Those wanting to learn how to make disciples often become frustrated with the process. Let me show you want the speed of disciple-making depends on. To illustrate, let me tell you about my child first.
My youngest son is a slow developer in some ways. He is secure in his little world of family and friends and has not pushed himself to try much that is new. He is particularly lagging in the area of speech.
We cannot force him to learn to talk. I mean, we have talked to him since he was born two years ago and still he only says a few words that are supposed to mean “cold,” “please,” and “baby.” Having raised another child that barely spoke until 3 years old, we realized we cannot force this to happen for him.
Yes, I panic some days thinking there is something wrong with him that he not be speaking very well yet. However, as he grows in his desire to reach out and interact with society, he is learning that he has to be able to speak. Spending some time with his little cousin who is about a year older than him helped recently, too. When he saw that she could communicate with adults he started trying it out himself.
What does this have to do with making disciples out of sinners?
You can only go as fast as they are hungry.
If someone is waddling out of the pancake house, I probably cannot get them to eat even the best of steak. Full people are not motivated to eat. However, a hungry person will gladly devour even a hot dog.
My child has to hunger after or crave to be able to communicate. Speech is simply a solution to that desire. Once the desire is there (providing all things are normal), the skill set will be added quickly.
Yet some people stuff doctrine down the throats of those who are not really hungry for God. Then, the wannabe disciple-maker becomes discouraged and says no one really wants what we have. If restaurants operated like that, I am sure they would be quite hated, too. The secret to success in a restaurant is make yourself available to hungry people and feed them well so they keep coming back.
Isn’t that how the church continues to grow? Who is hungry around you? Or are you trying to do speech therapy with those content to suck their pacifier still?
Spiritual hunger and discipleship DNA
The other thing to remember is that people develop at different rates. This little 2-year-old has been handling an open cup for a while now. In fact, he’s been the earliest of our seven children to be able to drink from a cup without making a mess. He may be tongue-tied, but he has great motor skills and loves helping with things. He’s been our earliest (and perhaps only) child to love sweeping and mopping the floor. We bought him his own little broom (so he would not be knocking pictures off the wall with the long handled one).
Disciples are like this too. One will struggle in morality yet be strong in giving or helpfulness in projects. Another will be quick to grasp doctrinal truths and share them with others yet struggle with keeping a schedule and being on time to church events. You have to be patient until they catch up in all areas.
My child has adequate DNA. I am sure by the time he’s married, he will be talking quite well. If the DNA is right, the development will come with time. Jesus did not give up on His disciples when they were slow to develop. With time, their hunger for righteousness and adequate diet of Truth prevailed and they grew to maturity.
How to make disciples while understanding spiritual DNA
The instruction to parents in Proverbs is “Train up a child in the way he should go.” You cannot raise every child the same. Never have I told my children, “You need to be more like your brother.” If they were to be clones, one would not be necessary. You should not expect the same from every disciple. Each one comes with unique challenges and a distinct calling from God.
Not everyone will become a missionary. Not everyone will be a pastor. Not everyone will be a musician. As an influencer in the life of a new disciple, be sensitive to the way he or she should go. What is the Lord leading them into? Don’t try to make a Sunday School teacher out of them if God is developing them in another area.
I am not making disciples of myself but disciples of Jesus Christ. Not everyone will be a writer. But all should be shaped in His likeness, hold core truths in unity, and find their distinct place in the body.
If you are not already training others to be disciple-makers, get everyone on the same page with this exceptional teaching resource (we honestly have seen nothing else like it for helping a congregation of believers understand how to make disciples).