Have you ever wondered how your dentist really learned how to fill a cavity? Or how about the guy that roofed your house last summer? How did he learn how to perfectly align the shingles so that your roof would not leak?
Likely, these practitioners learned by watching someone. Sure, they took some classes, watched a video, and maybe took some tests, but the real learning came from watching a real-life practitioner do the job. They watched them do it perfectly. And they watched them mess up and start over again. It was on-the-job training that made the difference.
So why do we emphasize the importance of learning from those a little further along in the journey of their occupation, yet we don’t emphasize the necessity of taking people along with us on the journey with Jesus? People learn by watching. They hear the words along with the actions, and it all begins to sink in as a trait that displays a growing walk with Christ.
“As-we-go” discipleship is a lost art in the church today. Why? The main reason would be that most of us would say we don’t have time. The other reason is that we believe the lie that we have nothing to offer those younger than us in the faith. We believe it’s based on “how much we know.” But I’m convinced that a person seeking Christ and intentionally investing in younger generations will teach more than any book could offer.
I recently attended the funeral of a good friend who lived a life of “as-we-go” discipleship. Most of the young men he poured into really didn’t know he was doing it at the time. But being intentional about having the conversations, simply taking people along with him, and doing life with those young men forever changed them. They saw him trust Christ. They saw him mess up. They asked him the hard questions. They saw him wrestle with difficult life situations. He did life with these guys. It wasn’t always scheduled. Most of the time, it was spontaneous. But that’s the way life is, huh? Life is spontaneous. We never know what the next moment will hold.
Here are a few things to think about with “as-we-go” discipleship:
1. Who are you supposed to be intentional with?
I honestly believe this is not random. As we pray about who we are to invest in, ask God to point you toward individuals within your sphere of influence that you can be intentional with in your walk with Christ. Jesus didn’t randomly choose the Twelve – He was intentional in who He chose to be His disciples. Paul saw qualities in Timothy that drew him to pouring into and investing in the young man.
Young adults and college students are everywhere–where you work, at the gym, or in your neighborhood. They will benefit from having the opportunity to get to do life with you. Keep your eyes open for who that might be in your life. There’s no need to tell them you are deliberately choosing to spend time with them, but let it naturally happen through taking the time to know them, taking interest in some of the things they enjoy.
2. Allow young adults to see your life as it really is.
There’s a part of us that wants to portray to others that we have it all figured out. We want to pretend we get the “Father of the Year” award every year and that we respond with the perfect Christian responses in every difficult situation. But that’s not real life. Allow the individuals along your path to do “as-you-go” discipleship to see the real you. It’s OK to let them see you wrestle with some of life’s tough questions and situations. The conversations that happen around the difficult questions will be conversations that the individuals you walk with will never forget.
3. Don’t try to make young adults be just like you.
If you spend time with people, chances are they will start picking up on your phrases and actions. When I began hearing some of the guys that I spend time with use some of my phrases, it scared me to death. They were listening to me. Don’t allow the Enemy to give you a power trip. We should challenge our followers to be who God has created them to be within their own unique talents and passions. That will make an impact in the God’s kingdom. We must consistently check our motives in our “as-we-go” discipleship relationships.
“As-we-go” discipleship is not a program. It’s a command. As Christ-followers, it simply becomes an attitude of investment. It’s simply being who Jesus asked us to be.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.