I believe that one of the more common reasons why discipleship efforts fail occurs when we make discipleship to be about teaching and the passing on of information.
Successful discipleship requires more than the passing on of information; it requires impartation and transformation.
Think about it. If true disciples were made simply through the passing on of information then the North American church would be flush with true disciples and all of this due to the shear number of sermons, books, websites and podcasts available to everyone. And yet despite the historic volume of easily accessible information available to us all, true disciples, men and women fully committed to Christ and His mission, are still in scarce supply.
If you want to make true disciples, make your target more than passing on information; make it include impartation and transformation.
Information is passed on when you give a person what you know. Impartation happens when you give a person what you are.
Transformation happens when the seeds of information are watered and cultivated until they have born the fruit of new ways of thinking, speaking and living.
So if impartation and transformation are to be the target, how do we go about hitting the bullseye?
Passing on information requires no proximity. Think about it: you may be reading this article from literally thousands of miles away from my location and yet you may (hopefully) learn something. Impartation, however, happens up close. So get close to the people you mean to disciple. Getting to know you will allow them to receive both what you know and what you are – your understanding, wisdom, values and character.
Transformation happens when truth gets practical. Don’t stop at telling. Be practical in your sharing. Encourage those you are discipling to apply what they are learning to their thinking, speaking and behaving. Follow up with them and support them in this until new habits of thinking, talking and living have been established.
You’re committed to Christ and His mission. That’s why you’re involved in discipleship. You know that not every person you reach out to will become a true disciple of Jesus, and you accept this, but you still want to maximize your effectiveness. If you will aim at impartation and transformation, you will hit that target. So go for it!
Now it’s your turn: what do you do to maximize your effectiveness with those whom you disciple?