How do I know if I’m ready to disciple someone?
It’s a common question. At twenty-one it was my question and it was all Brad’s fault! I didn’t know Brad well. He was an nationally-ranked amateur boxer; a big tough guy who didn’t talk much, but when he did it was with intensity.
I was a young believer, just four months into being discipled. There was a lot I didn’t know, but I was jumping in with both feet. My relationship with God was exploding as I developed spiritual disciplines. I was in the Word daily, memorizing Scripture, praying, and sharing my faith. I could feel my faith growing! When my discipler, Greg, invited me to lead the Bible discussion with him, I reluctantly agreed since he’d be the one doing most of the leading! The group was going great until Brad decided to follow Jesus!
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited! But when Greg asked me to disciple Brad, I knew I had a problem. How could I disciple anyone, let alone a guy as intimidating as Brad? After a couple weeks of talking with Greg and praying, I invited Brad into a disciple making relationship.
Brad was actually an easy guy to disciple. He was eager to grow and to apply everything he could. It wasn’t easy for me though. Since, I was inexperienced and just a step or two ahead of him I constantly fought through fear and insecurity. Even though I was discipling him, I kept wondering if I was really ready to disciple someone else.
Now, after more than twenty years of making disciples, I’ve learned that fear and insecurity are constant companions for first time disciplers. Looking back it would have helped to know I was ready, even if I didn’t feel that way. So, let me offer you three ways to know that you’re ready to disciple another:
First, you are ready to disciple if you are a faithful disciple who is a step ahead of the one you will disciple.
You don’t have to have everything figured out to disciple another, but you do need to be a faithful disciple. If you are just one step ahead of someone else, then you can disciple. In my experience with Brad, the proximity of our maturity provided another layer of motivation to grow in my own faith. As I learned and grew, I shared with him what I was learning.
Second, you are ready to disciple if you’ve had a spiritual baby.
To clarify, if you help someone decide to follow Jesus for the first time, then you’ve just had a spiritual baby! Just like in the physical realm a baby’s arrival forces the parent into action—ready or not. In the spiritual realm babies can have babies! In fact, I’ve seen infant disciples become spiritual parents, and even grandparents. Just as in the physical realm, if you have a baby, ready or not, it’s your job to raise it! If God allows you to become a spiritual parent, He’s telling you that you’re ready! It’s the spiritual parent’s job to love, protect, and invest in their children. If God has allowed you to reproduce, do the work required to bring your spiritual child to maturity.
Third, you are ready to disciple if your spiritual parent believes you’re ready.
Healthy disciple making promotes a relationship of safety and trust between you and your discipler. Like a loving parent, your discipler sees your growth and development in a way that you can’t. Allow him to speak into this topic of readiness. There’s no better time to begin discipling than when you have an experienced discipler by your side. In fact, a part of being discipled is learning to disciple another. As you disciple for the first time, move through the disciple maker’s loop with your discipler and with the one you disciple.
There are many barriers to overcome as you become a disciple maker, but they aren’t insurmountable. Not long ago, I sat around a table with seven high-level disciple making leaders. We were asked to share with one another how we got started making disciples. As each person shared their story something amazing happened; we noticed how each of us felt unprepared to start (link start). Our journey to reproduction took the same road through the valley of fear and insecurity. In that valley we learned to allow God to transform our fear into faith. Collectively we had over 150 years of disciple making experience, but if we hadn’t moved through the initial obstacle of insecurity none of us would have developed even one disciple maker. In short, we learned to trust in His faithfulness, not in our readiness.
I’ll never forget discipling Brad. The experience stretched me in so many ways. I was ready, even though I didn’t feel ready. God took my mustard seed faith and grew it. He used it to grow Brad into a disciple and a disciple maker who continues to bear fruit to this day!
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.