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Balancing “Length and Width” in Discipleship

When I speak about “length and width” in discipleship, I am speaking of how long are we going with someone, and how wide an audience are we disciplining?

We all have limitations.  We can only be stretched so far.  Think of it like a rubber band: You could stretch it really wide or you could stretch it so that it is really long.  Or you can shape it so that it stretches (though not as far) in both directions.  When we think about the length and width of our own discipleship we need to take an inventory:

What is your current sphere of influence?

Greg Koukl has a great saying: Bloom where you’re planted.  For many of us, there is no need to change our entire lives to make a disciple.  Just look around.  That is what my mentor did.  He was a co-worker at my old school and had a simple, faithful bible study with me over the course of five years, and changed my life forever.

What your personal strengths?

It wouldn’t make any sense for me to try and purposefully disciple young women with a history of being involved in sex-trafficking. I don’t have anything special to contribute to those young women.  However, to the mature believing woman who might have a past history with drugs, abuse or prostitution (they are out there), their discipleship could be life-changing.

Sometimes our strengths are very specialized, and our “discipleship” may be better served to be spread very wide, instead of very long.  For example, J Warner Wallace of ColdCaseChristianity.com, knew how to read testimonies and look for signs of lies or truth.  He used this to validate the gospels on a new level and has focused on having a wide range of discipleship.  His work has been a tremendous resource for Christians.

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How much time can you dedicate to a person or a group?

Time is the one thing every person is losing.  We can’t get any of it back.  If you have a lot of really important commitments already, you might not be able to do much in the area of discipleship, but all of us are called to do at least some (Matthew 28:18-20).

Am you living in such a way that you can be an effective mentor?

Do you have any persistent, troubling vices?  You may have to take care of your own life and sins first before you take on disciplining someone else.  It would likely be a good idea for you to get a mentor if this sounds like you.  We all have some sins to deal with, but if the sins are having a significant impact on your life, look for a mentor instead of a disciple.

Am I mature enough to disciple someone?

In order to disciple someone, you must have the knowledge to answer the basics.  Can you defend your faith?  Do you know how to share the biblical gospel?  Are you at least familiar with the overarching story of the fall, Israel, Jesus and the redemption of mankind?  If not, wait a little bit.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Just work on it (there are some great resources here to help you out).

How do you plan to disciple people in your life?  Are you going to have an approach that focuses on length, width or a mixture of both?

About neilkhess@gmail.com

I'm a Christian who has great interest in apologetics, evangelism and theology. I also teach middle school science, enjoy camping and watching the Seahawks. I'm a fairly nice guy. Feel free to drop me a line.

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