Truths and Lies About Disciple-Making

I hit a wall after we returned from Indonesia twenty years ago. I was relationally tired. I found myself paralyzed when I considered discipling yet one more woman! How would I ever maintain the many relationships I had left behind and even before Indonesia? We were ‘beginning again’ connecting with donors, other staff, church, neighbors, family, and new friends. My personal expectations on top of my normal responsibilities as a mom left me floundering. God eventually brought me to a place where I would launch future discipling relationships keeping two realities in mind:
I. Discipling is God’s idea and His responsibility!
Jesus made disciples! And, then, He commanded us to do the same. At the end of the day making disciples is His idea! One-on-one discipling is a God ordained supernatural relationship. His power and presence ensure growth as we disciple. Expectations that we quietly and earnestly place upon ourselves put undue pressure on us.
One such expectation I had bought into was, “I have to be a perfect lifetime go-to friend.”  I think this expectation was marbled with the lie that my continual faithful friendship would keep her growing! Over time, I settled that my role was to faithfully follow the Spirit’s leading as I intentionally engaged with the one I discipled. My relational responsibility was to, “build a bridge of trust that will bear the weight of truth.”  Knowing that I am co-laboring with God sets me free. It is God who makes her grow both when I meet with her and after she leaves campus!  See 1 Corinthians 3:7
II. The goal of discipling is attachment to Jesus! (Not me!)
The Greek word Jesus used when He said, “Go, make disciples” is matheteuo. Matheteuo must be distinguished from the verb matheo, which was a common Greek word of the day. The word matheo, means to solely learn without any attachment to the teacher who teaches. Matheteuo, by contrast, means not only to learn but to become attached to ones’ teacher and become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life.
Our students’ professors practice matheo with them. They teach but they did not want “attachment” to them. As disciplers, however, we do have the goal of matheteuo, yes, but this attachment is to Jesus, not us. In fact, when we realize the solemnity of her need to attach to Him, we will seek to release her prayerfully when the time comes to disciple others and enjoy Jesus. Jesus released His relationships too knowing that the eleven would be lovingly guided by the Holy Spirit.  See John 16:7
Lies or personal expectations I carried over the years: 
  • Lie: If I am not her super friend she will not grow!
  • Truth: I can’t make any disciple grow any more than I can make grass grow!
    • Suggested Therapy if you have this problem: Go outside and stand in front of your lawn yelling at the top of your lungs: “Grow grass GROW!!!” Stay there until you see it grow or realize you can’t make it grow!
  • Lie: I must stay connected with her forever because….well, shouldn’t I?
  • Truth: If she attaches to Jesus, the perfect friend, she will have ongoing access to the One who makes her grow! It is not required that I stay connected to her as we have been. Perhaps the question we need to ask is, “Why do I think I am so important in her life?” “Am I really that crucial to her walk with Jesus?” “Why do I believe this?”
  • Truth: If she attaches to me she will be disappointed because I am human and powerless!
    • Suggested therapy if you have this problem: Look ahead 20 years…imagine you have 100 women from studies and one on one discipling you still connect with. Sit down at your FB account for 8 hours.  You may not get up…keep writing…go on! This is how it will look in 20 years! Is this relationally realistic?
Realizing that discipling is God’s idea and that He invites us to co-labor with Him frees us up to give what we have and not regret our limitations. We are to cultivate her attachment to Jesus. This is good news for a busy young mom who already has plenty of people attached to her! In so doing we are free to release her when we come to the end of our discipling commitment. This does not mean we ‘unfriend’ her from our life but it does mean that we will both go our separate ways. In fact, it takes faith to release someone. We will connect now and then as it is natural. But it is actually healthy that she lives and disciples among the lost and as she does so applies all the lessons God taught her on campus!
Now when I first meet with a woman:

  1. We talk about how long we will meet together (one semester, one year, etc.) This helps ensure she attaches to Jesus more than me. J
  2. We talk about expectations for our time together – what we can and can’t do.
  3. We discuss that the goal of discipling is a healthy attachment to Jesus!   Naturally, we grow in love and enjoy each other. But, when we are finished we go our separate ways. I entrust her to His care. And, I encourage her to go and disciple another!
Recently, our former single staff woman from campus, Butet, came to the States with her husband, Sotar, and their son, Yoshua. I asked her about the women I had met with in Indonesia so many years ago. I was encouraged as she described their lives one by one. I was blessed to hear how they were doing in life.  I realized that even though I have not chatted with, hung out or even connected on Facebook with them that God was still at work in their lives and that they were walking with Him.  I pray you will find freedom in discipling in your mommy years too!
Dana with Tom has been on staff with the Navs for over 30 years and married over 40 years. They are blessed with six children and seven grandchildren. Dana has lived in many places throughout her life time: Florida, Maryland, Indonesia, Chicago and Colorado Springs to name a few. Dana’s loves are the Word of God, people and helping people learn.  
To contact Dana please email her at:
If you want to read more on discipleship consider Dana’s new book coming in January 2016! This would also be a great gift for women on your campus who will be graduating! The Gentle Art of Discipling Women is a simple yet detailed look at our need for authentic faith; the responsibility we have to pass that faith on through one-on-one discipleship; and practical, intentional ways we can disciple the women God places in our lives.

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