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January 9, 2016

40 Lessons in Discipleship

By JR Woodward

Discipleship is the key to movemental thinking when it comes to churches that plant churches. Here are 40 lessons in discipleship and mentoring that I have learned through out my life. Some of these lessons I learned from people who disciple me, other lessons are what I’ve learned as I have disciple others. I pass them on in hopes that they may be a blessing to you and those you disciple. I share them in sections of five, because each statement will be richer as they are reflected upon.

Thirty-nine of the Psalms contain the word Selah to break up the Psalm. Selah is a Hebrew way of saying “stop and listen” or “think about it.” So after each section of lessons I will put Selah. These lessons are not in any particular order.

  1. Discipleship takes place in the context of joining God in his mission, for Jesus calls his disciples immediately on an adventurous mission.
  1. In order to disciple others, one must be a disciple of Jesus themselves.
  1. Christian discipleship is about helping people follow Jesus.
  1. Discipleship takes place when we are “with people” like Jesus was with the twelve.
  1. Discipleship becomes personal and powerful in the informal daily rhythms of life.


  1. Everything we do is informed by our theology, so in discipleship we equip people to know and abide in the Word, and have the Word dwell in us.
  1. Mutuality and reciprocity brings richness to mentoring relationships.
  1. Learning to ask the right questions is vital in discipleship and life.
  1. Discipleship multiplies joy, divides sorrow and expands the kingdom.
  1. The richest discipleship develops through natural friendships or into friendship as opposed to implementing programs programmatically.


  1. When we disciple others, we should call out what the Holy Spirit is putting in.
  1. When walking alongside others, we must help them focus on where God is bringing them, not simply where they have been.
  1. While discipleship requires contextualization (it will look different today than it did 30 years ago), the aim is still to be like Christ.
  1. All ministry and no play lends itself to sterile discipleship relationships, while working and playing together adds depth.
  1. It is wise to learn from both ancient and contemporary disciples of Jesus.


  1. Good spiritual mentors help us freshly fall in love with Jesus and create a desire within us to want to follow him even more.
  1. Spiritual friendships are forged in heaven and made a reality on earth, thus we don’t control some primary elements of discipleship.
  1. God is committed to our discipleship and brings divine contacts into our lives and into the lives of those we are discipling.
  1. Resourcing people theologically and practically enriches discipleship.
  1. One of the aims of discipleship is to help people embody the good news contextually in every area of their life.


  1. Discipleship takes place in the living room more than the classroom and in the streets more than the sanctuary.
  1. We love because he first loved us; love is what holds our discipling relationships together.
  1. Integrity involves sharing our true selves with people, and integrity breeds integrity in those we disciple.
  1. God gave us two ears and one mouth so we remember that listening is vital when it comes to being and making disciples.
  1. Holistic discipleship includes helping people immerse themselves in the Word of God and live faithfully in the story of God.


  1. Helping people discover and live out their God-given call in life is one of the aims of discipleship.
  1. Sacred romance is the key to becoming fully human, so we must always be increasing the divine love quotient in those we disciple.
  1. If in our discipleship we want to help people become more like Christ, we must meet them where they are, for that is the only way to help them move forward.
  1. Laboring together in God’s field with friends who are disciples allows us to endure the pain and suffering that comes through birthing new churches and ministries.
  1. When making disciples, we should see people through the promises of God – seeing who God is making them to be, not simply who they are or were.


  1. Connecting people to other people and ministries enriches life, ministry and mentoring.
  1. The fact that we are called to suffer for his name-sake should give us perspective when we are engaged in being and making disciples.
  1. Practical assignments in daily life enables great learning for those we are discipling.
  1. Being there for people in hard times and giving them practical help deepens our discipleship with others.
  1. When it comes to making disciples, we need to remember God’s part and our part, understanding we can’t do His and he won’t do ours.


  1. Discipleship is intentional and requires us to both encourage and exhort others to be his hands and feet in the world for the sake of the world.
  1. While discipleship involves technique, it is ultimately Spirit oriented, and the Spirit blows this way and that and often leads us to live paradoxically.
  1. If we want to disciple others well, we need to listen to them well, listen to the Spirit well, and pay attention to what God is doing in us and those we disciple.
  1. Jesus confided in the three, trained the 12, mobilized the 70 and confounded the crowds, modeling Jesus, discipleship best takes place in the personal space – 6-12 people).
  1. We need to help those we are discipling live in the Word and have the Word living in them, and pray for the seed to land on good soil and multiply 30, 60 or 100 fold.


So what lessons have you learned in your life through your mentors or those you disciple?


JR Woodward

JR Woodward (@dreamawakener) is a church planter, activist, missiologist, and author of Creating a Missional Culture. He co-founded Kairos Los Angeles, the Ecclesia Network, the Solis Foundation and Missio Alliance. He currently serves as the National Director for the V3 Church Planting Movement. He serves locally at the District Church in Washington DC and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Manchester (UK). He just turned in the manuscript of his next book The Church as Movement, with co-author Dan White Jr. It is scheduled to be released the summer of 2016. He loves to surf, travel, read, skateboard and meet new people. He enjoys photography and film and tries to attend the Sundance Festival whenever he can.