Skip to main content

What's Your First Step in Discipleship?

Two men talking at a table.
In Matthew 28:19-20 God called the church to make disciples. Other than teaching them to obey all that Christ taught, there is no other information in Matthew 28 on how to make these disciples. So, the church must develop its own approach.

Below is my first attempt at developing a discipleship process. I have broken it down into a few steps. Here are steps 2-5.

  • Basics - Learning how to read and study the Bible, pray, and to share their faith.
  • Community - Making church attendance a habit and joining a Bible study group.
  • Service - Finding a place to serve.
  • Spiritual Disciplines - Practicing Bible-based spiritual disciplines.
I will cover these in greater detail in follow-on posts. Today, let's focus on the first step, which is Assign a Mentor.

Assign a Mentor

To help a believer navigate the basics, community, service, and the disciplines, it's important to assign a mentor. What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship between an experienced person (mentor) and a less experienced person (mentee) who seeks guidance, advice, and support in their personal and spiritual development.

A mentor provides guidance, shares knowledge and skills, offers feedback and constructive criticism, and serves as a role model. Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal and can take place anywhere. 

The goal of discipleship mentoring is to help the mentee deepen their faith, grow in their understanding of God's will, and become more Christ-like in character and behavior. Mentoring may include spiritual growth, character development, discipleship, leadership development, and ministry preparation. 

Did Jesus Mentor?

Although the term mentoring is not used in Scripture, Jesus did train His 12 disciples using an apprenticeship approach that involved mentoring.

Jesus possibly learned this approach from Joseph, His earthly father. Joseph would show Jesus how to use tools and work with wood. Over time, Joseph gradually gave Jesus more independence to complete tasks with less supervision. We call this a teach-practice-release training method. And it is how Jesus taught the 12.

Robert E. Coleman documents Jesus' approach to training in his book The Master Plan of Evangelism. A. B. Bruce, in The Teaching of the Twelve does the same. Both writers confirm that Jesus practiced what we would call mentoring.

Where to Start?

Let's start simply. 

First, choose three people that can help you develop a mentoring plan. Jesus taught the 12, but He mentored three - Peter, James, and John. If you are the senior pastor, you do not have time to mentor the members of your congregation. But you can make time to train three. These three can focus on mentoring new believers and others in the congregation.

These three should be people that have a heart for others. They also should be spiritually mature or at least growing in their faith.

Second, when you first meet with the three, get them to help you develop a formal mentoring program. You want your three to own this program, so get them involved from the beginning. 

Focus on the basics, the need of community, how and where people can serve, and the essential disciplines every believer must master. Map it out but keep it simple. It should all fit on one page.

Final Thoughts

If you still feel uncertain, a newer resource is The Mentoring Church: How Pastors and Congregations Cultivate Leaders by Phil A. Newton. Newton's book will help you create a mentoring method that will ultimately lead to leadership development.

(Sometimes I recommend resources that are affiliate links. This means if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I recommend these resources because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.)