When does a good parent stop caring for a child? The answer is never. While the care changes over the years, care goes from womb to tomb. It continues as long as the child and the parent live.
The same is true for the discipler and the disciple. One difference, in the context of the church, is that there may be several disciplers investing in the life of a disciple. We must be cautious, however, when multiple people invest in the life of a disciple. Without good tracking of the continued investment in the disciple, it is easy for efforts involving multiple people to assume that others are providing the care that is needed. This can result in areas of discipleship neglect. (Think about four family members one after another giving a child ice cream when a good meal was the need.)
Questions from Womb to Tomb
Each disciple-maker serves as a mentor to check on the overall discipleship progress of the disciple. As mentor, I may have been sought out to help the disciple learn to journal or to memorize scripture or to share Jesus with the lost. But it helps to ask questions like these before getting started:
- How have you been discipled previously?
- In what spiritual disciplines do you regularly participate?
- Do you faithfully participate in worship and a small group Bible study?
- How are you serving the Lord and the body of Christ?
- Who are your friends in Christ you could call on in time of need?
- In what ways are you serving as a witness to the world?
- On what would you like to focus? What do you hope to gain from our time together?
These questions check on aspects of spiritual maturity and progress. They check on connectedness to God and to the body of Christ. They check on the balance of inflow and outflow.
If the disciple responds with impatience to the questions, that raises a flag of concern. If prayer and Bible study are being ignored, there may a shallow or stale relationship with God. When the disciple has no friends and disconnects from the body, those are discipleship issues deserving of attention.
It is easy to miss the clues when a disciple moves from one mentor to another. In reality, no mentor can be effective for a lifetime and in every area with a disciple. That’s why these questions should be asked each time a mentor meets with a new or potential disciple. These questions won’t take long, and they can be very helpful–as long as the disciple is honest.
Spiritual progress as a disciple should not stop from the new birth until death. We all benefit from encouragement and mentoring along life’s path. We receive in order to give away, and we grow in order to help others. The disciple’s example is the life and words of Jesus. And we will not arrive at our goal on this side of heaven. Be a disciple. Make disciples!