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February 9, 2016

#MakeDisciples ThatMakeDisciples, Part 1

By Rob Berreth

A few years ago I tweeted a series of quick thoughts on healthy habits for multiplying disciples so I would remember what to do. Below is a randomized list of tweets and tips for making disciples that make disciples. I have found all of these helpful in training church planters and developing leaders. Here are the first three tips:

Tip 1: Don’t just pray for the people you disciple, ask them to pray for you

This tip assumes you are praying for the people you are developing. I know, I’m convicted too. But beyond this conviction, there are a number of practical reasons this tip makes sense.

  • We all need prayer. The people we are discipling need to know that we need prayer. We aren’t spiritual giants. We are needy strugglers. We haven’t arrived and those we disciple need to know that. When we ask for prayer, we are inviting those we are leading, training, and discipling to also lead, train and disciple us, and that’s good for everyone.
  • We need to hear the people whom we are training pray. One of the best ways to hear the heart and the theology of someone is to listen to them pray. Prayer is often an intimate outpouring and a relational expression of our theology. Listen for their functional relationship with God. Do they have a hard time relating to Him as Father? Do they plead with Him to listen? Do they try and impress Him (or you) with their prayers?

Tip 2: Almost always answer a question with a question

This may be the toughest tip to follow for those of us that like to speak and like to teach. It feels good to be asked questions and be seen as the church sage, expert, primary resource, and more. And in truth, when asked a question many of us have good answers. But before you answer a question, ask a question. This is really simple and extremely practical. Almost any time I’m asked a question by someone I’m training to plant a church, I answer their question with a question. It goes something like this, “Rob, how do I figure out if I’m called to plant a church.” I respond, “How do you think you figure that out?” They then ask, “Rob, what do I need to grow in to become a church planter?” I respond, “where do you think you need to grow?” Then they ask, “Rob, why do you always answer my questions with a question?” I respond, “Why do you think I do that?” And their last comment always seems to be, “Rob, would you like me to punch you in your smug mouth?” And I respond, “What do you think?” Okay the last question has never happened, but you get the point.

Beyond being sort of fun to almost never giving a direct answer, it is really good to answer a question with a question. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Just because people nod or say Amen doesn’t mean they get it or agree with it. If I’m always talking, I find that people are often nodding, but I have no idea what they really feel, believe or know. Asking questions draws out from others what they really think.
  • Asking questions is highly reproducible. No doubt it can get a bit annoying like a small child asking why over and over again. But, anyone can ask the question “Why?” which makes it reproducible. We don’t want to give the impression that only the “super-smart, well-read, always-have-an-answer-pastors” can train planters. Asking questions and letting the Spirit work and move in a community of people is a really ordinary way to show that ordinary people can arrive at truth without a Yoda master to lead them.

Tip 3: Discipleship is a team sport. It takes a church to raise a Christian. Disciple in groups.

In our church, we emphasize Gospel-Centered Lives-On-Lives Missional-Discipleship, or for ease of use, GCLOLMD 😉 It seems the Biblical pattern is much more of a community on mission together growing more like Jesus. We want to see that pattern worked out in our leadership development. No doubt there are times to do it one-on-one, but our preference is to get people in learning and developing communities. Here are some advantages of “lives-on-lives” discipleship:

  • It’s efficient. I find myself having basically the same conversation with a lot of different people. I can save a lot of time by clumping people up into clusters or groups and having the conversation once.
  • It’s fun. Some of my favorite times over the last five years of working with potential planters is our time together as a cohort. We get to crack jokes and laugh and enjoy each other. It makes discipleship feel like a team. The guys develop training partners and really begin to pull for each other.
  • It’s helpful. As you disciple in groups you see all sort of interpersonal dynamics work out. You get to see the way people work with each other. You get to see where people get prickly. You get to see how people counsel each other, pray for each other, teach each other, lead each other, serve each other, and defer to each other. Along with this, the people you are discipling get to see you model the way they should interact, train, pray, rebuke, correct, and more. You also get the opportunity to do a lot of in-time teaching and training.


Rob Berreth

Rob Berreth (@robberreth) planted Redeemer Church in Bellingham, WA in 2007. He has served as a pastor in churches ranging from a few dozen to 3,500. Rob has been involved in three church plants, two as a core member leading music, and one as a lead pastor. He holds a Master of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Rob and his wife Kati have four children, two red heads, a daughter from China and a son from Ethiopia.


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