Every person is different and we all reflect God in different ways. So why is our approach to discipleship the same across the board? Look at church discipleship programs: Everyone reads this same book. Everyone takes this same class. Everyone participates in this same activity. Then when you have finished your discipleship course, you can become a disciplemaker.
When you read books on discipleship, they are usually either descriptive (here’s what it looks like) or prescriptive (here’s how you do it: use this curriculum and this approach).
What we haven’t found among books on discipleship is how to help the person who is becoming a disciple take ownership and responsibility for their own discipleship, but in such a way that the community of believers can still participate in the person’s development. The literature often has the disciplemaker being very controlling. They decide the curriculum, the topics, and the approach, leaving little room for individualization.
This kind of assembly line disciplemaking isn’t even close to how Jesus approached making disciples. Jesus met each person where they were at and dealt with what they needed to deal with… not what was next in the outline.
Some people needed a sharp challenge. Some people needed mercy and embrace. Some people needed to think and ponder from a new perspective. Some people needed to take dramatic action. Some people needed to spend time with Jesus. Some people needed to be sent out to engage with others. Some people simply needed to be recognized and known.
Effective discipleship responds to the differences among people, and a relational context is essential for customizing discipleship.