The Dangers of Disconnected Discipleship

One of the worst feelings in the modern world has to be when you look at your phone and see a red “low battery” icon. Last week, I got to work and noticed that my charging cord was broken. When I pulled my phone out to do something really important (like check ESPN), I realized it was almost dead. I thought my phone was connected, but it wasn’t. As a result, there were things I wanted to do with my phone that I just could not.

In the same way, there are things many people hope to see happen in the lives of those they disciple only to discover these things can’t or won’t happen, because something critical in their discipleship process was disconnected. Here are three common disconnections that will stifle the growth of the people you disciple.

Disconnected from the Local Church

Maybe one of the most popular Biblical passages on discipleship is 2 Timothy 2:2. I remember someone sharing it with me in college to show me the importance of personally discipling another individual. Without a doubt, Paul was reminding Timothy to pass on a set of teachings and ways of living to faithful men who would teach others also. However, it’s easy to get myopic and focus in on Paul and Timothy’s relationship and ignore Paul’s emphasis on the presence of “many witnesses.”

Connect discipleship to the local church.

Don’t view discipleship as a separate activity from your church engagement and involvement. Every sermon is an opportunity to engage Scripture. The songs that are sung and the prayers that are prayed in the weekly gathering are critical elements for shaping faith. Bring these things up in conversation as you invest in others. You will reproduce either your love or indifference in those you disciple. Make sure you set them up for a lifetime of discipleship by demonstrating a love for and commitment to the local church.

Disconnected from Individuals

So often our actions in discipleship display overconfidence in the weekly gathering and its ability to train and develop disciples. Young believers need focused attention, care, and personal discipleship. To be honest, mature believers need this too. When our daughter was born, we gave her focused attention, fed her, changed her diapers, rocked her to sleep, and readjusted our life to make sure we did everything we could to create an environment where she could grow and develop. My wife doesn’t need focused care like a newborn would. She’s smarter and more responsible than I am. She has a doctorate so we get mail addressed to “Dr. and Mr. Zunigha,” which is always humbling. And yet, she still needs attention through love and care. I’ve found that our marriage suffers when I neglect to give her attention. I also need care and attention. When I’m disconnected from other individuals, growth is stifled. Whether someone is just starting their relationships with Christ, or have been following for decades, they need focused care and individual attention.

Connect discipleship to individual relationships.

One of the critical aspects of the Great Commission is to teach people to obey (or observe) everything Jesus commanded. We can teach His commands in a large group setting, but to help people obey we need to walk closely with them and help them see how Christ’s commands work out in real life. This is as true for the new believer as it is for the mature believer. Spend time personally and intentionally meeting with and discipling others in formal and informal settings.

Disconnected from the Gospel

Sadly, it is too common to divorce discipleship from the gospel. Discipleship is relegated to a self-help program of the Church instead of a commitment to train people to embrace, live out, and share the life-changing gospel of the Kingdom. Paul tells the Colossians to continue in their faith in the same way as they “received Christ Jesus” (Colossians 2:6-7). A disciple never outgrows their need for the gospel. Think of the great passages we see in Paul’s writings highlighting the gospel such as 1 Corinthians 15 and Ephesians 2. Remember, these were written to saints.

Connect discipleship to the gospel.

Jesus made disciples by sharing the gospel of the kingdom while bringing his disciples with Him. He didn’t teach and train in a vacuum. The best discipleship helps people both understand how the gospel shapes their walk with Christ and trains and challenges people to seek and engage the lost. Our discipleship should set an example and demonstrate an evangelistic ministry by reaching the lost in our own lives. Those we disciple shouldn’t only hear the gospel at conversion but need to be reminded of it daily.