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How to Disciple Someone - 7 Key Aspects

Discipling other people is the one thing that Jesus told us to do before He went to Heaven. Making disciples is the great commission that Jesus gave His own disciples. 

But, so many churches today fail to communicate the importance of discipling people. You’ll see many churches celebrate people getting saved and deciding to follow Jesus. We should absolutely celebrate salvation, but that’s where our responsibility of discipling begins. 

How exactly are you supposed to disciple someone?

Discipling other people is relational, so it will always look slightly different. I believe there are 7 key aspects of discipleship that will help you effectively disciple others: relationship, prayer, difficult conversations, Biblical understanding, fruit of the Spirit, fun, and humility.

First, you need to understand why discipling other people is so important. 

We can’t get anyone saved–that’s God’s job. He brings us from death to life and renews our hearts. But He designed it so that other believers would make disciples.

We can see a picture of this when Lazarus is raised from the dead in John 11.

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
John 11:43-44 NKJV

Jesus was the one that resurrected Lazarus and gave him new life. But Jesus told the disciples to take off his grave clothes. 

We see a similar story in the feeding of the 5,000 people. Jesus multiplies the bread and fish, but the disciples hand it out to all of the people.

Here are the seven keys aspects of discipling people.

1. Relationship

We need to have a relationship with the people we’re discipling. There’s a common saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Before you can teach people about faith and Godly living, you need to show them that you love and care about them.

“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17 NKJV

What does that look like?

We’re told countless times that we need to love people. I think it’s just as important to know people. There’s another common saying that people want to be loved, needed, and known. We all have a natural longing for loving relationships with other people. 

But, we can get this backwards. If you love people before knowing them, it feels disingenuous. How can you love me when you don’t know anything about me?

If you really knew me, you’d never love me!

Our first step in discipleship should be to know people. Be genuinely interested in their life. What do they do for fun? What are they passionate about? How did they grow up? What are their big goals in life? Who do they look up to?

If you spend time getting to know people first, you can show them genuine love and they won’t be afraid of you finding out what they’re really like.

John 17:20

2. Prayer

If you’re discipling other people, then you need to be praying for them. Jesus prayed for His disciples, and all of the future disciples, in John 17.

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.”
John 17:20 NLT

Paul also writes that he prays for people he’s discipling, and the church as a whole.

What did Jesus pray for?

  1. He prayed for their protection from the enemy.
  2. He prayed that they would have joy.
  3. He prayed that they would be transformed by the truth of God’s word.
  4. He prayed for them to be united.
  5. He prayed that God’s love would abide in them.

When you’re praying for other people, those 5 things are always a good place to start. Protection, joy, transformation, unity, and love. We all need more of that in our life. If the people you’re discipling have specific needs, you should pray for that as well. 

I fully believe that when you pray for the people you’re discipling, God will answer and they will benefit from your prayers–even if they aren’t aware that you’re praying for them.

3. Difficult conversations

Having difficult conversations can be one of the biggest challenges when you’re discipling someone. We often avoid them because we’re afraid that it will wreck our relationship with that person. But it’s necessary, and it gets (a little) easier the more you do it.

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT

Being a sincere friend means that you genuinely want the best for the other person. Sometimes that means telling them that they’re walking down the wrong path. Wouldn’t you want your friends to warn you if you’re about to walk off the edge of a cliff? I would, even if I get offended at first. I know that they told me I was heading in the wrong direction because they want the best for me.

In Acts 16, we find a great example of this. Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy.

“Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”
Acts 16:1-3 NIV

Talk about a difficult conversation!

I don’t imagine that you’ll need to do this, but there will be moments where you’re uncomfortable. Part of discipling people is talking about sensitive and intimate areas of life. If you want to take people on your journey of following Jesus, you’re going to need to tell them to cut things out of their life.

Difficult conversations won’t always go well.

No one would’ve blamed Timothy if he ran away from Paul after that conversation. Sometimes you’ll correct people and they’ll walk away from you.

It is important to build a relationship with people and show them love so they trust you with the most sensitive areas of their life.

1 Peter 3:15

4. Biblical understanding

Before you start discipling other people, you need to build a relationship with Jesus. Discipling other people means that you want them to follow in your footsteps. You have a responsibility to first build a foundational understanding of the Bible.

Does that mean you need to get a theology degree or go to Bible college and study Hebrew? Not at all. But, it’s important for you to know the basic Biblical principles so you can be a good example to the people you’re leading.

They’re going to have questions, and even though you won’t know everything, you should be prepared to give an answer.

Knowing the Bible equips us to disciple people effectively.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15 NIV

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.“
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

5. Fruit of the Spirit

People are being influenced by someone. Whether that’s their parents, teachers, celebrities, co-workers, or you.

If you’re discipling someone, you have the opportunity to be the best example. No, you won’t always get it right. There have been many times where I’ve failed to be a great example to the people I’m discipling. That’s okay, because I’m not their savoir.

Your goal is to show them the fruit of the Spirit.

These 9 things give us the guidelines to living as a believer. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV

People might do what you say, but they’re far more likely to do what you do. If you’re acting with love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness, they’re going to follow your lead.

If you’re angry, short-tempered, and mean, they’re going to follow your lead.

A big part of discipling other people is giving them a healthy example to live by. That doesn’t mean you pretend to be perfect, because they’ll never live up to that.

Instead, set your directions towards the fruit of the Spirit and always be walking in that direction. 

6. Fun

If you read through the gospel books, you’ll find that Jesus had fun with His disciples. It wasn’t all serious teaching of the scriptures and bowing their heads in prayer.

Jesus’ first miracle in the Bible is turning water into wine at a wedding. The religious pharisees were often upset that Jesus was enjoying a meal with the wrong people, or disrespecting the commandments of God.

When you’re discipling other people, you need to have fun with them. I love reading the Bible and praying, and that’s an important aspect of discipleship, but it’s not the only part.

People are going to have fun and enjoy life with or without you. It’s much better to show the people you’re discipling that they’re allowed to have fun and follow God wholeheartedly. If you don’t have fun with them, they’re going to have fun with other people who might be a bad influence on them.

Jesus had no problem rebuking His disciples when they got it wrong, but He was also enjoyable to hang out and have dinner with.

7. Humility

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

The goal of discipleship isn’t to get people to follow you or listen to you. The most important thing is their personal relationship with Jesus. 

People should be following you, but you won’t be around forever. You could move somewhere, the people you’re discipling could move, or you could pass away. No one knows when their last day on earth is, and you don’t want the people you’re discipling to walk away if you’re no longer there leading them.

You aren’t their savior. You can’t fix all of their problems or change their heart. You can’t answer their prayers. Ultimately, everyone should be walking in Jesus’ footsteps. It just happens that they’re also walking in your footsteps because you’re in front of them. 

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