*See the end of this post for a free resource on how to disciple a new christian*
by Tyler Quillet
Years ago, I was asked to lead a discipleship group with 5 men who had recently given their lives to the Lord. I was excited! I’d discipled many in my short time as a pastor, but over those few first few years, it was mostly teens and those closer to my age. This would be with a number of men who were old enough to be my dad. So, I went in with the assumption that due to their years on this earth, they had to know something about life in Jesus. Certainly there was a foundation there to build off of. I was young and naive and I was wrong.
I began to talk about big theological terms like, justification, sanctification, and repentance. It didn’t take long (their blank stares told the story) for me to realize that they had no understanding of these things. Not only did they not understand that, they didn’t really know anything. They’d rarely, if ever, opened a Bible. They’d not attended church growing up. They knew nothing. That’s not a shot at them, it’s just the reality of our situation, and it was awesome because they had such a deep desire to learn and grow!
Here we had 5 guys who were hungry for God’s word, but they couldn’t take it in big chunks. So, we went slowly and simply through scripture. We took on the book of John at their pace. Some weeks, we’d auger into a singular verse and that’s as far as we got. Sometimes, they were so confused that we had to go backwards to chew on some truths again to make sure they got it. It was hard work, sometimes frustrating, but always rewarding! Five years into our time together, it oftentimes felt like we were still building a foundation, working on that ground level of their faith. But, that’s where they were and we weren’t going to begin overwhelming them and leaving them to feel like maybe this life in Jesus wasn’t for them because they didn’t get it all.
Not every person you disciple is going to be in this place. Some will have grown up in the church, know scripture front ways and back, and are turning their life over to Jesus. Some will have grown up in the church and have been away for a considerable amount of time. Some never experienced time in the church or in God’s word and this is all new to them. No matter their past, here are four things we can all keep in mind as we disciple a new Christian.
- Go at their needed pace, not your desired pace.
It’s easy to throw together a scope and sequence of your Bible study and say, “here’s everything we’re going to cover and here’s our timeline to cover it in.” That’s going to overwhelm them right out of the gate. Let them choose the pace. You may sit on a single topic or text for multiple meetings. That’s ok. Sometimes, as the leader, it’s good for you to press on, but be sure that whatever pace you are going, the person being discipled isn’t feeling overwhelmed.
- Ask a lot of questions
Be sure to ask the person you are discipling a lot of questions. Make sure they are grasping the content being covered and ask how it is changing their heart. One of the most dangerous questions a discipler or teacher can ask after reading scripture is, “What do you think about this?” By asking their opinion, you are validating what they think…and what they think may not be truth. Be sure to speak truth and ask questions like:
- What truths or promises from God’s Word stood out to you from what you read?
- What did you learn about God?
- What did you learn about humanity / your own heart?
- How can you obey or apply what you have learned from God’s Word?
- What prayer requests do you have? (and be sure to pray with them)
- Point them to Jesus
Be sure that everything you say and teach is grounded in God’s word. Statements that begin with, “I think….” are dangerous, because you are training your disciple to follow/trust in you. Ground everything in scripture. If they have a question about something, instead of saying, “I think”, say, “Let’s see what scripture tells us.” Always be reminded that Jesus is their savior, not you. A day is coming where you will not be available to them. Where are they going to turn? Will they be reminded to turn to God’s word when they are in need, or will be feel hopeless because they no longer have you? At every opportunity you get, point them to Jesus!
- Model Holiness.
The words you use, the way you respond to difficulty, the spoken thoughts you have of others, they are all training the person you are discipling. If you speak negatively of others or of the church, you are training them to feel/say/do the same. How you respond to difficulty is training them to do as you do. Remember, the majority of new Christians are a sponge. They’re going to soak up everything they can and if you are pouring into them, they’re going to respect and look up to you in a way that they will seek to model how you do life in Jesus. That’s why the point above is so important. Point them to Jesus. Point them to Jesus with your words, your actions, your thoughts, your body language, everything you have. They’re following your lead like a child does a parent. Model holiness!
This all feels like a lot of pressure, I know. Be reminded that it’s the Spirit working in and through you that is doing the heart change. You be faithful with what you’ve been called to and He will be faithful to give you what you need to point them back to Him. Cling to Jesus’ words here from Matthew 28:19-20….
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
For a free resource on how to disciple new christians, check out the free PDF guide of the study My New Life. To be entered into a drawing for a free physical copy of this study, head over to our Instagram page for details!
Tyler Quillet is the Discipleship Strategist for the Custom Church Resources team at Lifeway Christian Resources. He lives in the Nashville, TN area with his incredible wife, Cathie, and two boys, Cylas and Bowen. Tyler also speaks, writes, and coaches alongside Cathie as they pour into and love on those battling infertility through Cathie’s “The Quillet Institute”. Tyler previously spent 15 years as a pastor and is passionate about serving churches and pouring into church leaders in a variety of ways.