Which had the greatest impact on your discipleship: events or relationships? Personally, I can name events: youth retreats, conversion, Billy Graham Crusade, a mission trip to Korea, a silent retreat, MasterLife, and more. I can also name people: David, Fred, mom, Joe, Billy, and many more. But which had the greatest impact: events or people? Ponder that question.
Events versus Relationships
For many, events are milestones. They mark time segments on discipleship journeys. For some, negative events can have life-changing impact on our discipleship: near-death experience, job loss, spouse or child loss, getting sober, etc. Positive events can be spiritual in nature or include life experiences like birth of a child, marriage, finding a great church, etc.
Events can be catalysts for taking steps toward salvation or discipleship. At the same time, people are often intimately involved in events. Fred and David were leaders connected to retreats. Billy was connected to MasterLife. And sometimes, people simply walk beside us–like Joe did during a crisis. They may be friends, family, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, or pastors. They encourage us and care for us. These disciplers invest in us, challenge us, and help us to take next steps–often with us.
Events and Relationships
The reality is that few events are disconnected from relationships. As an example, Billy Graham and my pastor were instrumental in my involvement in and growth through the Crusade. Yes, sometimes we can grow through an event with no involvement other than God and self–like in my experience at the silent retreat. But more common are events where people were connected, or where people helped us go to events or take next steps following events.
The answer really is both. Events and relationships are key to disciple-making. And disciple-makers will wisely choose to encourage involvement in key events by their disciples. Today, time is precious and disciples may resist involvement in events. But a key method for helping disciples take that next step is “together.” Register and attend together. The conversation will likely be as valuable as the event. Even if the event is a silent retreat, the time debriefing after the event will lead to great discipling benefits.
What areas would your disciple benefit from encouragement and challenge? Are there events that can help him or her to take next steps? Could Sunday School or small groups help–with a little tweak. For instance, could journaling or answering key questions related to each week’s lesson help strengthen a discipling practice? Could a silent retreat give a jump start to one or more needed spiritual disciplines? Could the church’s block party allow practicing sharing his or her testimony. You can retask a special or an ongoing event, or you can create one.
Keep in mind, that your disciple can also benefit from the investment of other people besides you. Do you know someone who is a prayer warrior? Who has a great testimony? Who has a passion for evangelism? You get the idea. Connect your disciples with events and people. My only caution is to keep things simple. It is more difficult to reproduce disciple-making that is complicated.
Invest in your disciple, and seek ways to involve him or her in events and with people who will help your disciple take next steps. Be a disciple. Make disciples!