Discipleship or mentoring is a hot topic in Christian circles. It seems everyone weighs in on the “right” way to do it. You can buy books and Bible studies that give prescriptive plans of the right way to disciple. You need to eat together, you need to go through a book together, you just need to go to the grocery together and watch how I mother my kids. I love the concept of discipleship and have had the privilege to be under another woman’s wing in multiple seasons of life. But sometimes I fear in the semantics debate over discipleship or mentoring, or the strong opinions promoted on how it should be done, we’ve become too prescriptive, and haven't left room for different ways God might choose to use others in our lives. I’m going to share with you four pictures of discipleship that I’ve experienced in my own life. Each one looks different, and each has been an incredible source of growth and encouragement to me.
Coffee Shop Discipleship
As a freshman in college who sought to figure out what I believed about God and why I believed it, Laura was a precious gift from God to me. She knocked on my dorm room door one day, talked with me a few minutes and left a tract with me which explained the basics of the Gospel. My roommate and I laughed about the cheesy title of the tract and I tossed it on my desk. But Laura came back to my dorm room another day and asked if she could take me out for coffee. I instantly liked Laura, especially since she took a genuine interest in my life and listened to all my exciting drama with my long distance romance and newfound college experiences. Laura eventually gave me a Bible (which I offered to pay her for) and invited me to be in a freshman girls’ Bible study. I went to the study not so much because I really wanted to know the Bible, but because I liked Laura. God used that Bible study and our meetings together throughout four years of college as a greenhouse of spiritual growth for me. Laura invited me into her life, and as I helped her prepare a salad for dinner and watched her interactions with her husband, I saw a tangible example of a Christ-centered marriage. When Laura had her first baby and couldn’t so easily meet me on campus, I would drive to her house, help her with the kids, and watched as she embraced a new season of life and ministry.
During those college years, another woman named Colleen invited me to be in her inductive Bible study. Colleen was passionate about being a serious student of God’s Word. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I remember learning inductive Bible study techniques from Colleen as we studied Romans 1-5 for an entire school year. I learned how to explain justification and imputation through drawing pictures and memorizing definitions. I learned how to cross reference my Bible and use commentaries. Colleen gave me a passion to think deeply about God's Word, learn to study it, and then pass my skills on to a new group of women. She helped cast a vision for passing the spiritual baton to younger women God placed in my life.
After college, I married my long distance boyfriend, and we moved 12 hours away from our families where Ben started a pastoral apprenticeship program. As a newly married pastor’s wife-in-training, I longed to have an older woman in my life who I could pepper with questions and from whom I could seek counsel. My passion for inductive Bible study had led me to sign up for one at our new church. As I listened to our leader, Mary, teach the Word week after week, my respect and admiration for her grew. Eventually I asked Mary if she’d be willing to meet with me. Since we were both in a season without children in the home (she was an empty nester), we’d meet at Panera on Saturday mornings and talk about life over our cinnamon crunch and asiago cheese bagels. I asked questions about marriage and ministry, but we also laughed together and talked about daily struggles and joys happening in our lives. A sweet friendship formed out of those interactions, a friendship we still have and treasure today, despite living many miles apart.
Page and Podcast Discipleship
My husband’s first ministry position led us to move out of our beloved seminary community to rural Kentucky. We had one car, my husband was in a full-time doctoral program and worked as a full-time youth pastor, and I was at home with our new baby. The isolation I experienced at times could be dark and discouraging. It was not always possible to get together with another woman. And sometimes God has us serve in places where there are not a surplus of Titus 2 mentors. But God provided these women to me through excellent books and daily radio Bible teaching. Although I agree books and podcasts are never replacements for real people, I don’t think we should be too quick to throw out the window how God might use a gifted author’s writing or Bible teaching as a means of grace and discipleship in our lives. Reading Elisabeth Elliot and listening to the teaching of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth have had a profound impact on my life. And these women are available through pages or podcasts when I’m at the gym, doing dishes, or missing corporate worship due to sick kids. I’m grateful to live in a country where we have access to so many incredible resources at the touch of our hands.
In our efforts to encourage discipleship in the local church, be open to different ways God might choose to influence you. As a busy mom of 4 kids and a pastor’s wife, discipleship looks different depending on the amount of time I have to invest. Sometimes it’s simply having another mom over for lunch after Bible study, sometimes it’s leading the Bible study, and sometimes it’s meeting one-on-one with a friend to go through a book or pray together. I’m always eager to point out good resources to read or listen to, trusting God can work through written words on a page just as much as words I speak. God is glorified as we open our lives to others and have teachable hearts, ready to be used by God or be ministered to in whatever ways He provides.