I read an article about the essential questions that a “disciple maker” should ask his or her disciple. The author sought to provide direction for a typical meeting between a more mature follower of Jesus and one he or she is hoping to encourage in growth.
It wouldn’t take long to find a variety of models for what might be included in such a meeting. Different ministries, leaders, and parachurch organizations provide templates for what to include in the discipleship process. What caught my attention in this particular model was not what was included but what was missing.
The series of questions were all focused on what was going on in the life of the disciple. Things like: “Where are you growing? How are you struggling? What can I do to help you?”
Of course such questions need to be part of any nurturing and supportive discipleship relationship. What was missing was any question that pointed to Scripture.
I’m not arguing that every conversation a disciple maker has with a growing follower of Jesus become another Bible study (although, on the face of it, that might not be a bad thing). My concern is more about what we think should serve as the foundation for good discipleship.
I frequently find articles and posts that point to basic “good advice” as the foundation for discipleship. We’re encouraged to ask honest, probing questions; to talk about what’s “really going on” in life; explore how the disciple-in-process is feeling. The call often includes sharing how you, as the more mature believer, handled a particular problem. Again, none of that is without some value. But if that is as far as we go, we might end up modeling something that may not be a best when it comes to disciple making.
My thinking about this is shaped, to some degree, by Jesus’ exchange with two disciples who are journeying from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the resurrection (Luke 24:13-35). Although this narrative is not a set of instructions for discipling another, Jesus’ exchange with these two points to things that appear to me to be essential.
The two are disheartened. They have heard the report of the resurrection of their Master, but they are not yet convinced—they can’t seem to make sense of what has happened in the past few days. Jesus meets up with them, but prohibits them from immediately recognizing Him. And they talk. They have, as it were, one of those discipleship conversations.
Jesus did ask them how they were doing. He wanted to know why they were so downcast. When they admitted to being troubled by their lack of understanding about the reports of Jesus’ resurrection, it would seem the best thing He could have done would have been to present Himself alive. But He didn’t do that. Instead, He took them to Scripture.
It appears that Jesus does not simply want to provide comfort and encouragement—something that could have come easily enough through His opening their eyes to recognize Him, present and alive with them. And even though they would have likely taken Him at His word if He had only openly shared with them how He understood what had happened over the past few days, Jesus wanted to anchor their thinking in something more. He took them to the Scriptures.
Ultimately Jesus did allow them to recognize Him; they broke bread together. They did realize the reality of the resurrection. But for them to make sense of that—for them to grasp the truth surrounding Jesus’ resurrection and the implications of it for their own lives—Jesus anchored their thoughts in texts drawn from the Word of God. What they really needed was more than an encouraging encounter—they needed to have their thinking rooted in Scripture.
When we don’t take those we disciple back into Scripture, we can leave them with the impression that our thoughts and our words are really what are necessary for growth and life change. When we don’t open the Book with those we disciple, we could end up providing some encouragement and stability, but we might not be anchoring them to the ground for all real disciple growth.