Here’s one of the most common thoughts for would-be disciple makers: “I know that Jesus told us to make disciples, but I don’t know people who are eager to drop everything and follow me.”
Maybe you have similar rationalizations to get around making disciples. Maybe you say things like, “What could they learn from me?” or “I don’t really know what makes them tick, spiritually.”
You probably have your own list of rationalizations, but over the next few blog posts, I want to confront some of our more common fears. So, here we go:
#1 scary moment in making disciples – Initiating the relationship
Have you ever thought that it would be great to invest in a co-worker, but you didn’t feel like you knew them well enough? Have you ever waived at a neighbor and wished you could get to know them better?
For some of us – especially those of us who are introverts – one of the most intimidating parts of the discipling process is initiating the relationship. Maybe you are like me and you get that uncomfortable feeling in your gut…that same feeling you got as a teenager when you were scared to ask for a date.
Here are some tips to initiate relationships naturally – not the stalker way and not the awkward, clumsy way – but naturally. (By the way, several of these ideas come from Jeff Haden’s article – “6 Habits of Instantly Likeable People.” While I want to give credit where it’s due, I’m not linking to the article because of a particularly crude reference he gives.)
- Drop any “greater-than –thou” poses. Body language matters. Although you don’t want to present yourself as a slouch, you also don’t want to act too authoritarian. In other words, show that you’re honored to meet them through genuine gestures of humility (smile and take the first step toward them, leaning in very slightly).
- Encourage them to talk about themselves. Ask questions that show your interest in them and respect for them. Ask “how” questions that show you are listening…not just “what” and “where” questions. It’s okay to ask, “Where do you work,” but follow that up with “How did you get into that field?”
- Let them “win” the meeting. Be complimentary. Be impressed. And don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability. If they tell you about one of their life accomplishments, affirm them with something like, “That’s incredible. How did you pull that off?”
- Don’t make the initial conversation about your discipling idea. It’s mandatory that you win a friend before you can make a disciple. They are not your project…and if they are, the discipling relationship will never work.
- Finish the conversation genuinely. Don’t just say, “Well, it was nice to meet you” and walk away. Ask if they want to get together sometime and mean it.
- Get together sometime. Follow up with them. Set a time and place for your families to meet or simply for a cup of coffee.
Over time, you’ll establish a friendship and you’ll start to recognize opportunities for discipleship. After the friendship is established and after you have engaged in some type of spiritual conversation with them, it’s easy to ask, “Would you be interested in getting together regularly to talk about what God is doing in our lives? I know that would be good for me.”
It is possible to disciple people informally and just “rub off on them” without ever formalizing the relationship. However, most people need to establish an intentional relationship to move from being curious – or simply being a believer – to being a disciple.
Jesus rubbed off on many people, but those who were really transformed were involved in an intentional, regular relationship with Him.
Those points have been helpful for me in initiating new relationships. I hope that they’ll be beneficial to you, too, and will help you breeze through a potentially intimidating point of making disciples.