When we first start out on this trek together we find each other responsive and the one being discipled, eager for change.
As time goes on though it changes and it can appear that the relationship between the two has become less productive. In some ways it has, and it should, we are in trouble if our discipling relationship stays the same, the two of us relating as we did at the beginning is not quite the plan. This isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, if we examine what it is that has changed, we may find encouragement after all.
The one who used to listen avidly, now has increasingly well-formed ideas of their own and is able to hold their own in life, their habits and character have become such that they don’t need someone to help them make their decisions so often, as they have grown in wisdom.
The aim of discipling another is for them to be self-governing under God. Just as we raise our children to make our role as parent of little ones redundant, so we aim for this with those we spend time with in a discipling setting.
The one being discipled can find they feel irritation with the one who is discipling them, they can feel unhappy about this, thinking they have an attitude problem, but it may simply be they are growing out of needing this level of involvement, it’s a great sign your discipling has done at least a half decent job. It might also be a sign that you need to be more sensitive to their growth, and the way you are involved in their life needs to shift.
Often, as time goes on, you find you spend more of your times together catching up with each other, enjoying being together in a less structured way, again, good signs of growth. Many times the relationship which started as a desire to help them grow, has transformed into a friendship of deep authenticity.
If this is your experience, then enjoy it….and go and do the same with someone else all over again, you’ll grow a great set of friends this way!
The discipling spectrum is broad and over time we will probably find we have an area we prefer to specialise in. Some like to concentrate on helping the newest of believers, others, on those who are further on and have different needs, some will love being alongside those who know better what they are made of and need help and encouragement to grow in particular areas of their developing set of skills and gifts.
One thing is for sure, discipling doesn’t need to be dull, it can at times be stressful and disheartening, but more often than not it is fruitful and encouraging, and the ones being discipled aren’t the only ones who learn from it, the discipler does too.
Why not think and pray about where you might fit in the whole process of discipling? You could ask someone who knows you well where they think you’d be most use and see most fruit, and then see if there’s someone who comes to mind when you pray about this over a little time.
Discipling is such an important part of church growth, both when we receive it and when we attempt to help another, it would be a shame to miss out on such a valuable part of the life of following Jesus, it wasn’t a mild-mannered suggestion when he said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ he meant us to do it. Let’s do it well.