Shifting From Learn-ed to Learn-er

The following content is an excerpt from the eBook Inviting Along. Download your free digital version in your favorite format here.

Disciple makers must shift from being learn-ed to being a learn-er. People often think that they have to know a lot of information (i.e., to be learned) to be a disciple maker, but what they really need is to become a learner. If you can be a learner, you can be a disciple maker. The pressure to be learned is an expectation for those who practice informational discipleship, but in relational disciple making the need to be a learner is the essential expectation.

I hear a common excuse from people when we stress that each and every follower of Jesus should be a disciple of Jesus who makes disciples with Him. This is the excuse I hear, and it’s very worrisome: “But I can’t do that because I don’t know enough to teach others.”

This is a red flag that they don’t know this essential aspect of disciple making—that it’s not about how much you know but about how much you’re willing to learn. It’s a common excuse (and very heartfelt), but it’s worrisome because it demonstrates a misunderstanding of the word “disciple.”

The word “disciple” does not mean, I know a whole lot—so much, in fact, that I can teach you all the ways of King Jesus. That means you should come and listen to me teach you, and maybe one day, you will grow to know enough to go and teach others, too. This type of thinking is not the kind of thinking we want in a disciple maker, even if they do know a lot!

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By no means do I intend to discount the importance of teaching. It is one of the key words in Matthew 28:18-20, “… to teach all that I have commanded you.” But, as I suggest in the previous chapter, we need to do more than just teach His ways like we did in the twentieth century: under florescent lights to people in uncomfortable chairs. Instead, we must look back to Jesus and how He taught the ways of the Kingdom: under the light of the sun and the moon to people with whom He walked in daily relationship.

The word “disciple” does not mean, I don’t have to learn anymore because I earned my Jesus Ph.D. and my not-gonna-go-to-hell tenure.

The meaning of the word “disciple” actually implies something more like this: I am a learner and will always be a learner. I’m more like an apprentice who learns from a Master and imitates Him, doing what I’ve seen Him do in my everyday life. I’m more like a son or a daughter who lives in the presence of my Daddy and thus lives on purpose to invite others along like He is their Daddy, too.

We never learn enough to earn our “discipleship degree.” We never quit being a learner either because a disciple is a learner. Not knowing enough, then, is not a valid excuse if we understand the word “disciple.”

What if we moved our understanding of a disciple maker from being a “teacher” to being a “learner”? Like I posed in the previous chapter, what if the primary metric of “teaching” is not about when we teach but about when learning happens? What if we took the priority off becoming a learned teacher and instead prioritized ongoing learning as we invite along those believing and those who have yet to believe to discover His ways along with us?

Relational discipleship makes room for this, creates an environment for this, and initiates the type of relationships where learning together is central. That is, I don’t have to be learn-ed to make disciples, but I do have to always live as a learn-er in order to invite along others into disciple-making relationships.

This comes from the free eBook Inviting Along, which you can download here.

Hopefully, it encourages you to move beyond what you might see as a limitation—I don’t know enough to teach—toward what is actually an opportunity—I am learning to live the ways of the King within life-giving community. That’s what a disciple maker is, and that’s a significant shift that we need to make so that more people can join the ranks of disciple makers.

Written by Jason C. Dukes

Jason and Jen have been married since August 1998. They met at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Since August 2015, they have lived with their seven kids and yellow lab in the Nashville Tennessee area, where Jason coaches and equips disciples making disciples, churches starting churches, and churches renewing their intended purpose. Jason has helped start Westpoint Church, House Blend Cafe, the Reproducing Churches Network, and the Church of West Orange. He has also served as a student pastor, college pastor, lead pastor, and multiplication minister. Learn more about his writings at

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash

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