Three Primary Colors of Disciple Making


You get three. What are the three “primary colors” of disciple making?

The human eye can distinguish over 7 million colors. That’s a lot of colors! I’ve been thinking lately that colors are like disciple making practices. There are lots and lots of things you could do to help a disciple grow, but which ones are really the most important?

Before you answer, let’s review the primary colors. They are red, blue, and yellow. One amazing thing about primary colors is that all the other colors are made with some combination of them. They are important! When all the primary colors are combined, the result is black, the strongest color.

Let’s apply these concepts to disciple making. Which three disciple making practices are primary? Out of which three do all the others flow? By combining which three do we get the strongest result?

Take a moment to consider which ones you would list as primary.

One last caveat: I’m not talking about what’s needed for our own growth as a disciple. I’m asking about the skills needed to help another person become a disciple maker.

Here are mine:

1. The first primary skill of a disciple maker is to be relational.

A disciple maker who isn’t relational cannot develop a relationship with the person he disciples. Without a relationship disciple making feels cold, robotic, and mechanical. Instead of a relationship discipling engagement must be held together by a covenant, a structure, or a program.

A disciple maker who is relationally skilled can develop a deep sense of trust. Such trust allows him to minister to the whole of a person’s life. Relational disciple making is heart to heart and life on life. There are many shades of relational skill. It normally includes sharing emotions (happiness, fear, sadness, etc.), invitation to see what’s normally hidden (home life, thought life, etc.), and expressions of love/care (quality time, affirming words, gifts, etc.).

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.

2. The second primary skill of a disciple maker is to be intentional.

A disciple maker who is intentionally skilled can help a disciple move. Movement in a specific direction develops into momentum that builds on itself. Intentional disciple making is deliberate, considerate, and focused. In other words, an intentional disciple maker has an agenda. Her agenda is communicated through shared vision, regular questions, and suggested applications. This doesn’t mean that disciple making is authoritarian, it’s not, direction is co-created.

A disciple maker who isn’t intentional isn’t able to set focused direction or provide an example to be followed. Unintentional disciple making often feels good. Without direction, disciple making is normally just involves the “soft” sides of relationship – care, encouragement, affirmation. The danger here is that both parties think disciple making is happening, but without intentionality there’s neither consistent growth nor Christ-like reproduction.

When intentionality is combined with relationship, co-creation happens in the best of ways. Co-creation allows space for affirmation and accountability, for relationship and direction. The result is a cord of three strands (disciple, disciple maker, and God) that yields tremendous fruit.

3. The third primary skill of a disciple maker is to be intrusive.

A disciple maker can be relational and intentional, but if he isn’t intrusive then he may never get to the core of a person’s heart or what’s blocking his progress. Being intrusive means asking hard questions, not just once, but over and over. For example, suppose a disciple maker asks, “How’s your time with God been?” The disciple answers by saying it’s been good and then shares about how consistent he’s been in having devotional time. An intrusive disciple maker moves in further.

“Tell me about what you’ve been reading.” The disciple answers by sharing that He’s been in Ephesians and that it’s one of his favorite books. An intrusive disciple maker presses in still further, “What’s God been saying to you through Ephesians this week?”

This final question helps remind the disciple that the focus of his time in Scripture is to relate to God, not to build knowledge, or even to marvel at what happened in the early church. It also helps the disciple to reflect on whether his time with God has been dynamic or rote.

We see Jesus being intrusive in many of his conversations including with the woman at the well, the demoniac, and with Martha. Intrusiveness comes from a heart to deeply understand what’s happening in the heart of those we disciple. In American culture, being intrusive requires courage because Americans often hide behind evasive answers. Some people are so adept at hiding that they don’t even realize they are hiding…even from themselves.

A disciple maker who isn’t intrusive often misses golden opportunities to help a person understand the deep waters of their heart. Leaving out this primary disciple making color also means leaving out the power of confession, vulnerability, and repentance.

A final thought on this skill. Intrusive disciplers must also be willing to be intruded upon. Over time they become a real model of self-awareness. This is the result of habitually allowing the Scriptures and others to speak into their life.

Disciple making that’s relational, intentional, and intrusive leads to a disciple making relationship that is strong and powerful. Yet, if just one of these is left out, there are clear and noticeable deficiencies. What’s been your experience with these disciple making skills?

In the scientific community, there’s continued debate about which colors should be included as primary. These scholars have different, but well-informed views about which should be included and why. Given that disciple making is more art than science, perhaps your list of three primary disciple making skills is different from mine.

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.


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