Discipleship is much easier to preach about than it is to practice. Pastors, like myself, are often more enthusiastic about making disciples than we are about being discipled. So, pastor, who is discipling you? Dr. Dan Garland is spot-on when he reminds pastors, “To make disciples, we must first be a disciple.”
Wherever I go, I ask pastors, “Who is discipling you?” Their responses range from inspiring to infuriating, although most land somewhere in between. Here, I will categorize the most common responses into two groups: discipleship staples and shortcuts. While the shortcuts may help, the staples must be present for discipleship to take place.
I genuinely enjoy ministry podcasts, but is podcast-discipleship really a thing? Equipping and discipling are not mutually exclusive, but neither are they synonymous. Although pastors need to be prepared for the work of ministry, we also need help walking closely and consistently with Jesus.
We sell a few of these at LifeWay, so please don’t hear me dismissing their value. The fact is, these resources help me to write, minister to pastors, and put food on my table. But be careful not to confuse reading, writing, and preaching about discipleship with actually practicing it.
Blogs, videos, and online courses can prepare you and an army of workers to serve, but can they create a genuine community of disciples? I believe pastors need real life relationships, involving real time conversations. Leaders who want to keep growing need to be a part of an intentional, disciple-making community.
This is the gold standard of discipleship. The primary differences between mentoring and coaching are proximity and accountability. Nothing can replace life-on-life discipleship. You can do this successfully as long as you do it consistently.
Who have you asked to disciple/mentor you? This ball will always be in your court, so find someone about ten years older than you who can help your love for Jesus grow. I have two mentors and five mentees in my life who are currently fanning my spiritual flame.
Pastors will inadvertently undermine their own discipleship strategy by ignoring small groups. I wish I had a wand I could wave to make pastors join a small group. I’m not talking about a paper membership in a class that meets while you preach. It doesn’t even have to be part of the church you lead. Pastors must live out and lead out the discipleship process for it to become a permanent part of the culture in your church.
Network coaching by associations, conventions, and other affinity organizations can be great seedbeds for disciple-making relationships. You will meet people who can help you through tough life and ministry challenges. Some networks create genuine community by connecting pastors to one another, as well as to world class teachers. When real feedback is available, legit discipleship can take place.
There are no secrets or shortcuts to discipleship. At the end of the day, you must want to be discipled as much as you want to disciple.
Want to see more from Mark? Check out his other LifeWay Voices posts: