relationships

When One of Your Disciples Pulls Away

What do you do if one of your disciples pulls away from you? He may be going through a wilderness of discouragement like David; he may feel guilty because he gave in to temptation like Peter; he might even be running from God like Jonah. Do you just wait until he contacts you? Or do you chase him down?

First, the most important thing you can do is pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to work in his situation. Second, let him know you are praying and that you are available to talk. He may not respond immediately, but he needs reassurance of your love. Even if he doesn’t answer the phone you can text or leave a message. Third, love him unconditionally. Don’t scold him, get offended or cut him off. Remember: “Love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Keep loving, keep pursuing, keep encouraging even when your disciple is going through hard times.

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Don’t Be a Lone Ranger Christian

Many Christians have a “me and Jesus” attitude. They think Christianity is simply a vertical relationship. They pray, read the Bible and listen to popular podcasts or worship music, yet they aren’t involved in a local church. Or if they are, they don’t build close friendships. But Christianity is not just vertical. It’s horizontal!

Hebrews 10:25 warns us about being mavericks. It says we should not forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” The primary reason we gather at church is to strengthen each other. Paul told his friend Philemon: “Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ” (Phil. 20). God wants to use you to benefit and refresh others! Don’t close your heart to God’s family. Don’t be an isolated Lone Ranger. Form tight bonds of fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Christ”

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You Must Love Fervently

The apostle Paul loved people passionately. More than 40 times in his letters he refers to his disciples as “beloved.” He called Timothy his “beloved and faithful child” (1 Cor. 4:17); he described Epaphras as his “beloved fellow bondservant” (Col. 1:7); and he called Onesimus his “faithful and beloved brother” (Col. 4:9). The Greek word for “beloved” means “esteemed, dear or favorite.”

But how could more than one person be Paul’s favorite? This wouldn’t normally be possible. But when God’s supernatural love flows through you, you can love all your disciples like they are your favorites. God’s fervent love will stretch your heart and give you added capacity to demonstrate warm affection, sincere compassion and deep concern. This is the secret to effective mentoring. Love your disciples until they become “beloved” to you.

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Never Live in Isolation

Sometimes a guy I’m discipling will crawl in a shell and hide because of discouragement, failure or shame. He withdraws from people and turns inward. We are all tempted to do this, but isolation is not healthy. You need your Christian friends and mentors, especially when you are down.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 says of friends: “If either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” The devil hates true fellowship, so he tries to divide us. He lies and says, “Your friend is too busy. Your mentor doesn’t care about you. No one understands you.” Don’t listen to that garbage! When you are down, reach out for help. Ask for prayer. Stay surrounded by caring friends. The Holy Spirit will minister to you through them.

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Who Is Your Timothy?

When Paul met young Timothy in Asia Minor, Acts 16:3 says Paul “wanted this man to go with him.” Why? The apostle must have seen potential in the half-Greek convert. Timothy was inexperienced, and he struggled with timidity. But after he traveled with Paul and received loving mentorship, he led the church in Ephesus. Paul later said Timothy was like a son to him and that there was no one else with his “proven worth” (Phil. 2:22).

Be on the lookout for your Timothy! God will put him in your path. Invest time in him. Take him under your wing. He will not be perfect, and he might come from a broken family or struggle with personal challenges. But if you look past his flaws, your love and encouragement can transform him into a mature leader who might even surpass you in spiritual impact.

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Learn to Be an Encourager

Your words have incredible power to change people’s lives. There have been times when God gave me a prophetic message for someone, some practical advice about a problem, or just a simple word of encouragement. My friends later told me that those words became significant signposts for them. They received supernatural strength from the conversation. Even years later they still treasure the words I shared.

Be an encourager! Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” And Proverbs 10:21 says, “The lips of the righteous feed many.” Don’t just look for encouragement for yourself. Learn to give it. People need to be affirmed, assured of God’s love, and reminded of God’s promises. Let Jesus use you to inject strength and hope into those around you.

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David Produced Mighty Men

After David became king he trained 37 men who became famous warriors. The Bible calls them “mighty men,” and their names are listed in 2 Samuel 23. It seems the same anointing that was on David came upon these men. They were exceptionally loyal, strong and brave. Among them were Adino, Eleazar and Shammah. They were called “the three” because their victories were legendary. They remind me that among Jesus’ disciples, He had three—Peter, James and John—who walked in exceptional power.

David’s mighty men remind me that God did not anoint me just for so I can have my own ministry. No, He wants me to share that anointing by discipling others. He wants me to reproduce. God can do this though you too! As you spend time with your disciples, encourage them, train them, advise them, pray for them and take them with you on ministry assignments, they will become legends. Let’s train up our mighty men!

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Becoming a Spiritual Father or Mother

Paul told the Corinthians: “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father in the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). There’s a difference between an instructor and a father. It is good to mentor people, and it’s good to preach sermons. But the best preachers don’t just speak behind pulpits; they also sacrificially invest their lives in people.

Do you want to become a spiritual father or mother? You cannot be a father if you have not been fathered. This process happens mainly by spending time with God and discovering His unconditional love for you. It also happens when a caring mentor invests in your life. Being loved, corrected, coached and encouraged by a true spiritual father or mother will help you do the same for many others!

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Challenge Your Disciples to Surpass You

Your job as a mentor is to invest in your disciples so they grow into mature disciple-makers themselves. Titus is a great example of this in the Bible. Paul led Titus to Christ and called him his “true child” (Titus 1:4). Paul then took Titus on trips and trained him to be a leader. Eventually Paul calls Titus his “partner and fellow worker” (2 Cor. 8:23).

Later we see that Paul appoints Titus to lead the church in Crete. And in Paul’s last letter he says Titus has gone to the uncharted mission field of Dalmatia (2 Tim. 4:10), which is modern Albania. Titus became a bold apostle just like Paul! This is your challenge—nurture your disciples until they grow into everything God called them to be. Don’t baby them; challenge them to full maturity. Don’t keep them “below” you; expect them to do far more than you ever could!

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Don’t Hold Your Disciples Back!

I started mentoring a guy named Paul Muzichuk in 2012. He was eager to be discipled in ministry, and since we began our friendship he has taken more than 12 trips with me. Today he serves as my ministry assistant, but he’s also a leader in his local church. He disciples several guys and this past week he taught a course on discipleship at a Bible college.

It’s exciting to watch my disciples do what I taught them. But the goal is for them to surpass me! Moses trained Joshua, but then Joshua took the people into the Promised Land. David’s mighty men did greater feats in battle than he did. Elisha performed twice as many miracles as Elijah did. And Jesus told His disciples they would do “greater works” than He did (John 14:12). My goal is for those I mentor to go beyond me in anointing, impact and influence. Don’t hold your disciples back; expect them to surpass you!

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