The decision is up to them. You are not responsible for their response. You are just responsible for making yourself available. If God is at work to draw them to this next step, then they will be eager. If not, then you will know it isn’t the right time. Either way, God will use you in that person’s life to encourage them toward growth.
Written by Craig Etheredge
A gifted communicator, author, and Bible teacher and the Lead Pastor at First Colleyville, a thriving church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Craig Etheredge is the host of Morning Thrive, a radio program that covers central Texas. He is Founder and President of discipleFIRST ministries and a regular speaker at the FlashPoint Conference across the United States. Craig is also Adjunct Professor of Discipleship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and is actively involved in his local community serving on various boards.