A Three-Question Discipling Method

In my work with the young men I see each week, I like to ask three questions to discern where they are going spiritually. They serve as a guide for our conversations.

1. What are you hearing from God?
2. What are you trusting God for?
3. How is God using you in other people’s lives?

I haven’t told my guys this (and let’s keep this just between us), but I have a growth pattern in mind as I ask these questions. I expect that at the beginning their answers will be more immature and self-centered and that as they grow in their faith their answers will be more thoughtful and outwardly-focused.

In one of my sessions with two guys this week, I asked them how they thought a person’s answers to these three questions would change over time if they are growing in their faith. They had some interesting insights:

1. As a believer grows in Christ, there will be an increasing focus on God and on others and less on self. There will be fewer prayer requests about parking spaces and more prayer about lost neighbors.

2. As a believer grows in Christ, there will be a decreasing reliance on his or her own abilities, accompanied by a growing confidence in the ability of God’s Spirit to do His work in people’s lives. The growing disciple will come to see personal and spiritual gifts as a matter of stewardship: managing the resources entrusted by God with Kingdom priorities in view.

3. As a believer grows in Christ, there will be an increasing sense of purpose shaped by what God values, not just by what they want or deem important. There will be an increasing freedom from values imposed by culture or social set and more of a focus on God’s priorities: that people will come to faith, that His people will persevere and grow in their faith, and that justice will be done.

4. As a believer grows in Christ, there will be an increasing focus on long-term, spiritual objectives, accompanied by a decreased anxiety about short-term results.

I was surprised and delighted by their responses! These guys have a good sense of where we’re going in discipleship.
So what does this increasing depth and growing spiritual maturity look like with regards to the questions themselves?

1. What are you hearing from God?
I ask this partly to discern whether they are, in fact, making Bible reading a habit. That is the most basic purpose for this question. The habit of taking in the Scripture (reading, study, listening to Scripture being read, etc.) is essential for any growing Christ-follower. Until Scripture intake is a regular, daily pattern, a man or woman’s spiritual growth is going to be stunted. As I have said more than once in the pulpit, if the only Scripture you’re getting each week is what you hear on Sunday morning, you are on a spiritual starvation diet. For a disciple to grow, he or she must be in the Scripture.

But that is only the most basic level. I also want to know if they are reflecting on what they are reading in God’s Word. Are there questions and applications that occupy their minds? Are they able to connect the dots, able to talk about how what they are learning from God’s Word and how it can bear fruit in their lives – in their priorities, their relationships, their daily and weekly habits, their ambitions, the way they deal with temptation and sin?

The more they grow spiritually, the more thoughtful and more personal their reflection on Scripture will be.
2. What are you trusting God for?
This question gives me the opportunity to talk about their prayer life. At the beginning, I expect the answers to this question to center on personal needs and needs of their family. And it is right and good that the men I disciple should begin at the beginning, with their own lives and the people closest to them.

But over time I hope to see more faith and more of an outward focus, as they realize that God has bigger things in mind for them than success in their jobs and health and security for them and their families. I will want to hear them talk about trusting God for big ministry objectives, a growing burden for the unbelievers in their sphere of influence: their workplace, their neighborhood, their families. I will hope to hear them mention the names of co-workers, neighbors, relatives for whom their hearts are burdened.

You know what it’s like to be around someone whose prayers are big, someone who is pleading with God to draw people to faith, someone who is trusting God to do things only God could do. That’s where I want my own prayer life to go and where I want my guys to go.
3. How is God using you in other people’s lives?
Here again, the first answers will revolve around family. And that is as it should be. After all, our families are the people God has placed us with; we have an obligation before God to minister first to our spouse and our children.

But if that is the entire scope of our concern, we don’t yet have God’s heart. I think about this sometimes when I drive by my neighbors’ houses: these are people who need to know the Gospel. They don’t know that God loves them so ferociously that He gave up His Son. As I said in a recent post, our primary motivation for sharing the Good News with our neighbors is the Second Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

As my guys grow in their faith, I want to hear them answer this question in an ever-expanding circle of concern and attention. I want them to more and more reflect God’s heart for the lost, for the nations.
Right about now, some of you are thinking that all this sounds vaguely familiar. You’re right.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the basic spiritual disciplines as a three-legged stool, with Scripture, prayer, and service as the three legs. Yes, you’re right. This is another way of looking at that same concept. Well-rounded and holistic spiritual maturity will proceed along these same three lines. If we “specialize” in one or two of these aspects of spiritual vitality and neglect the other, we will be imbalanced and unstable. 
There’s no reason these questions must be reserved for intentional discipling relationships. Small groups can use these questions to challenge and encourage one another. Friends can use these questions to sharpen their iron-on-iron relationships. These three questions are another way we can “one-another” well.

May God’ Spirit continue to draw us close to one another and close to His heart as we question one another faithfully.

Paul Pyle
Discipleship Pastor