A disciple is a learner.
Make certain the person you are discipling has a hunger for learning or you will be wasting your time. This may sound like a harsh statement, but it is true.
A teacher teaches, but it is incumbent upon the learner to learn. There must be a hunger and thirst for God AND His Word in order for a learner to learn.
Learning the disciplines of the faith is tedious toil. It is only achieved and perfected by those who are willing to commit themselves wholly to the Lord.
Pray for them. Pray the Proverbs for them. For example:
- Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Father, I pray you grant a healthy fear of You to (name of disciple). Let (him/her) not despise the wisdom and discipline set forth for (him/her) in the process of discipleship training.
- Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Father, I pray you will give (name of disciple) a panting hunger for your wisdom; give (him/her) a sacrificial hunger to acquire understanding from Your Word.
- Proverbs 10:8 – The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
Lord, I pray you give (name of disciple) a wise heart that will accept your commands. Give (him/her) ears to hear and eyes to see the truth you have for (him/her).
Jesus trained twelve men during His three years of ministry. There were multitudes that followed Him, but He selected only twelve motley men in which to invest Himself. There were three disciples (Peter, James and John) who were privy to more than the other nine; they witnessed the transfiguration of Christ and they were invited to keep watch as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His arrest.
One of the key elements of discipleship is an eagerness to learn and grow spiritually.
The multitude was looking for easy answers, miracles, and a feel-good message; anything that would alleviate their present condition. The multitude wasn’t interested in self-sacrifice and demanding training. Their only concern was for temporal relief, not eternal salvation and wholehearted dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Choose whom you will disciple with colossal wisdom and discernment.
Test their commitment if you are hesitant.
I read a story about a fruitful disciple maker who had a young man pestering him for discipleship training. The young man even moved into an apartment overlooking the house where the prolific disciple maker lived. As the young man continued to ask what he needed to do to be discipled, the disciple maker told him to keep the snow off his driveway and then he would consider further. The prolific disciple maker never had a speck of snow remain on his driveway that entire winter. He knew the young man was earnest and eager to learn by his diligence in keeping the snow off his driveway.
Here are a few things to look for in a potential disciple:
- Is he/she eager to learn?
- Is he/she reliable? Will he/she commit to daily and/or weekly time with you.
- Is he/she available to meet with you and put in the effort (homework, daily bible reading, scripture memorization and journaling) required?
- Is he/she faithful?
Or, as a friend of mine examines prospective disciples, she uses this acronym:
Teach Them How to Study and Learn
Let me preface this section with a simple prayer I use when I open God’s Word. It goes like this: “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
This simple prayer sets my heart and mind in a state of listening. My mind tends to wander a bit when I’m reading, so this prayer helps me focus my mind and heart upon hearing what He has to say to me.
Inductive Study Method
I was instructed by my disciple maker to NOT purchase a study bible. She told me it would cause me to become too dependent on another man or woman’s opinion or thought – I needed to learn to study it, interpret it, and apply it for myself. She wanted me to be a Berean (Acts 17:11); one who receives the message with eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Since I was an eager learner, I grabbed hold of her instruction and education. The final phase of our discipleship curriculum was to study the book of 1 Thessalonians inductively. My disciple maker used The Navigators’ “Design for Discipleship” series that is still in print today. The seventh, and final, book in that series teaches inductive study methods. It was my first introduction into inductive study methods. Since then I joined in Precept Ministries Bible Studies and eventually went through their training to become an instructor. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of the inductive study method.
The inductive study method was first described to me with an analogy of learning the anatomy of a frog. I could either read about what someone else had written about the anatomy of a frog or I could dissect a frog and learn the anatomy – hands on!
I urge you to teach inductive study methods to educate disciples and you will witness Proverbs 9:9 come to life. “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Although much less rigid and structured than the inductive study method, experiential learning is accomplished with a Bible Reading Plan.
Bible Reading Plans are readily available online or in your local book store.
I would highly recommend advising a new disciple to read one book of the Bible at a time. The stories are congruent and compelling.
Experiential learning occurs by the power of the Holy Spirit in the following areas:
- Teaching – The Holy Spirit teaches us what is right.
- Rebuking – The Holy Spirit teaches us what is not right.
- Correcting – The Holy Spirit teaches us how to get right.
- Training in Righteousness – The Holy Spirit teaches us how to stay right.
How are you doing in the Learning discipline of the faith?
Remember, those you disciple will model your lifestyle and practices more than they will your teaching.
In the comments section below, let us know what methods you prefer for teaching disciples to be lifelong learners.
 Wiersbe, W.W., & Wiersbe, D. 1986. The elements of preaching: The art of biblical preaching clearly and simply presented. Tyndale House Publishers: Wheaton, IL.