by Bobby Harrington: This is the second part of a series on starting a discipleship group. To access previous blogs in this series, click here.
We sat down with preacher and author Josh Patrick and asked him some basic questions about how Jesus made disciples. Here’s what he told us.
So how do select people for a discipleship group?
Let me start by saying that what I am about to share came after several missteps and failures as a disciple maker. This strategy was grown in the soil of imperfection. But here’s the ideal way I’ve learned to select people for a discipleship group. This is what’s worked for me, so hopefully it will be helpful for you, too.
I begin with a specific and disciplined prayer. I say specific because the Lord Jesus encouraged us to ask, seek, and knock. I say, disciplined because I don’t want to rush the process. I am by nature an impulsive, ready-fire-aim personality, which doesn’t always bode well for a disciple maker.
Beginning with prayer helps me rely on God to do the heavy lifting in his own way and time. This is what I pray every day until I get a clear answer.
Jesus, reveal five to seven men to me. Men with honest, hungry hearts. Men who want to become like you – at home, work, and everywhere else. Show me some men who are eager to experience deep life transformation. When you make it clear who these men are, I commit to do everything I can to partner with you Spirit to create a culture of discipleship – where grace and truth flow freely and you are the centerpiece of everything we do together. Give me eyes to see, Lord! Amen.
When I’m starting a new group, I pray this prayer every day, and for whatever reason, usually around the 90-day mark, God makes it remarkably clear who these men are. I write their names down in a notebook and surrender the list to Jesus. One by one, each man in his own way lets me know—without my prompting—that he was searching for deep spiritual friendship.
Asking Hard Questions
I have a track record of overestimating good intentions and staying optimistic, even when things aren’t looking good. I’ve learned to listen to my wife and take some time to confirm that the names the Lord had given me were the people he wanted in the group. I take each man out for a meal or for coffee to seek the Lord’s will further. After small talk, I share a bit of my story with them and ask a few basic, heart-probing questions like these:
“What drives you as a man?”
“How do you define success in life?”
“What do you want people to say about you after you’re gone?”
“If you could push a button that would instantly remove one struggle or challenge in your life, what would it be?”
I may not know the men very well at this point, and I may be a little afraid to ask such intense questions, but it always pays off. Each man is genuinely encouraged that I cared enough to ask them questions like this and show concern for their lives.
As I move toward them and listen to them, I ask God to show me if they fit the AFTeR acronym that we use at Harpeth Christian Church http://www.harpethcc.com/, where I minister. This is really helpful to keep in mind as you think of who to invite in your group.
Available – Are they willing to make time for spiritual growth? Or are they distracted by other agendas?
Faithful – Do they have a track record of following through on commitments or do they flake out?
Teachable – Are they open to learning new things or are they closed-minded? Do they display a desire to grow in Christ or are they content to remain where they are?
Reliable – Do they show up when they say they will? Are they honest?
In my experience, people who don’t fit this description aren’t ready for authentic discipleship, so my advice is this – don’t waste your time (or theirs). I know that may sound harsh. But you can save yourself from dead, lifeless groups where you are pulling teeth to get people to participate if you seek out those who are spiritually hungry. Jesus himself targeted those who were open to God—“Let him who has ears to hear, listen!”
This is Part Two of Josh Patrick’s blog series for Discipleship.org, “How to Start a Discipleship Group”. Stay tuned for his next blog that will focus on how to select persons for a discipleship group.
This blog was written by Josh Patrick, who is the Teaching and Discipleship Minister at Harpeth Christian Church—“the best job in the world,” he says. Josh is driven by a desire to help people catch the vision that knowing Jesus is the greatest reality in the universe. He is the co-author of the newly released book, The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (Zondervan). The aim of this book is to equip everyday Christians to passionately participate in the greatest cause on earth—making disciples of Jesus! Josh and his wife, Joni, have three daughters—Lilly, Joy, and Sarah—and a rambunctious Boston Terrier named Bruno.
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