That’s the logic for what different groups call discipling, or one-to-one, or personal work. A life-changing gospel directed into an individual life. The wider world uses a similar idea with ‘coaching’, which is good, but often has the idea of helping someone reach their best potential. Here it’s an older Christian intentionally spending time with a younger one, teaching them the knowledge and habits of being a Christian. Preaching addresses the crowd, but here we address the individual, with unmissable clarity and challenge. One life at a time.
Think of helping one other person grow to maturity.
There are three times when one-to-one discipling seems particularly beneficial:
- Not yet Christians. They are still thinking, pondering, with unique questions, watching Christians with an eye to hypocrisy. Spend time with them, teaching, answering and showing that you are just a forgiven sinner.
- New Christians. They need to learn how to read the Bible, pray, evangelise, be part of church – and you are the best chance they have to see what that looks like. The habits they learn from you in those first few months will stay with them a life-time.
- Plateaued Christians. This one we forget, because we stress the other two. But statistics keep suggesting that most people who become Christians, grow for a couple of years, and then stay at roughly the same level of maturity and commitment. Intentional time spent with them, maybe working through some Christian doctrines, expanding their minds and hearts to appreciate much more of God than they have so far, would leverage them into fuller discipleship of Jesus.
Busy pastors know they need to do this, and although it all takes time, the price for ignoring it is a high one.
Shy pastors need to take their courage in both hands, and force themselves to have a conversation with people. Maybe make a mental note of two people you intend to speak to at church on Sunday. I am still grateful to the man who took the time to start the conversation with me – it changed my life.
Put all your eggs in this basket, and once again things go wonky – you’ll have a church with strong individuals but loose relational ties, strongly dependent on their mentor, and with a strong sense of a favoured few who get to spend time with the pastor. You’ll have a clique – or possibly a cult.
But that’s not really a danger for most of us. Instead, we operate on crisis mode, only spending time with the people who ask for it, rather than the ones who would really benefit.
What are the blocks of time in your week that you could intentionally spend time with individuals?
Who are the plateaued Christians who would benefit from your attention? When are they free? What do they want you to pray for them?
One-to-One: A Discipleship Handbook. Sophie de Witt (Authentic Media)
1 and 2 Thessalonians, as a biblical model of how to disciple new Christians