As much as discipling another person is a thrill there will be times when it is really difficult as well. Two issues to keep in mind to avoid speed bumps in your discipleship journey: commitment to the relationship and issues that need to be addressed.
Starting the discipleship relationship on the same page as the person you are discipling is paramount, they should know what the journey will look like. You can talk about how many weeks you will meet together and at what reoccurring time and place you will meet. Think through together what to do if one of you needs to cancel or has something last minute come up.
Clearly outline your commitment in the relationship. Share your commitment to the person you are discipling first. This includes your commitment to pray for them, to come to the appointment prepared to lead and ready to teach them the basics of the Bible, walking with God and ministry skills.
Their commitment may involve items such as making the discipleship time a priority, coming to the discipleship meeting regularly and on time, attending a local church and inviting friends to Bible study when able.
Adjust these items to your situation and perhaps even have a list of them on a separate piece of paper to pull out and talk through.
The benefits to talking about the commitment to discipleship is that if your disciple stops coming or loses interest, you can reference the list and evaluate from there what needs to change or be adjusted.
It is difficult for anyone to grow and mature beyond their blind spots. Those that really go the distance in their growth are not afraid of constructive criticism and especially benefit from being told of their blind spots in an atmosphere of love. But these conversations are challenging for the discipler and their disciple.
After we have been meeting with a particular disciple we may notice something we need to bring to their attention. It can be any number of things such as talking negatively about their spouse constantly, posting offensive things on social media, talking non-stop in Bible study to the point no one else can answer the questions, they mention business practices that seem to be lacking integrity, etc.
Before talking to a person about an issue that needs attention in their lives we must always double check ourselves with the following check list:
Is this issue a pattern or was it simply a one-time deal?
Has this issue been prayed about and thought through – not a knee jerk reaction?
Is the problem really ours? Make sure the issue at hand is not simply a difference in taste and opinion.
A few other things to keep in mind are:
Avoid addressing multiple issues at once.
Have they been on the receiving end of your praise, compliments and encouragement before this conversation?
Ask yourself, “Does this person sense I am on their side at the end of the day?”
Once you have double checked yourself, you are ready to approach your disciple. Begin your time with affirmation. You could, for example, tell her you are proud of some recent step of faith, of his readiness to learn or the single act of bringing a spiritually lost friend to church. Then segway into the truth, always speaking with lovingkindness.
Here is a sample script to begin this challenging conversation:
If you have been discipling a for a few months, you might say,
“Since we’ve begun meeting for discipleship and getting to know each other, there’s something I’ve noticed that I wanted to bring to your attention. It’s hard for me to bring this up because I care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. However, because I’m committed to your growth in every area of life, I didn’t want to put off talking about this with you. Over the past ______________ (time period) I’ve noticed that you ____________ (fill in the blank with this issue.)
It seems scary at first. Take heart; they will thank you for it later. Being told of my blind spots has helped me become a better minister of the Gospel. I have hunted people down to simply tell them thank you for speaking the truth to me in love.
Clear, upfront communication on the front end about what to expect of each other in the discipleship relationship and talking to people about their blind spots in an atmosphere of grace and love will greatly help you avoid speed bumps and potholes in your discipleship relationships.
Our culture’s emphasis on individualism influences the way we follow God. But living a life of faith in the context of relationships will lead to greater spiritual impact than going it alone.
How do you have a difficult conversation with others? Watch this talk from author and speaker Timothy Muehlhoff of Biola University.
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