Discipleship is messy. It’s full of ups and downs — failures and success. The truth is there is simply no one size fits all approach to figuring out how to disciple someone. People come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Some have experienced tremendous hurt and pain, while others have lived a privileged life with little pain. Discipleship must be tailored to the individual. But, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we disciple someone. A discipleship framework serves as the building blocks in your discipleship process.
The ABC discipleship framework is designed to be a starting point that is filled in differently for each person. This framework features three major steps: assess, build, and correct. Each of these steps is designed to be tailored to the person that you’re discipling. In fact, the first step is all about discovering who they are.
A – Assess
Before you can help someone grow in their walk with the Lord, you need to know their current state. This process should include where they’re at emotionally, spiritually, and even their personality. Starting the discipleship process by taking an honest assessment of a person empowers you to care for the person on a deeper level. It also helps you to create a game plan to help them take their personalized next steps.
Start with learning more about their story. Ask them open-ended questions about themselves, their relationships, and their upbringing. You need to know their story, including triumphs, failures, and pain in order to help them grow. Don’t assume that you already know everything about them. Don’t be afraid to ask them specific questions. Reassure them that it’s a safe place and that you’re there for them.
This first step is easy to not pay attention to, but it’s extremely important. Their past will influence everything about them. There may be things that happened decades ago that affect all of their relationships to this day. Getting to know their story, in the beginning, helps you to decipher future actions. A few months into the process they may become distant or completely walk away, but by knowing their story you can recognize the patterns and help them to get back on course.
After you know more about someone’s story, you need to learn more about where they’re at spiritually. It’s no surprise that I love using spiritual health assessments. Our free spiritual health assessment is a great tool to find out where someone is spiritually. They’ll answer questions about bible application, character, evangelism, fellowship, giving, prayer, serving, and worship. At the end of the survey, they’ll get an overall score and scores for each area listed above.
Knowing the specific areas that someone is struggling with will help you to know what to focus on first. Right now, my two lowest areas are prayer and evangelism. I’m actively working to improve in these areas because I know that I’m struggling in them. I recommend having someone take the survey every three months and to share the results with you. You can use our free survey as many times as you want. If you do want to automate the process and have a record of everyone you disciple, you can check out one of our paid plans.
The last part of the Assess step is to have the person you’re discipling take a personality test. I recommend the MBTI. On a personal note, my results (I’m an INTJ, known as the Architect) have helped me to figure out how to better work with my strengths and weaknesses. Knowing how a person thinks will help you to better understand them as well as help you to explain things in a way that they will better grasp.
Knowing these three areas – emotional, spiritual, and personality – empower you to create a personalized discipleship game plan. At the end of the Assess step you should be able to answer these questions:
- Do they have any past hurts they need to work through?
- Are they harboring unforgiveness?
- What motivates them?
- What are their spiritual strengths?
- What are their spiritual weaknesses?
- How do they think?
Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to start developing a plan to help them grow.
B – Build
Now that you have assessed where the person you’re discipling is at emotionally, spiritually, and understand their personality, it’s time to start building them up. In this step, we’re not focused on behavior modification, but instead, we’re focused on their overall walk with the Lord.
Help them establish spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, and having fellowship with other believers. Engage in conversation about the Word and help them grow in the areas that they’re weak in. Encourage them constantly, making sure not to focus on rebuke.
Your goal in this step is to build rapport and strengthen your connection with the person that you’re discipling. Prematurely moving to the third step of correction can damage your relationship and bring progress to a halt.
Consider the woman caught in adultery who was brought to Jesus. He restored her dignity by making her accusers go away, then He treated her like a real person without condemning her, and finally He told her to go and sin no more. Think of what would have happened if He had flipped the script? She wouldn’t have experienced the love of God.
The people we disciple need to know how much we care and that their current struggles are okay. Focusing on the sin struggles before focusing on building their overall relationship is like trying to bail water out of a boat before you’ve plugged the hole. You’re going to sink.
C – Correct
Once you’ve established a relationship with the person you’re discipling and have seen noticeable growth, you need to move to the next step of correction. In this step, you’ll pay more attention to helping them root out behavioral problems and provide correction.
I want to stress again that it is very important that you do not jump to this step too early. SEE WHAT BIG LETTERS I USE (that’s a joke about Paul – go read your Bible 😉 )
Correction should be gentle. You’re simply helping them work through an issue that is separating them from getting closer to the Lord. Don’t use rebuke or make them feel attacked. At this point, you should have a close enough relationship with them that you can bring up tough subjects in a loving manner.
I recommend being transparent about your past struggles and how you overcame them. They need to know that it’s normal for people to struggle and that they can overcome them.
Walk them through repentance and what it means to turn from sin. Help them develop practical steps that they can take to make the change. Finally, check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing with that sin. It’s important that you don’t make every conversation about this struggle. You still need to build them up and encourage them.
One of the reasons that I dislike the idea of accountability partners is that they traditionally only become about the sin instead of also focusing on overall spiritual health. By only focusing on the sin, people will naturally take steps backward in their walk with God. They’ll feel shame and insecurity that will lead to stagnation if they’re not also being built up and encouraged.
People change over time and you’ll need to reevaluate the process along the way. In my life, I’ve gone through many different seasons. Each of them presented unique challenges that I had to walk through. There was the time that I didn’t pray for months because I felt like a failure not raising enough funds to continue being a full-time evangelist. There was also the time where I didn’t know how to love people well and pushed people away from me without realizing.
The truth is that we all go through various seasons. Re-evaluating the process and what someone needs help with most is a never-ending process. Ask open-ended and pointed questions about the person’s emotional and spiritual life often. Don’t assume that everything is happening as normal. Have them take the spiritual health assessment once per quarter to measure changes and see if you need to switch gears.
Lastly, remember that true discipleship is not a sprint. Jesus spent years pouring into twelve men and they still didn’t get it. Peter cut a dude’s ear off and denied Jesus after spending three years in His innermost circle. There will be ups and downs. You will want to give up at times. Stay faithful because, in the end, it’s worth it. Thankfully Peter’s story doesn’t end with denial. In less than two months, he preaches a sermon that leads thousands of people to Christ. Let that encourage you as you learn how to disciple someone.