by Joyce Ahn
In response to millennials being labelled noncommittal, cynical, entitled, slacktivists, Grant Skeldon started Initiative Network in order to shift the culture of Dallas by training millennials to be Christ-loving, city-changing, church-investing, disciple-making local missionaries. Initiative has impacted thousands of young leaders from over 540 different churches across the greater Dallas region.
Grant spoke at the 2017 BAM Conference in Dallas. Here are some key insights he shared about the importance of discipleship. This is a summary of Grant’s talk.
The Missing Key: DISCIPLESHIP!
Jesus himself focused a majority of his three years in ministry closely investing in the lives of the twelve disciples. If my friend was on his deathbed, I would listen closely for what he asked me to do. The same is true for when I look at Jesus’ life. Some of his parting words to us before ascending to heaven were to GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES! Yet as I travel and speak, when I ask, “How many of you are getting discipled?” or “How many of you are discipling?” many Christians I meet are not making disciples. However, this can change. As more and more of the older generation is discipling the young generations, amazing things are happening!
Bridging the Generational Gap
I encourage all seasoned leaders to invest in the lives of young people. There are many millennials making choices you might not understand or agree with. Yet what millennials are missing is relationships with godly, wise leaders who can help them build their character and live out all that they are meant to be. You might be making a difference as you serve in your ministry, but whose life are you deeply investing in? Without committed discipling relationships, it’s very hard for you to influence the next generation.
Who Can Disciple? All of Us!
In 1 Corinthians 4:1, Paul reminds us that all believers are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God! If all believers have the privilege to steward the mysteries of God, it doesn’t matter what our profession is or how many people we influence. As a church we’ve got to highlight, equip, and affirm people in every sector: teachers, doctors, artists, politicians, business people and everyone in between. All of us are called to disciple, no matter what our professions.
What Does it Look Like to Disciple Someone?
Here’s three key principles for if you want to develop a healthy discipling relationship with a younger person:
Invite Someone into Your Schedule
Discipleship is not about making more room into your busy calendar to meet up with someone. If a younger person wants you to disciple them, that probably means they have observed something about you that they want to emulate (and that means you might be pretty busy). I’m asking you to include them into your calendar. Unlike mentorship, which is usually a “meet with me” model, discipleship is a “follow me” model. Are you willing to let someone else into your life and observe you in your work, church, family, and personal life?
Model Character: Caught, Not Taught
Effective discipleship is not about telling someone how to live; it’s actually about showing them how you live. I’m convinced the most teachable moments are “caught, not taught.” If you allow someone else into being part of your life, you model to them your values, your convictions and your lifestyle. For example, when I got discipled in high school, my discipler didn’t meet with me at a coffee shop – he invited me over to his home. When I was there, I saw that even after a long day of work, he’d give his family his full attention. He really wanted to get know his kids, and he still prioritized “dating his wife.” He showed me how to love well, even as a busy man.
It’s Not About Perfection: “Follow Me as I Follow Christ”
Many potential disciplers tell me, “I don’t feel qualified or equipped.” That’s completely okay. Younger people don’t want you to be perfect; they’d actually prefer if you are real and transparent in the challenges you experience. They want to see that you can fail and still press on in your relationship with God. A lot of amazing disciplers are honest about hardships, which demonstrates to the younger people that the reality is, life can be messy sometimes, yet we can still experience God in that place.
How Do I Get Discipled?
If you are part of the younger generation, here’s some advice I have for you if you want to be discipled:
Proactively Seek out a Discipler
When you seek out a discipler, they should be someone you highly respect and who has developed expertise and experience in a particular area you want to develop in. Many of the best disciplers are involved in a lot of activities, so usually you are the one who needs to take the first step to ask them to disciple you.
Show You’re Committed
Following Jesus meant the disciples were highly motivated to change their schedules to be with him. One of my disciplers is a man who works for the third-largest architectural firm in Dallas. I observed that he is a humble man of character, and I really wanted him to disciple me. He’s got a packed schedule, so I asked if I could join him on his morning runs. He agreed and said, “Meet me tomorrow at 4.” I don’t like getting up early, but was very motivated to meet with him, so I was there 4 am. He didn’t show up…it turns out he meant 4 pm! By coming so early, I showed him that I was willing to do whatever it would take to be around him. If a potential discipler sees you are committed to the relationship, that will motivate him or her to prioritize making time to meet with you.
Set Yourself Apart: 4 Secrets to Success
Do you really want want someone to disciple you? If so, I challenge you to do these four things. I guarantee they will set you apart as someone who is worth the time to disciple:
- Put away your phone! This shows you are prioritizing this person’s time and energy and will not be distracted by your phone.
- Ask intentional questions (prepared ahead of time). Asking good questions shows that you are thoughtful and mature.
- Take notes…on paper. Good leaders want to give their time and advice to people who will use it well. When you write down what someone says, it demonstrates that you value what they are telling you. And yes, on paper.
- Follow their advice and share how it impacted you. If you follow your discipler’s advice, it shows that you trust their insights and value what they tell you.
Creating a New Legacy
As I receive discipleship and also disciple younger guys, I have a passion to change the trajectory of my life to reflect Christ in all that I do. My plea to all of our generations is that we let new patterns and ways of living start with us. Let’s build an army and join the movement to make disciples who change the world.
Joyce Ahn is a regular guest contributor for The BAM Review.