Do you struggle to know what to do with the person you disciple? Most do. To solve the problem many people simply work through the hottest discipleship curriculum. After that the disciple is challenged to find someone else to “disciple” (i.e. go through the curriculum with). All too often this approach results in multiplying curriculum, not disciple makers.
Others solve the “what to do” problem by studying a book of the Bible. Since reflection on the Word is the silver bullet of spiritual growth, it’s not a bad thing to do. However, considering how many orphans have studied the Bible without self-reflection or application, this approach frequently leads to knowledge acquisition rather than transformation.
The decision of what to do with a disciple is vitally important. In fact, since disciple making is generational, what you do with a disciple will probably be what he does with someone else. In other words, what you model both explicitly and implicitly will be reproduced.
The best disciple makers proactively address a disciple’s need by using the Word and encouraging application. Today I want to share with you how to use one tool to discern where to begin. This is my favorite tool to use when I begin to disciple a long-time Christian. When used skillfully it does the following:
1. Evaluates a person’s depth and dexterity with the Word.
2. Allow the disciple (and discipler) to assess her growth needs.
3. Present a picture of a disciple as a guide towards becoming.
4. Allow the discipler to model depth and dexterity in the Word, humility, and vulnerability.
5. Sets the culture of your disciple making relationship around three things—the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and how God is at work in you.
6. Provides freedom for co-creation in the disciple making relationship.
The tool isn’t a book, a study, or an app. The tool has been used for over nearly 80 years and is easy to carry with you. The tool is The Wheel Illustration. You may have seen it before, but knowing about a tool is different than owning it.
Here are some tips to help you use it effectively:
1. Before sharing the wheel, memorize two verses for each part of it. You can start with just the references for each aspect. Memorizing this is important because it allows you to draw it out, piece by piece. This approach engages the listener and allows you to model depth and dexterity with the Word. In preparation, practice sharing the wheel by drawing it from the inside (hub) out (rim).
2. Ask the disciple if he’d be interested in seeing an illustration about the life of a disciple. Mention that you’ll be drawing out a wheel. Next ask, “What do you think should be central in the life of a disciple?”
His answer will help you understand his framework for faith. Then write “Christ” in the center and explain the work of Jesus and the continuing impact of the Gospel on our lives. After establishing the hub, ask, “Can you think of any verses that would support that?”
This question can be uncomfortable for the disciple, but if you keep the atmosphere light by sprinkling in, “It’s okay if you can’t,” or “I know I’m putting you on the spot,” (with a smile) then it isn’t off-putting.
Next, write the references of her verse and the two verses that go with the illustration (for the Hub—2 Cor. 5:17, Galatians 2:20)
Justin Gravitt, author of this blog, is with Navigator’s Church Ministries. They have made available to you, “The Start Small Grow Slow Strategy,” which you can download for free here.
3, Repeat that approach with all of the spokes and the outer rim. If she doesn’t have verses for the first two then stop asking. If she does then encourage and affirm. As you go through the rest of the illustration be sure to flesh out its parallels to spiritual life. For example, the horizontal spokes relate to our relationship with others and the vertical spokes to our relationship with God. The outer rim is where the rubber meets the road. Just as a wheel is made to be in motion, so are our lives. And when a wheel is spinning quickly you can’t really see the individual spokes, but both the hub and the rim can be clearly seen.
4. Ask if they have any questions.
5. Ask “If you were to rank the spokes from strongest to weakest in your life, how would you do it?” After they rank from first to fourth, have them share about the strongest one and encourage them in that. Then ask about the weakest one, “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate this one?” Ask what makes it challenging for them.
6. Share with them what you’ve asked them to share with you (strongest/weakest, 1-10 on the weakest, etc.). They won’t ask, but doing this is important because you are showing them that this discipling relationship is a two-way street.
7. Ask them what it would take for them to move from a 4 to a 4.5 or 5? Answer the same question about your weakest and commit to a practical application that would move you each in that direction.
8. Ask permission to ask them about their application next time. Then ask if they would ask you about yours.
9. Ask if they can share the wheel with you next time (just the concepts, no verses required). Then pray for one another.
This is a great way to start a disciple making relationship. It’s one tool, rooted in the Word, and wrapped with a relationship. It’s calibrated to assess, model, and set direction, no outside resources required.
It also sets up a ton of next step possibilities. I love it because it’s adaptable to the needs of each person, and it sends so many of the disciple making messages that disciples need to get. So, try it out. The Wheel is a great place to get things rolling!
Written by Justin Gravitt
Justin Gravitt is the Dayton (Ohio) Area Director for Navigator Church Ministries. Read more from Justin at his blog, “One Disciple to Another,” where this article first appeared.