Supernatural Discipleship

by Tara Kenyon

As ministers, educators, and leaders, we frequently utilize the terms “mentoring” and “discipleship” somewhat interchangeably to describe the activity of sharing spiritual wisdom or information gleaned through study and experience. In secular contexts, mentoring describes the exchange of practical life information and situational wisdom. Mentoring may or may not include a spiritual element whereas discipleship ALWAYS focuses on the spiritual development and growth of another. I am honored to share with you some of my own thoughts on the purpose and value of both.

Jesus commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations” we believe in both the micro and macro implications of His command. As missionaries, we have committed to the macro, working to declare the good news to the nations. As educators, we are committing intensely to the micro by making individual disciples one by one.

I remember Dr. Beth Grant pleading with our candidate missionary class to genuinely understand the responsibility and full-time commitment that is “making disciples”. Oftentimes, when committing to a new life in Christ, many are accepting to be cast-out of their own families and cultural or faith communities. Others quickly surpass the faithful who led them to Christ due to supernatural growth and need to be guided and counseled as the Lord of the harvest leads them to uncharted territories. They need sound leaders willing to pour into them, encourage them, and lovingly include them, sometimes as part of their very own family.

Mentoring, while requiring time and some level of commitment from the mentor, seems rather inviting as it allows one to share their expertise and pour into someone else, thus building a legacy of all he or she has learned in life. This is rather appealing to one’s ego in that we have a captive audience, appreciative and complimenting of how smart and wise we are. We are knowingly viewed as one having power and influence over someone willingly subordinate. It is a necessary and positive element included in discipleship yet, as people of the Spirit, I believe we are called to a more intentional and supernatural relationship with those we lead.

Making disciples, on the other hand, is a supernatural command and thus requires supernatural impartation. It contradicts our selfish and self-serving tendencies and requires sacrifice and humility as we get into the complicated and imperfect lives of those we have been called to serve. Where mentoring assists people in becoming successful, discipleship brings the Kingdom and sovereign reign of Christ on earth. Jesus exemplified his desired model of discipleship when he dedicated every moment of his time during his last three years on earth to serving and guiding those who would carry the good news to the ends of the earth.

Kingdom-building discipleship requires spiritually sound leaders planning for a future where he or she does not exist and kingdom work must dynamically continue without their guidance. Vision and foresight for the future assists the leader in maintaining the focus on making disciples and loving the lost rather than the discomfort of sharing and relinquishing control and influence.

What a privilege and responsibility the Father has given us in allowing us to participate in the discipleship of others! Not unlike raising our own children, we must commit to life-long participation, influence, and the serving of those around us. This relationship occurs so naturally within the classrooms in which so many of us have the privilege of teaching. May we never settle for only mentoring those the Lord has placed in our life. Let us seek the supernatural impartation present in discipleship and commit anew to raising a generation that serves with humility and gives their lives in the service of discipling others.

  • How about you? What have your experiences been either as a
    mentor/mentoree or as a discipler/disciple?
  • Have you had any discipleship experiences that you would call
    supernatural? What was it like?
  • How about a mentoring relationship that simply fell flat? What
    happened?

Let us know in the comments below:

3 Replies to “Supernatural Discipleship”

  1. Thanks Tara! Great article prompting us to think about what we do and how we do it!

    Responding to your questions, the highs and lows of my experience started with several failed attempts in a cross-cultural context in Suriname. I was attempting to disciple on the basis of a “package of truth” that I wanted someone to swallow, and when they refused, my initial response was to back out of the relationship and look for a more willing candidate. In those early stages of cultural adjustment I was unaware of the many reasons at the worldview level that my instruction was being rejected. I also misconstrued their rejection of truth as a personal rejection.

    I feel like a “light bulb” came on for me when I began to approach the process more relationally, starting with building an acquaintance and moving toward friendship, while continually bringing truth into the mix. The focus of my “intentionality” switched from the content (my worldview versus their worldview) to the interchange between two people. What I found as a result was that intentional time together produced far greater results in changing their worldview and lifestyle than the grade a student might get on a test.

    To put this in context, I am ABSOLUTELY committed to Scriptural Authority over my life and others. Now working with Facultad, I love their educational program but it is not the reason I am a Facultad missionary. What drives me to this above other missionary tasks is the repeated opportunity to share time with people, and this educational platform with 3 week intensives spent together is the perfect framework for that kind of life-changing influence. I believe we are following Jesus’ example of getting away with the disciples to reflect on what has been happening in ministry.

    Finally to your question on the supernatural. Yes, I often find that in the context of a friendly conversation God will spur me to share a specific comment, to give a person a “nudge” from the Holy Spirit. This becomes clear after the fact, when they recall those comments above others. Also, the habits of written prayer (emails or texts) and praying out loud over the phone or in person invite the Holy Spirit to speak through me for that person’s benefit. More often that not, He takes advantage of those opportunities!-deh

  2. Great article Tara,
    I have always followed the Principle of making disciples. We don´t always choose who will be our Timothy but all are disciples. In Chile I had a ladies Bible study and one older lady became a powerful witness and loved evangelizing and discipling others, she used the same model of Bible study and prayer on a weekly basis and led hundreds to a walk with Jesus over the years. She always amazed me, not the most likely candidate to “go and make disciples”.
    My “Timothy” was one of my students who asked to meet with me weekly before my night Bible school classes, I didn´t really have the time but made the commitment, she grew and kept studying and learning. How to eat at a restaurant, how to dress, how to study the Word, she has surpassed me by far, she teaches Greek and Hermeneutics but learned to teach and love her students and pour life into them through watching my life under a microscope. Many times we roomed together for two weeks teaching in ISUM. She is not only my disciple but my best friend. As Jesus called HIS disciples friends, HE chose them, I am grateful that HE chose me and continues to chose others for me to pour HIS life through my life. What a privilege, what a responsibility!

  3. Great Article Tara,

    I have been wanting to read this for several days, and finally got a chance to sit down with it. I am finishing my doctoral project for my D.Min. right now and it is all about discipleship. I love the contrast you make between mentorship and discipleship. In all of my readings I have not seen that distinction (which is very sad because I have read a TON on this subject… yet I still have so much to learn… obviously). You really challenged me, and I love what you have to say in this article. I am going to be citing this article and changing a few things in one of my chapters just because of it. You are a blessing to LAC and the missionary community at large!

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