Interesting word. We’ve heard it. We know of Jesus’ twelve disciples. But it’s a word many Christians don’t connect with in everyday life. We should.
So what is a disciple? Dictionary.com defines it as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; a follower.” And the Greek word mathetes translated as “disciple” in the new testament means “a learner, pupil, disciple.” And although our very modern dictionary.com considers the verb forms “disciple, discipled, discipling” obsolete and archaic, the meaning is still in frequent use among Christians: “to convert into a disciple” or “to teach; train.”
A buzz word of the last few years has been mentor. My Google definition for mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser” (noun) or “advise or train someone, especially a younger colleague” (verb). The term mentor seems to be the more secular term, but crosses over easily into use in the Christian realm. For this article I will use the terms mentoring and discipling interchangeably.
As Christian women studying God’s Word and seeking to live out the commands of Christ, we quickly come upon the term “disciple” and have to decide whether to ignore it or to move forward in obedience. At the end of the gospel of Matthew we are confronted with these words from Jesus, “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (28:19-20) But what do we do with His words?
Common responses to that verse are either:
1) to assume it only means to lead people to Christ
2) to believe that verse is only for certain, mature Christians or pastors, but not for me
3) to realize what it means, but avoid living it out in my life
But when I come upon a Christian who actually grasps the full meaning and lives out this verse, my senses are immediately aware and conviction wells up within me – Am I living out the fullness of this scripture?
For true disciples of Jesus, these verses, referred to as the Great Commission, are not just a random suggestion; they are a mandate that sears their heart and spurs them to an action – making disciples themselves. Those who have sat at Jesus’ feet as learners (disciples) soon realize that they are called upon to not just sit there and soak it in, but to share it and spread what they’ve learned to others – to disciple, to teach and use Jesus’ words “make disciples.”
But what goes into making a disciple? What is needed to find a Christian mentor or to be one? What is the cost of discipleship? How do we do it? What are the things we need to focus on? How do we carry it out in real life? What areas of growth do we focus on? These are the questions that leave us in a gray fog of doubt. Today we’ll approach a few of these questions, and then hit the rest in follow-up articles. So let’s break it down question by question.
1) How can I, a Christian woman, find a mentor or disciple?
- Ask God to send you a disciple/mentor or to put on your heart who to ask. Prayer is so underestimated! If you take this need to God with a sincere heart He will reveal the person and make a way for you.
- Ask someone to mentor you. Consider a godly woman you know from church and approach them at church or invite them out for coffee and ask them straight out to mentor/disciple you.
- Ask a women’s ministry leader or Sunday School teacher for a recommendation. Tell them of your desire to be discipled and ask for help in finding one.
- Plan a mentor/mentee luncheon where several women who are interested in discipling or being discipled can come together and allow match-ups to happen. Or invite several women to your home for a small group prayer or discussion time in hopes of developing relationships. Consider sending out invitations or putting a notice in your church bulletin inviting all those who are interested.
2) And am I ready to become a discipler/mentor – I’m not “perfect”?
- Yes, you are ready! A simple word picture (gleaned from Anne Ortlund’s writing I believe) may help us grasp this. Imagine you are on a vertical ladder. At any time you will be on one of the rungs. The person above you will be reaching down to help you grow and learn and move to the next higher rung, while at the same time you will be reaching behind you to disciple someone coming along in the Christian walk who is “younger” spiritually than you are. So if you accepted Christ as your Savior and have been digging in His word and growing, guess what? You have the potential to take someone “younger” under your wing and share with them what you’ve learned!
- If we had to “be perfect” to disciple others, no one ever would! Because guess what? Only Jesus was a perfect human. If you can say to another, “I can tell you what I’ve learned,” “Read your Bible each day,” “Pray each day,” “I’ll pray for you,” “Let’s dig through scripture and find out!” or “I’ll walk through this hard time with you,” then you have what it takes.
3) How do I become a discipler?
- Pray and ask. If you see a younger woman (spiritually) who seems to desire to grow in the Lord, or who has verbally expressed a need or desire to be discipled, pray diligently about it and then approach her and offer to disciple her. Yes, this takes courage! Yes, it can be a bit awkward if she declines your offer! I’ve walked through this. She’s not rejecting you. That is simply not the right person or time God has for you. This is not about you, this is about obeying God’s command to make disciples.
- Print up a handout and invite a group to your home. I’ve done this too.
- Be specific in the flier. Tell the “5 W’s and an H – who, what, when, where, why, and how. Type up a succinct yet appealing flier that lists day & time you plan to meet, duration (i.e. 1 1/2 hours, once a week for the next year), who you’re reaching out to (moms of littles, caregivers of aging parents, brand new Christians,…), what you plan to do (prayer, Bible study, worship, accountability, a mix of several of these,…), why you feel led to, and if you have a Bible study book or topic, list that too.
- Print more than you think you’ll need. I probably handed out 20, when all I desired was a group of 3-5. I ended up with 4 wonderful young women and myself. It was an awesome year. (I still love you gals – Kelly, Christy, Jennie, and Michele!)
- Give them out to everyone God allows you to. I gave some out sure that the person would come – they didn’t. And one I gave out very reluctantly, sure that she was too busy and too spiritually mature to even want to come to my house – and she came! Go figure. God will surprise you.
- Evaluate relationships you already have that God is trying to turn into an “undeclared” discipling relationship. Sometimes God allows a relationship to develop of gentle teaching, guiding, and praying for a person who has been a friend for a long time. You are not there to “Lord it over” or “fix” your friend, but to humbly teach what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.
- Alert your small group leader, women’s ministry leader, or pastor at church that you would be willing to mentor new Christian women (women only mentor women) who come into the class or church and need/want to be discipled. Some churches even offer training programs on how to disciple/mentor.
Realize that you are most likely already discipling and being discipled. In our worship service, Bible study, small group, women’s meetings, etc., we are all unofficially teaching one another and learning from one another. We are growing from simply watching how our Sunday School teacher digs in the Word and how she prays and how she ministers to hurting people in our class. We are becoming more mature disciples when we take notes on the pastor’s sermon and go home and seek to apply it to our lives. We are casually discipling (teaching) other Christians when we share what we learned and how God grew us as we walked through a trying life experience. “You are My Disciples,” Jesus says, “if you love one another,” and “if you hold to my teaching.” (John 13:35, John 8:31) We ARE His disciples, let’s begin to obey scripture and make disciples!