Many years ago when I was discipling a man at my church, I had a clear plan for how discipleship should go. We were scheduled to be doing the section on prayer, but the man wanted to talk about a specific idol in his life. It completely derailed my discipleship plan, but was precisely what he needed to talk about. (For a 4-minute video clip of the full story, click here. It’s a good one.)

I could have discipled this man till Jesus returns and I’d never have hit on the right topic. That’s when I realized we have to start where God is working… cooperating with him instead of following our own pre-set agenda.

If there’s one thing that’s true about our journey of discipleship—both individual and corporately—it’s that it doesn’t always go as planned. Life events interrupt us. Obstacles get in the way. Unexpected opportunities arise. Our relationships with others continue to inform our perspectives so that we adjust as we go.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of discipleship lately since I’ve been writing my latest book, The Discipleship Difference. Co-authored with Chuck Ridley, it will be released in early 2016. I’ll certainly post about it here on my blog to let readers know when it’s available.

As I’ve been reflecting on discipleship, one of the characteristics that really stands out to me is how non-linear it is in nature. We all deal with different issues at different times, as the Spirit leads us through our life circumstances. We could try to diagram it all out: first learn about A, then B is the next steps, then you practice C… and so on. But that diagram will fall apart as soon as it comes into contact with real life.

Given that reality, how do we proceed with trying to be intentional about our own discipleship journey– and the corporate discipleship journey of those we lead? I actually did a webinar on that very question a while back, which was recorded and is now available for purchase on my website.

In it, I walk you through what a disciple looks like and how to walk alongside people to help them get there. It involves the intersection of relationships, processes and environments. A few excerpts from the notes are below:

– We grow in a mosaic pattern, not a linear one.
– We assume the Holy Spirit is resident in people and they have the capacity to listen to God and respond.
– We can come alongside someone to help them develop personally and do what God has called them to do.

And here are a few questions you can use to take a closer look at what a disciple is and does. You can also use them to assess your own life: Where are you doing well? Where do you need to grow?


Relationship: How are you deepening your experience with God?
Transformation: How is God changing your life?
Responsiveness: How has the Holy Spirit been prompting you?


Authenticity: In what ways are you being genuine with those around you?
Respect: How have you had opportunity to value people?
Involvement: How are you relationally engaged with others?
Service: How have you been the hands and feet of Jesus?


Discern: In whom do you see God working?
Explore: What conversations have you had about spiritual things?
Invite: Who have you encouraged to become followers of Jesus?
Establish: How are you helping new believers follow Jesus?
Multiply: How are you helping new followers make more followers?

If the challenges of nonlinear discipleship are on your radar, you might want to check this out. The hour-long webinar has a variety of natural stopping points where you can pause it and process the ideas with your team or alone. We also include a downloadable workbook to give you some space and questions for processing the material to make it adaptable to your own context.

Purchase our latest book: “The Discipleship Difference: Making Disciples While Growing As Disciples”

The Discipleship Difference: Making Disciples While Growing As Disciples

The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are.

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