Every disciple benefits from a cheerleader, a challenger, and a guide–from brand new Christian to the most mature disciple. You can call that person a guide, a coach, a mentor, a disciple-maker, or any other name. But I tend to prefer the name, Encourager.
Barnabas was an encourager to brand new Christian Paul. He was also an encourager to a more mature, missionary Paul. Imagine what might have happened to Paul without Barnabas.
Sadly that is what happens to many brand new Christians and young disciples when they have no guides, coaches, or Encouragers. They are often green but excited. They are often eager to learn and try things. That means the investment of the Encourager goes far, and growth potential is often high.
Frequently, materials matter less than a relationship. A method or strategy is only as strong as the trust developed. And materials, methods, or strategies will naturally vary according to the disciple’s place along the discipleship journey. And that will need to be assessed by the Encourager as well.
Listening is an important skill. Focusing upon God’s Word and teaching a biblical worldview are useful. Bible study skills which seek God in His Word and work to consider obedient responses work at every stage need to be taught.
But the most important Encourager actions are often relational. Care matters. Checking on the person, what matters to him/her, and how the person is making progress are essential.
I am not diminishing lessons, content, methods, and strategy. They have their place. But we all need someone cheering us toward obedience. We need people keeping us grounded and checking on our progress. We need Encouragers. And we need to be come Encouragers to others.
Whether you were ever discipled or not, become an Encourager to others. You will never regret the investment. They will benefit for the rest of their lives and will have a greater likelihood of paying it forward: investing in others as an Encourager. Be a disciple. Encourage others. Make disciples!