Mark Dever on Picking Someone to Disciple

This school year I read Mark Dever’s book Discipling with my youth ministry assistant. This book contains useful information for youth ministries even though it was not directly written to youth pastors.

In Chapter 7, Dever discusses the hard decision we have to make about who we are going to disciple. There are billions of people in the world, millions of people in our country, thousands of people in our surrounding area, and possibly hundreds of people in our churches. How do we decide who to give our time to disciple?

Thankfully, in Chapter 7, it presents the reality that “You only have so much time in the week. You cannot disciple the whole church.” In this book, Dever then presents nine factors on how to decide who to disciple on pages 75-79. The nine factors are as followed:

  1. Family Member
  2. Spiritual State
  3. Church Membership
  4. Gender
  5. Age
  6. Different From You
  7. Teachability
  8. Faithfulness To Teach Others
  9. Proximity and Schedules

I want to especially touch on Teachability, Faithfulness To Teach Others, and Proximity and Schedules. These three might not be the most important ones on the list, but they are very critical when we decide how to use our time.

Teachability: Is the person you want to disciple willing to learn from God’s Word? If not, then this discipling relationship will be difficult. Beyond this, it is also important to ask the question if this person is willing to learn from you.

Faithfulness To Teach Others: This is not a requirement for someone who should be discipled. However, it is a way to expand and grow our ministries by discipling people who can eventually go and disciple others. It would be wise to disciple someone who is willing and capable to teach others because over the months and years ahead your church will benefit.

Proximity and Schedules: Is it possible and likely to be able to set up a time to meet with this person? Currently I disciple two men on Friday mornings. This gives me the opportunity to meet with them before they go to work. There is another man who I have recently started to disciple who is retired. It works well for his schedule and for mine that he comes in during a weekday afternoon to my office at the church. We must make sure these discipleship relationships are actually possible in terms of time and availability.

Remember, we cannot disciple everyone. However, we must not let that be the excuse for not discipling anyone. Mark Dever ends the chapter on page 81 with these wise words of encouragement: “In all of this, whether you are self-consciously discipling one person or four, make sure that you are growing spiritually, and the help those around you to grow. Both are important and each contributes to the other.”

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