Stay Connected to Your Disciple!

This week I spent several hours with my mentor Barry, who started discipling me in 1973 when I was a teenager. That was 44 years ago and we are still very close. During all those years Barry has been available for counsel, and he still prays for me and encourages me.

How long should you disciple someone? I never view discipleship as a short-term assignment. I want to stay connected to those I mentor for a lifetime! I’ve learned that relationships stay vibrant as long as I nourish them with regular communication. As your disciple matures you will relate to each other differently. But never assume that your job is done; don’t “drop” people out of your life. Even after Paul had fully trained Timothy, and Paul knew he would die soon, he urged Timothy: “Make every effort to come to me soon” (2 Tim. 4:9). Keep the bonds strong and develop lifelong relationships!



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Help Your Disciples Get Free!

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he walked out of the tomb–but he was still wrapped in grave clothes. Jesus then said to those standing near: “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44). This is a mentor’s job! Part of discipleship involves setting your disciples free from the things that hinder their spiritual growth.

When I disciple a person I take them through a process of inner cleansing. We discuss their past and I ask about seven key areas: 1) unforgiveness; 2) sexual sin; 3) addictions; 4) occult involvement or false religions; 5) abuse; 6) father or mother wounds; and 7) fears and anxieties. I ask them to confess their past sins or hangups, then we pray for healing. I also remind them of the power of Christ’s blood to set them free from sin and shame. Don’t let your disciples hobble around in grave clothes. Unbind them!

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Don’t Rush the Character-Building Process

God shapes leaders by hand, and this is a slow, tedious process. He sent Moses to the wilderness to form his character, and Moses endured years of labor, trials and disappointments. But it was in the wilderness that Moses saw the burning bush and heard God’s calling. His spiritual roots went deep in those dry times. His leadership gifts were forged in the fires of testing.

I endured seasons of hardship before every promotion in my life. I worked really hard, I felt lonely and unappreciated, and I worked for bosses who were difficult. But the fire prepared me for the ministry work I do now. 1 Peter 5:6 says: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that you may be exalted at the proper time.” Don’t try to exalt yourself. Don’t try to rush through the character-building process. Don’t avoid the fire or look for shortcuts. Surrender fully to God and let Him chisel you into His man.

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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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Learn to Resist Temptation

Lots of guys ask me what’s the secret to overcoming porn or other forms of sexual temptation. Of course you can enlist an accountability partner, get a filter on your computer or take a course in purity. But those things won’t help until you make a powerful choice. You must DECIDE to RESIST.

Titus 2:12 says God’s grace has come, “instructing us to DENY ungodliness and worldly desires.” “Deny” means to “reject, refuse or veto.” It is a powerful NO. And it takes a real backbone to say no. If you are constantly giving in to temptation, your backbone is weak and your spiritual muscles are flabby. You must begin intense resistance training. Don’t let porn or other temptations turn you into a mushy, jellyfish Christian. Grow a spine. Put your foot down. Veto the devil and refuse the cravings of your flesh.

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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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Strong Disciples Need Deep Roots

The apostle Paul knew that roots are vital. He prayed that the Ephesians would be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). A tall tree will not withstand a storm unless it has deep roots. The same is true for us. Jesus warned that if a person does not have a “firm root,” he will fall away when hard times come (Matt. 13:21). You must let your roots go deep!

The strength of a tree is not determined by the size of its trunk or branches or how beautiful its leaves are; strength is determined by the depth of the roots. The same is true for you spiritually. You must develop your hidden life with God. You need a life of prayer, study and private worship. Don’t be a shallow or surface Christian. Dig deep in prayer. Dig deep in the Bible. Develop intense hunger for God’s presence. Pray for deep roots in your life, and in the lives of your disciples.

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