Once you have a good idea about the product and process of disciple-making (see more about this in Week Three of Invest in a Few), it’s time to get down to the practice of making disciples. How do you make a disciple? Where do you begin? You may have never invested your life in another person. You may not really be sure how to get started. If that’s the case, don’t worry. God is preparing you right now to make a lasting investment in someone’s life that is going to result in his or her spiritual growth. You are about to have a front-row seat to God working through you in a powerful way to build another person up!
But how do you choose a person to disciple? Selection is really important. You don’t want to choose a person to disciple who will not be committed to the process. So how do you choose the right person? First, let me encourage you not to just look for the holiest person you can find. Sometimes, the greatest disciples are pretty rough at the beginning. Think of how Jesus chose the twelve. They were not the brightest and best of their day, that’s for sure. Most likely, these men had been overlooked or discarded by the religious leaders of their day. They were common men. So don’t let the external deter you. Instead, I think we should look at Jesus’ example and do what He did. Here are some things we learn from Jesus:
First, pray. On the night before Jesus chose the twelve men He would invest His life into, He spent the night in prayer (Luke 6.12-13 ESV). I’m sure Jesus prayed for the Father to make it clear to Him who He should choose. So you should start with prayer. I can remember one man telling me, “Craig, just ask God to give you one man. Then when God gives you a man, pour your life into him.” That’s good advice. When I was a young pastor, I began to pray for God to give me a man to disciple. One Sunday afternoon, a young man I had never seen before walked into our church. His name was Gibson. He was young; just out of college. We met in the hallway, and I felt a strong urge to spend more time with him. Before long, I asked him if he would like to join a few other guys to read the Bible, pray and grow spiritually. He immediately said, “yes!” Over the next months, I met with these young men for Bible study and prayer. I invested my life into theirs and each one began to grow.
Years later, Gibson joined our staff, helped launch a new campus and eventually planted a church in Philadelphia. One day, we were talking about that first meeting in the hallway, and I told him that I had been praying for a man to disciple. He said, “Well, I had been praying too. I was just driving by the church, and I felt the Spirit of God tell me to go inside. That’s when I met you.” We both sat there amazed. As I was praying for a man to disciple, God was bringing him to me. I’m convinced that if you will begin to pray for God to bring you a person to disciple, He will.
Second, look for those who have a spiritual interest. As Jesus prayed about whom to select, He chose men who had already shown a high spiritual interest. Jesus didn’t have to twist their arms to be interested in spiritual things. After all, it was Andrew and John who pursued Him in the very beginning (John 1.39 ESV). He had been around these men now for almost two years. He had watched their behavior, He knew their hearts, and He chose men who were eager to grow. When the Apostle Paul chose Timothy, he noticed that Timothy had a good reputation and was eager to grow (Acts 16.1-3 ESV). The best disciples are those in whom the Spirit of God is already at work, giving them a hunger for spiritual things. We call those people “poppers” at our church. Just like popcorn, when the spiritual temperature turns up, they are the first to pop! Their spiritual light is on. They show up to church regularly. They ask great spiritual questions. They apply what they learn. They are honest in their struggles. They are joyful and thankful for all that Jesus has done for them. They seek more of God’s truth in their lives. They are responsive to spiritual instruction. Instead of making excuses for why they can’t grow spiritually, these people are eager, ready, hungry and quick to respond. Start looking around you. Ask God to show you the ones who are eager and ready to grow.
Third, look for F.A.T. people. That’s right, F.A.T. people….Faithful, Available and Teachable. Paul told Timothy to invest his time in “faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2.2 ESV). Choose people who are faithful to do what you are training them to do. You certainly don’t want to put time into others who will not be faithful to do what they have been called to do. That’s why Paul told Timothy to look for faithful men. Jesus chose faithful men. Also choose people who are available: who will create time in their busy schedule to meet with you for training. I have been discipling men for many years, and often, I will see a man who is eager and faithful, but he is not available. He has too many demands; too many distractions in his life to grow. Jesus said that these people are like a seed sown among the weeds. They hear the Word and begin to grow, but the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” strangle out any growth that God is doing in their lives, (Mark 4.19 ESV). Therefore, they never bear any lasting fruit in their lives. Select people who are teachable. Don’t pick someone who will argue every point or loves to play the critic, but someone who is teachable and eager to listen. Over the years, I’ve found that people who fit this description are those who quickly take what I’m saying and put it to practice.
Finally, don’t be afraid to disciple people who are older than you. I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to disciple anyone older than themselves. They reason, “What do I have to offer a person who should be teaching me?” But remember, spiritual maturity and physical maturity are not the same thing. If God has brought people into your life to show you how to walk with God, then why would you keep that from others? Timothy was a young pastor, yet he was called to invest in faithful men. Don’t worry about the age of the person you are discipling. Look for the heart of the person! If they are eager and responsive, faithful and available, teachable and thankful, then pour your life into them. There is no telling what God will do with a person like that!