Blog

Your Disciples Should Stand on Your Shoulders

Recently I did a men’s retreat in Iceland, and two guys I’ve mentored joined me. Mike came from Canada and Alex from Romania. I asked both guys to speak and they did a great job. Alex was surprised when I asked him to speak. But I want to push my disciples into deep waters so they will learn to swim. After Alex spoke I told him he was a gifted, compassionate leader, and he said, “No one has ever told me this.”

Jesus gave His disciples opportunities. He sent them out to preach. He told them: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). Don’t hold your disciples back. If you are a secure leader, you won’t be jealous if your disciples surpass you. If they preach better than you do, or get more results, that’s great! Wash their feet, encourage them, let them stand on your shoulders and be proud of them when they receive applause. This is Jesus’ way of mentoring!

Read more

How Unstable Peter Became a Disciple-Maker

When Peter began following Jesus, he was unstable and insecure. Yet Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter—“rock”—because He saw his potential. Peter failed miserably and denied Jesus. But Jesus restored him, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He was transformed by grace! When you read his first epistle you see that he became an apostle (1 Peter 1:1) and strong spiritual father. He wrote his letter to “newborn babies,” and he challenged them to “grow” (2:2).

This is what God will do through you. Don’t focus on your flaws. Grace will change you. Just as Peter was transformed, you will become a disciple-maker. Peter says God will “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (5:10). And at the end of his letter Paul mentions his “son,” Mark (5:13). This is the same guy who wrote the book of Mark! God can make you a strong leader and give you disciples who will preach the gospel with power. Expect that to happen!

Read more

God’s Word Is Like a Spinal Column

I call Psalm 119 the “spinal column of the Bible” because it’s in the center of the book. It’s a very unusual passage. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, and it’s divided into 22 stanzas based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The entire Psalm is about the importance of God’s Word. It says: “O how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97) and “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (v. 11).

You couldn’t function without a spine. In the same way, you need the strength and stability of God’s Word to be successful in life. Don’t ever neglect the Bible. Read and study it. Hunger for it. Make it your treasure. Study it until your Bible falls apart—then get a new one. The psalmist said: “If your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished…” (v. 92). If you neglect the Bible you will be spineless, unable to make wise decisions, and weak when temptation comes. Make God’s Word the central core of your life, and teach your disciples to do the same!

Read more

Don’t Get Caught in the Trap of Comparison

Most of my life I’ve struggled with inferiority. I compared myself to other men and felt I didn’t measure up—either because of wealth, success, physique or athletic ability. Then when I began to do ministry I compared myself to other preachers. They seemed more popular. Their preaching seemed more anointed than mine. Comparison is depressing!

But God makes each of us unique, and I must accept who I am. Psalm 139:14 says: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I don’t have to preach like T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick. God made me to be me! Paul said every Christian is uniquely gifted. He wrote: “If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body” (1 Cor. 12:15). Don’t covet other people’s gifts, and don’t belittle your own. Enjoy how God made you, and celebrate the gifts of others. Most of all, be obedient to use your gifts to advance God’s kingdom.

Read more

Let Your Disciples See How God Works Through You

When Jesus went to pray for Jarius’ daughter, He allowed Peter, James and John to stay with him in the room. They were watching when Jesus sent all the mourners out. Jesus took the dead child’s hand and said, “Talitha kum!” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”—and she was raised to life (see Mark 5:41).

This miracle was repeated in Acts 9 when Peter prayed for Tabitha, a woman who had died. Peter sent everyone out of the room and said to the corpse, “Tabitha, arise” (Acts 9:40). Peter copied what He had seen Jesus do, and the miracle was repeated. Your disciples are listening to what you teach, but they are also watching your actions. Be a model of faith. Don’t just talk; be an example. This is why I take people with me on ministry trips. They need more than theories and doctrines—they need to see how you pray, how you treat people and how you face trials. Let them get close. When they see how God works through you, they will let Him work through them!

Read more

Discipleship Is the Most Rewarding Investment You Can Make

Ten years ago I started investing in a guy named Mike. We prayed together about his struggles in college. I counseled him about his girlfriend. I listened and offered coaching when he left his job and became a pastor. I prayed for him a lot. This past weekend he and his wife and two young sons came to visit us—and we spent three hours over breakfast! I was able to tell him with all sincerity, “Mike, if I lived in your city I’d be happy if you were my pastor.”

This is how discipleship works. As your disciple matures, your relationship will change. I still offer counsel, and I’ll always pray for Mike as long as I live. But he grew up! He’s a gifted leader who is making disciples on his own. The apostle Paul felt this joy of seeing his disciples bear fruit. He wrote: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” (1 Thess. 2:19). Keep investing. One day you will feel overwhelming joy when your disciples surpass you!

Read more

Surrender to God’s Ability and He Will Use You

I recently finished a mission trip to Australia. I flew 23 hours to the city of Perth, which is “the ends of the earth” from my home. I preached in 19 meetings in 11 days and saw so many spiritual breakthroughs. Some people assume preaching and traveling must be easy for me because I do so much of it. But that’s not true.

When God called me to preach in 1998, I resisted. I was timid about public speaking, and I was fearful of long flights. I actually hated the sound of my own voice! I wrestled with God for a long time until I finally gave in by praying Isaiah 6:8: “Here I am, send me.” From that moment doors opened and I went where God sent me. Slowly my confidence grew. Today, I’ve preached in 37 countries, but I’m still amazed every time the Lord uses me. God takes the weak things of this world and makes them strong. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Don’t downplay your potential. Step into God’s supernatural ability. Break free from your limitations and surrender fully so His power can flow.

Read more

You Need a ‘God-Sized’ Love for Your Disciples

Sometimes we can grow tired of discipling people. It’s hard work! It involves many meetings, phone calls, listening to problems and offering counsel. It can be draining when your disciples ignore your advice or make bad choices. How do you stay motivated to keep investing in them?

Paul had a secret. He loved his disciples as if they were his own children. He told the Thessalonians: “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8). The word “dear” means “beloved”—and the Greek word means “favorite.” Paul had such an intense, godly love for those he mentored that he carried them in his heart. When you have this kind of warm, God-sized love for those you are discipling, you’ll never give up on them. You’ll keep pouring into them and patiently praying for them until they are spiritually mature. 

Read more

Why Confession Is Important in Discipleship

When we confess our sins to Jesus, the stain of our past is totally removed. We are justified and made righteous. We are no longer guilty of our sins. Hallelujah! Yet we struggle to believe this. That’s why it’s important for us to confess our sins to others. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Opening our hearts to someone else about our “junk” is very liberating.

Part of your job as a mentor is to help your disciple break free from the shame of past sins. They will at times need to confess ugly habits or embarrassing choices. Your job is to extend forgiveness and mercy. Don’t judge them or act shocked. Never talk about your disciple’s sins to others. Your disciple will feel betrayed if you break confidence. 1 Peter 4:8 says: “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I always promise confidentiality to my disciples. Be a mentor they can trust to cover them!

Read more

Don’t Limit Your Disciples–Push Them to Exceed You!

Several years ago I prayed for a young guy named Sam Kyle at his church in Pittsburgh. He was a high school senior, but I continued investing in him during his college years. He went with me on ministry trips and we stayed connected. After he graduated he became a leader in an international missions program. In October 2019, at age 24, he was the youngest guy to speak at one of my Bold Venture retreats. He brought a powerful message on evangelism!

Open doors for your disciples. Don’t block them. Encourage them and release them! Don’t devalue them because they are inexperienced. Believe in them. Empower them. Give them chances to succeed, and they will spread their wings and fly! Paul told Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers …” (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul saw Timothy’s potential and, instead of being jealous, he pushed him to greatness! You can do the same for young champions who want opportunities to grow.

Read more