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Principles of Selection: Who Do I Disciple?

11.13.17 | by Larry Gates

    Principles of Selection: Who Do I Disciple?

    In our contemporary culture of today, inclusiveness is a major social theme in our society.  Given this fact, it may seem strange to be discussing the importance of selectivity when it comes to discipling other believers.  Yet, most of the Old Testament is the account of how God worked His purposes through a single nation that He selected out of all nations.  Jesus applied the principle of selection in choosing the twelve, “You did not choose me, but I chose you …” (John 15:16).  It was the twelve that Jesus designated as His apostles, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve – designating them apostles that he might send them out to preach….” (Mark 3:13-14).  The Gospels are mainly an account of the training of the twelve for the future of the gospel ministry.  Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was constantly making decisions about people He’d interact with and ministry to.  It was through the means of selection that Jesus ministered.

    The principle of selection rests on four fundamental concepts: an objective, options, criteria, and an appeal. 

    Concept 1: Objective

    The process of selection must have an objective, a reason, or a desired outcome.  In order to select, we must first know the purpose for choosing people.  Christ’s call to the fishermen in Galilee in Matthew 4:19 included a specific objective.  In Mark 3:14, Jesus’ was clear and intentionally chose the twelve to train and send out to preach.

    When Paul told Timothy to select key people, he laid out the purpose, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witness, entrust to reliable men  who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).  Timothy was to select people in order to further the process of spiritual multiplication.

    The primary objective for a discipler is to help a believer become spiritually mature by assisting them in developing a strong foundation of faith and personal discipleship.  This objective needs to be clear in the mind of the discipler as well as to the potential disciple.  Furthermore, the discipler must learn to express the objective in terms that the young believer can understand and find motivational. The ability to communicate the objective clearly to a potential disciple is critical to the entire discipleship process.

    Concept 2:  Options

    Jesus ministered for more than a year in the public domain before He selected the twelve.  He established Himself, His credibility, and his agenda before He concentrated on investing in a few.  Jesus developed His reputation as a great teacher, worker of miracles, as the Son of Man, and He laid claim to being the Messiah.  People saw Jesus as someone worthy of following.  In essence, Jesus built a platform of credibility with the people.

    The selection process requires that disciple-makers establish themselves as mature disciples of Jesus with a solid walk with the Lord.  It’s only from a platform of credibility that a disciple can then select people to disciple life-to-life.  Credibility is formed in the mind of others as the disciple-maker lives out his or her life in practical ways before others.  Credibility counts!!

    Where does a disciple-maker have an “insider connection” for selecting a potential disciple?  The possibilities are numerous.  It’s everywhere you have contact with young believers who have observed your manner of life and respect your maturity.  It could be your church, your work, your neighborhood, or the civic and social organizations and clubs in which you are a member.  Identify the networks where God has already provided environments for selecting a potential disciple. Just keep your eyes open and be observant.

    Concept 3: Criteria

    Assuming a disciple-maker has clarity of purpose and has identified a pool of people to choose from - the next step in the selection process is to establish a set of criteria that can be used to sort through the potential disciple candidates.  The question might be asked, “Why select one person over another”? Or, the question might be, “What would make one person a better investment of my time and energy over others”?  The answer is simple.  Not every person is fertile ground from which fruit can be produced. God wants a discipler’s investment of time and energy to produce a 30, 60, and 100 fold return.  The Lord desires this investment to produce spiritual fruit in the life of the disciple to the extent they in turn are fully prepared to invest in the life of others.   

    Scripture reveal that when God divinely calls an individual into His service His priority in selection is primary on the internal, the character … the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  External characteristic are irrelevant in God’s economy.  Unfortunately as humans we can’t know with certainty the condition of a person’s heart.  We are limited to outward indicators at best.  Therefore the disciple-maker must rely on God’s counsel in guiding the selection process.

    Despite our human limitation there does appear to be some critical qualities to look for when selecting a potential disciple. Look for F.A.T people.  People would are: faithful (or reliable), available, and teachable.

    In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul instructs Timothy to select men who are reliable and competent to teach others.  The key to selection was to be made on reliability, or faithfulness.  Faithfulness primarily means that a person is full of faith, and secondarily that they can be counted on.  Similarly, in Luke 16:10-12, Jesus teaches on the importance of being faithful (or trustworthy) in the little things before you can be trusted or faithfully in the big things.  Faithfulness (or reliability) is a key in selecting the right person to disciple.

    In selecting from among potential disciple candidates, disciple-makers should look for people who will make time to meet and learn what is taught and modeled.  It is a wise disciple-maker who selects only those individuals who take their personal discipleship seriously and make it a priority in their life.

    Discipling life-to-life requires direct contact, which means both parties must be available.  This may mean a lot of flexibility on the part of the discipler, but time together interacting with the Word is essential to the disciple’s growth.  Investing in the life of another person will mean that the disciple-maker will be required to make adjustments to the routines of life, including schedules, priorities, and personal focus.  So be ready to adapt and be flexible.  Also, remember that discipling others involves stewardship.  God has entrusted the spiritual develop of other individual into your hands.  Therefore, rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you through this process.

    In selecting an individual to disciple, identify people who want to learn and are teachable.  A disciple is first and for most a learner.  So look for people who are seeking the truth, asking questions, and desire to understand, and apply Scripture to their life.  If an individual doesn’t possess a learner’s heart, he or she is not likely one who can be taught.  It is extremely difficult, almost impossible to disciple a person who is not eager to learn. 

    Concept 4: Appeal

    An essential part of the selection process ends with an appeal to the person you are recruiting.  In making an appropriate appeal consider the following ideas: 

    1. Recruit according to where the person is in their spiritual journey.
    2. Recruit to a specific agenda. The potential disciple needs to know that the disciple-maker knows where they are going and how to they intend to get there.
    3. Recruit with specific expectations in mind. The potential disciple needs to know what their responsibilities will be.
    4. Make the invitation to the individual personal. Don’t use social media.  Extend the invitation face-to-face.
    5. Emphasize three major benefits - spiritual, personal, and relational. Encourage the individual by pointing out their God given potential to grow in each of three areas.

    Final Thoughts

    Finding someone to disciple requires three things:

    • involvement with people,
    • knowing what to look for, and a willingness to take the initiative