We’ve all been there. In an effort to make something stick we schedule an event/meeting for discipleship. Except it never works.

When I was in youth group, I remember going to DNOW (Discipleship Now) weekends. What a silly event name. Discipleship doesn’t happen now. It isn’t an event that can be scheduled. It can only exist through authentic relationships.

During these weekends, we’d pack as many teenagers as we could in a room and hope for life change. What we got were short-lived spiritual highs.

I’m not bashing youth ministry.

Without it, I wouldn’t be following Christ today and I certainly wouldn’t be working to help ministry leaders.

I learned a lot in youth group, but not because of a conference or event. It was because of life change in the context of relationship.

I grew in my faith and recognized God was calling me to more because of relationship with a youth pastor who wanted me to grow. He sacrificed time with his family to be there when I needed him the most.

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence.” Bob Goff

Discipleship requires sacrifice and presence. You can’t hold an event and hope for the best. You have to walk in relationship with people. It’s costly and messy.

The reason discipleship works in relationship is because it’s built on a foundation of love.

Love says, “No matter what I’ll be here.”

Discipleship Through Relationship

I recently read Love Does by Bob Goff. In the first chapter, Bob recounts the story of someone who chose to walk with him even at the most inopportune time for what seemed like an ill-advised adventure.

See, Bob had decided at the age of 16 that it was time for him to drop out of high school and move to Yosemite where he had no connections, no housing, and no job.

Before leaving he went to say goodbye to a campus minister who had invested relationally into him. However, when Bob told his friend Randy of his plan, he didn’t get a lecture or a goodbye. His friend dropped everything and went with him!

After a few days of sleeping in a tent that they had to sneak into and being turned down for dozens of jobs, Bob decided it was time to go back home. His friend Randy, without skipping a beat turned to him and simply said, “whatever you decide, I’m with you.”

Bob had someone in his life that was willing to leave the comfort of his home at a moments notice in pursuit of discipleship. But, I haven’t even gotten to the crazy part yet.

After Bob and Randy finished their journey back home, they arrived at Randy’s house. Upon entering, Bob noticed half opened gift boxes everywhere and a few minutes later they were greeted by Randy’s wife.

You see Randy had just gotten married. They hadn’t even put away all of the wedding presents when a kid named Bob knocked on their door with a half-baked plan. That didn’t stop Randy and it shouldn’t stop us.

Love is radical.

It makes us do things for the other person that no sane and logical person would do. We love because Christ first loved us.

Jesus didn’t expect perfection overnight. Heck even the 12 closest to him lost faith and betrayed him. It wasn’t even a day before Peter denied Jesus.

But that didn’t phase Jesus. He didn’t leave Peter in that state, he restored him gently and walked with him. Peter less than two months later would preach the Gospel in such a powerful way that thousands would be saved on the day of Pentecost.

Our goal isn’t to look for quick fixes. Which is a good thing because there are no quick fixes when it comes to discipleship. If we want to create healthy disciples, we must do it in relationships. It’s messy. It’s tiring. It’s even disappointing at times. But, it’s also incredibly rewarding.

Taking The First Step

It’s going to take some time to start making disciples that last.

The good news is that with a little tweaking you can start creating a culture where relational discipleship can thrive. It’s all about creating the right repeatable framework. So what do you do?

Start small.

Put aside your 5, 10, or 20-year vision and focus on what you can do right now. Who are the people that you can pour into and walk with? You may have a couple of people pop into your mind, that’s great. If not, keep thinking about it.

Once you have 1-3 people that you’ve decided to pour into you need to ask yourself if you’re committed to walking with them for the next 2 years. Yep, you read that correctly. 2 years.

Here’s why pouring into a few people over an extended period of time works.

Simply put, disciples make disciples. Discipleship takes time. It isn’t something that you as a pastor can do by yourself. If you want to transform your church, it’s going to take commitment.

Sure, you may only have 3 people after 2 years. But, then those 3 are now equipped to disciple 3 more each. That’s 9! Once those 9 are discipled, they can each take on 3. That’s 27! Once those 27 are discipled, they can take on 3. That’s 81! I’m sure you’re getting the picture. But, just one more to drive it home. Let’s take those 81 people and give them 3 people each. That’s 243 new people they can disciple. Add all of those people up and that’s 354 people that have been discipled because you took the time to invest in 3 people.

Are you seeing the big picture yet?

I hope so.

Only by starting small can you go big.