I recently spoke with a gentleman who broke my heart. He recounted his journey of the last couple of years with great passion and even tears. He wanted to be a part of a church that would make disciples so badly that he was willing to relocate, switch jobs, and start over to be a part of a church that would take relational discipleship seriously. I have to admit, I admire his determination.
He told me the story of visiting with his pastor and how they had embarked on this new journey together and they were so excited to get small groups going to make disciples. As they launched their groups, they waited with baited breath as the anticipation of more and more disciples began to keep them up at night.
Nothing. The groups fizzled. The people were frustrated. And the church was in no better position than it had ever been.
“What happened? What went wrong? Where did we blow it?” These were his questions, and through tears he pleaded with me to give him the keys to fixing what was broken in their structure. It felt a like a bit of a sacred moment, so I paused and prayed silently.
“The problem isn’t in the structure,” I began. And a look of total confusion took over his face. “Tell me, who are you discipling? And how?”
This question surprised him and he labored for an answer. And therein lies one of the biggest problems we face in relational discipleship. “It” doesn’t disciple people — we do. This foundational shift makes all the difference.
If we are not careful, we can make the assumption that there are environments where we disciple and some in which we do not. We place all our disciple-making efforts into developing a structure that will facilitate discipleship taking place. But we give no thought to the thousands of relational environments that we are naturally part of.
Relational disciple-making works because of people who determine in their own minds to be disciple makers wherever they go. Whether I am in a small group, playing golf, fishing, or grilling, relational disciple-making happens when people decide to have real, transparent, vulnerable conversations about real life issues.
This shift moves us away from a structured, programmatic approach to making disciples and toward a lifestyle of seizing every opportunity to inspire one another toward a deeper walk with God. And it makes all the difference.
May you find yourself deeply rooted in relationships that disciple. May you free yourself from the notion of programmed disciple-making. And may you make the most of every opportunity.