Jesus commands every believer to make disciples, which means that all of us should be helping someone else love God through personal mentorship. If you feel unqualified, that’s an entirely different subject, and I recommend you listen to my recent sermon, A Life That Counts.
But how do you choose a “disciple”?
Here are 5 things you must do as you select those people you’ll be investing your life in for the sake of eternity.
1. Get to know them first
Sometimes when you read the Gospels, it seems like Jesus just walked up to total strangers and offered them a close discipleship relationship. Fortunately, that ridiculously awkward social scenario is not at all what happened.
Before Jesus officially called Peter in Luke 5, He first met him in John 1. Two days later, they were hanging out at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-11), and shortly after that they were doing ministry together (Jn. 4). While He officially called Peter to follow Him later in Luke 5, it wasn’t until Luke 6 that He invited Peter in for the closest level of discipleship.
If you think you want to mentor/disciple someone, don’t be awkward. The call to make disciples is not a call to invite total strangers into your most intimate circle. Before you do that, just be normal. Get to know the person first.
2. Look for the right characteristics
Chemistry: Jesus called to Himself “those He wanted” (Mk 3:13). Chemistry matters because you’ll be spending a lot of time together. My disciples have become some of my closest friends over the years.
Sacrifice: Jesus screened “discipleship candidates” by observing their willingness to sacrifice (Mt. 19:16-24; Lk. 14:26-33). If you’ve been spending time with a potential mentee, ask the person to make a sacrifice, however small. Give her a Scripture to read and record her thoughts on. Challenge him to share with someone what he’s learning from you. If the potential mentee drags his feet on these things, then do what Jesus would have done: move on to someone whose heart is ready to receive from you (Mt. 8:18-22).
Hunger: Jesus invested in hungry people (Jn. 1:35-51; 6:66-69). One of my mentors, David Watson, distinguishes between frog-learners and lizard-learners. Frogs just sit and wait for flies to buzzzz by, but lizards hunt their prey down before seizing it with their long, sticky tongue. Frog-learners are those who sit and wait for their next spiritual meal. Lizard-learners assertively pursue spiritual growth in whatever form they can get it. Pour your life into lizard-learners who are hungry-hunters for spiritual growth.
Willingness to make disciples: Paul advised Timothy to only disciple those who were willing to disciple others (2 Tim. 2:2). One of Satan’s great ploys is to get us pouring our lives into people who won’t replicate what we’re doing in them. Our motto should be: minister to anyone in need, but invest in those who will pay it forward.
3. Pray significantly
Whom you choose to disciple is the most important ministry decision you will ever make. Jesus prayed all night long before choosing His twelve (Lk. 6:12-16). Before deciding whom to invest in, ask Jesus what He thinks. He knows a thing or two about discipleship.
4. Exercise Spiritual Discernment
Some of our greatest disciples will be very far from God when we find them (Matt. 9:9-13; Lk. 5:1-11). Others will be posterboys for the Youth Group (John 1:47). You can’t tell much by appearances, and one of the greatest lessons of Jesus’ life is that Christians must be excellent discerners of potential. This discernment comes first by practicing #3 above, and second, by learning from our mistakes.
5. Have the Discipleship DTR
DTR is a term that comes from the dating world, and it stands for “define-the-relationship.” Jesus defines the relationship with His disciples when He calls on them to follow Him. After you (1) Get to know the person, (2) Look for the right characteristics (3) Pray significantly, and (4) Exercise spiritual discernment… it’s time to (5) Have the Discipleship DTR.
I would recommend saying something like,
“Listen, you and I have been spending more and more time together over the last few months. I’ve noticed a great willingness to sacrifice in you, a deep hunger for spiritual things, and an avid desire to share what we’ve been talking about with others…. I’ve really been praying, and I would like to devote the next 6 months (or year, or whatever) to a mentoring relationship. It would look a lot like what we’ve already been doing. I just want to commit myself to this process and for you to do the same. My primary request is that you quickly find at least one other person to begin investing in…”
At first glance, it might seem like it would take many months or even years to reach Step 5, but in truth it shouldn’t take long. It’s better to disciple the wrong person and learn from it than to take too long to choose while eternity is at stake. When Jesus says “Go” and make disciples, He’s suggesting that we’ll have some inertia to overcome. So don’t use these steps as an excuse for your inertia.
To some people, this all sounds like a heavy burden, an extra layer of guilt over something we’re not doing. I would encourage you instead to consider it an opportunity. The more you develop people, the more God develops you. And even better, you’ll have access to that realm of joy that is otherwise inaccessible, that joy spoken of by the Apostle John, when He said:
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in truth” (3 John 4).
Discipleship is the key that unlocks the door to “no greater joy”. Wouldn’t you like to have that key?
If you’re interested in joining me and our church on this discipleship journey for the sake of reaching your city and the world, leave a comment!
 Being a “lizard-learner” does not necessarily mean that you are already a Christian. Both Cornelius (Acts 10-11) and Lydia (Acts 16) showed incredible spiritual hunger before they met Christ. Don’t limit your pool of potential disciples to Christians! More on that in this week’s sermon…
 I don’t personally put “term limits” on my mentorships. I typically disciple someone until he opts out, or until he’s clearly ready to spread his wings and fly. I include this because many have found it to be helpful.