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December 22, 2018

How Do You Approach Discipleship with Others?

By Daniel Im

When was the last time you reflected on the way that you personally disciple others?

  • Are you more of a teacher or a shepherd?
  • Do you like to take people through formal curriculum, or do you use their life situation as the starting point?
  • Do you like to disciple one-on-one, in triads, in small groups, or in classrooms?
  • When are people most apt to change?
  • What role does the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and prayer play in the discipleship process?

Unless you have intentionally spent time studying the way people learn and different methods for discipleship, you probably disciple others the way you were discipled (or in the exact opposite manner). This is because our natural bias is to start with what we already know and have personally experienced.


I catch myself doing this all the time.

When my children are not listening, I just begin counting down from the number five. It’s not like my parents told me this is what I should do, but it’s what they did to me, and it worked.

When I stop to think about it, I don’t even feel like this is the best method for discipline; in fact, my wife, Christina, and I agree that it’s not! But I often catch myself still doing it because of that natural bias.

Our natural bias is to teach the way that we have been taught, and lead the way that we have been led, unless we make a conscious effort to change.

In other words, until you reexamine the way you approach discipleship, you will naturally revert back to using the methods that others used to disciple you. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since you may have been discipled by some of the best deacons, elders, pastors, and small group leaders.

But until you take a step back and realize why they did what they did, you will consistently hit a glass ceiling and have a hard time growing in the way you disciple others.

Discipleship is not about a transfer of information, nor is it about behavior modification. No amount of knowledge or list of do’s and don’ts have the power to change one’s heart. After all, wasn’t it the prophet Jeremiah who wrote, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

As much as our hearts are damaged and diseased because of sin, it’s amazing that through the same prophet, Jeremiah, the Lord revealed that “the days are coming…when I will make a new covenant” (Jer 31:31). Through this new covenant brought about by Jesus Christ, “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be my God, and they will be my people” (Jer 31:33).

The Lord declared the same thing through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances” (Ezek 36:26-27).

From one discipler to another, and from one church leader to another, we need to commit ourselves to relying wholeheartedly on the transforming power of Christ, as well as continually growing in the way that we disciple, teach, and lead others towards Christlikeness, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:13).


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, and co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Visit Danielim.com to learn more.


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