4 Ways to Stop the Cycle of Non-discipleship

stop cycle non-discipleship

The beginning of planting our first church was a time of passionate vision, excitement about possibilities and anticipation about what God would do through our emerging community. Dallas Willard’s quote about the church and discipleship stirred our hearts:

We must be disciples, we must intend to make disciples, and we must know how to bring people to believe that Jesus really is the one.

The Brick Wall

As the first few months went on, despite the books, conferences, and podcasts on discipleship we were consuming, we quickly became aware that we had no idea what we were doing.

I was left with this question….

How am I suppose to make disciples when I’ve never been directly discipled by anyone?

I was struck that no one had ever intentionally come alongside me to disciple me—to show me the way.

And I wasn’t alone.

In fact, Dallas Willard also said, “Non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.”

[Tweet ““Non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.” ~Dallas Willard”]

This is the reality I was bumping up against. Most of us have not had a discipling relationship where someone has walked alongside us to help us be with Jesus, to learn from him on how to be like him.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity (which I was tempted to do!), I resolved that the cycle of non-discipleship would not continue through me.

New Seasons

Shortly after I made my resolution, a friend invited me to be part of a discipleship group she was starting. Looking back, I grew more in that year of intentional discipleship than ever before.

After that season, I began to intentionally disciple others. And I’d love to say that it lead to a season of fabulous breakthrough, church growth and amazing change in our lives.

However, it was more a mixture: of struggle, breakthrough, wrestling, growth and trial and error.

As I’ve stumbled forward, a few things have helped in my journey to become a disciple and to disciple others, and I’d like to share them with you.

Stopping the Cycle

1. Look for God in the ordinary and help others do the same.

God is always present and at work. He uses the everyday situations of life to grow us more and more into the image of Jesus. And he invites us to participate with him in this work.

So, discipleship is more about paying attention to what God is doing in our lives and the lives of others than about checking things off the “list of things to know about God.”

Today, ask yourself and those you are discipling these simple questions:

* Where is God present and at work in our lives?
* Where are the high points?
* Where are the low points?

These are the places where God is meeting us.

2. Find small ways to walk with others.

We need to be with each other for discipleship to happen. We invite others into our lives and we are present in theirs. We say, “Come walk with me. Let’s do this together.”

The old African proverb expresses this beautifully, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Today, where can you be intentional in helping your path cross with those you’re discipling? Eating together? Texting to ask how someone’s day is going? How can you connect this week?

3. Lead in weakness, not strength or perfection.

I’ve had anxious thoughts like, “I don’t have everything figured out. Honestly I’m kind of a mess over here! So, how in the world can I disciple others?”

The good news is that we don’t have to be a perfect example, just a living one. Actually, leading from a place of “I have all the answers and everything figured out” is a recipe for disaster.

[Tweet “We don’t have to be a perfect example, just a living one. @DebSternke”]

Jesus is the only perfect example; so we look to him and follow. In our weakness, he is strong (2 Cor. 12:9).

Today, how can you release the pressure to be perfect and have it all together? What ways can you lead in weakness? 

4. Lean into being vulnerable.

Vulnerability is essential in discipleship. Shame wants us to hide our imperfections because it says it’s the only way we’ll truly be loved, wanted, valued and accepted. Being vulnerable paves the way for others to be honest about their struggles. This is the place where God’s power meets us in mighty ways, bringing connection, healing and freedom.

Today, what can you share about your life that would help pave the way for vulnerability?

No Previous Experience Necessary

I’m still figuring out what it looks like for me to disciple others with my personality, stage of life and gifting in mind. Honestly, I’m learning more and more that discipleship is not a cookie-cutter process that we can just tell others to copy exactly for immediate, instant results.

Jesus has called us to make disciples, and he will lead us to do it, even if we’ve never been directly discipled ourselves. I’m thankful today that He promised to never leave us on this journey of becoming disciples and of making them.

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Deb Sternke

Deb Sternke

Deb Sternke lives in the Indianapolis area where she is helping to plant a church (thetableindy.org) and train leaders to grow Jesus-shaped cultures (gravityleadership.com). She is mom to four, wife to Ben and has a passion for women to be equipped and empowered for the work on the Kingdom.
Deb Sternke

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