The Worst Discipleship Technique That Made No Disciples Ever

Why leaving people alone is the worst discipleship technique ever... and what we can do to reach people. By Jamie Rohrbaugh | FromHisPresence.comCan I shoot straight with you today? There’s a disturbing trend going on among Christians that I want to talk with you about. It’s a certain, modern discipleship/”mentoring” technique that Christians seem to have come up with just recently. It’s definitely NOT in the Bible, and it wasn’t in the early church.

And because of this modern discipleship technique, people are getting hurt.

Because of this modern “mentoring” technique, people are NOT getting reached for Jesus… and disciples are NOT being made.

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    This is a problem, and frankly, it’s time to talk about it.

    Now, I admit right away that this may disturb some people’s theology. It’s definitely going to disturb people’s pride and ego. But it really needs to be said anyway.

    Are you with me? Ok, here we go… hang on tight!

    The worst discipleship technique that made no disciples ever is:

    “Call me if you need me.”

    You could also call it “Out of sight, out of mind.” Or “I don’t have time to chase you; if you need me, you’re going to have to reach out to me.”

    Yup. You could call it that. I’ve heard people say (or heard of people saying) all three things, and at different times I might have even said any of them myself. Because, frankly, I’m one of the busiest people I know, and I really don’t have a lot of time these days.

    And the reasons I’ve heard for this terrible discipleship method are:

    1. “People have to want to change.”
    2. “I don’t have time.”
    3. “I’m too important/high-level/titled to reach out.”
    4. “They know where to find me.”
    5. “If they need me, they’ll reach out.”
    6. “He/she says that because he/she came up under _____ as a spiritual father, and that’s what his/her spiritual father does.”

    And every single one of those reasons are total hogwash. Let’s address them in easy, numbered format, corresponding to each reason excuse listed above:

    1. No, people don’t have to want to change. Not at first, anyway.

    I know this from personal experience. The way it really works, according to the Bible, is that you see someone who needs to change and you start praying for them and reaching out to them. THAT’s how people change. God uses people to make disciples.

    I have seen this principle in action with multiple people that have NOT wanted to change. Repeat, NOT wanted to change.

    However, God called me to pray for those people and reach out to them, and change they did. Why? Because GOD wanted them to change and the Holy Spirit did the work when I began to intercede AND REACH OUT.

    2. Then you have a time-management problem that you need to get right.

    You don’t have time for the Great Commission? You don’t have time for the people God has placed under your influence? Then you’re either a bad manager of time, or you’re doing other things with your time that God never called you to do. Or both.

    #SorryNotSorry

    We all have the same 24 hours in a day. If God has placed someone in your sphere of influence or placed them under your authority, then you’d better make time, because you’re going to give an account to God for how you shepherded and discipled those people and how you stewarded your influence.

    And if God didn’t place somebody under your authority that wants to be mentored by you, then you need to point them to where they CAN get the discipleship they need.

    Again, here’s the list we’re comparing to, so you don’t have to keep scrolling up:

    1. “People have to want to change.”
    2. “I don’t have time.”
    3. “I’m too important/high-level/titled to reach out.”
    4. “They know where to find me.”
    5. “If they need me, they’ll reach out.”
    6. “He/she says that because he/she came up under _____ as a spiritual father, and that’s what his/her spiritual father does.”

    3. This one makes me see red.

    Really? You’re too important to lower yourself to chase people? That’s interesting. Because Jesus was pretty important too, but HE said:

    Start-quoteNow there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.

    And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’

    But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.

    For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves (Luke 22:24-27, emphasis mine).

    According to Jesus, the more you climb in greatness, in authority, in leadership, in maturity…

    • … the lower you should make yourself;
    • … the more insignificant you should consider yourself;
    • …and the more you should serve.

    Those aren’t my words. Those are Jesus’ words. Take it up with Him. If He put you in authority, the last thing out of your mouth EVER should be anything about how important you are. Sorry. Yes, the people under you should honor you. No doubt about it… but that’s up to God to convict them about. It’s not up to you to demand your own honor and demand that people make themselves subservient to you.

    It IS up to you to make yourself lower than low, the way Jesus did, and serve.

    4. Who cares? The Biblical model is for you to chase.

    Jesus sought out all 12 of His disciples–even the one who would betray Him–and HE is the One that called THEM.

    Elijah sought out Elisha. He is the one that called his spiritual son.

    Rinse and repeat. Throughout the Bible, spiritual fathers and mothers have raised up their spiritual sons and daughters. They have sought them out, gotten life-on-life with them, discipled them, and poured their lives into them. The fathers have been the proactive ones.

    You don’t see Jesus in the Bible saying, “Well, if James and John want to be My disciples, they know where I am. Let them come to me.” No; Jesus sought them out; called them away from their occupation; and DID LIFE with them for the next 3+ years.

    That means they walked together. They talked together. They ate together. They all knew it when somebody needed a potty break on the road to Jerusalem.

    Yes, I put that last point in there on purpose. This was not a romanticized version of discipleship, folks. These guys were together 24/7. They were real, probably sweaty and stinky men that Jesus called and KEPT WITH HIM for years.

    Yet we tell people:

    • that we’re glad to see them at church on Sunday (if they show up and we happen to run into them);
    • to have a nice week and we’ll pray for them;
    • and see you next Sunday.

    Related: We ARE Our Brother’s Keeper

    Leaving them to deal with their problems, and deal with their loneliness, and try to grow (without knowing how), all by themselves.

    The “They know where to find me” method ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, folks. I’ve seen it hurt a lot of people, but I’ve never seen it help a single one. I’ve certainly never seen it make any disciples.

    Of course we shouldn’t be weird, freaky stalker people. But we should follow up. We should reach out.

    Some people benefit from more frequent follow-up than others.

    I have spiritual sons and daughters that I talk to almost every day, and others that I talk with every few weeks. To each his own; make disciples according to what every son or daughter needs. But “they know where to find me” never met anybody’s needs.

    Again, here’s that list:

    1. “People have to want to change.”
    2. “I don’t have time.”
    3. “I’m too important/high-level/titled to reach out.”
    4. “They know where to find me.”
    5. “If they need me, they’ll reach out.”
    6. “He/she says that because he/she came up under _____ as a spiritual father, and that’s what his/her spiritual father does.”

    5. Not. They do need you, but they won’t reach out. Not at the beginning, anyway.

    People coming out of the world don’t know how to reach out, folks. They don’t know how to have relationships. Plus, they are dealing with insecurity, rejection, sometimes pride or ego, and many other things that keep them from admitting they need help.

    Do they need to reach out? Yes. But until they’re ready emotionally, and until they realize they need help, they’re not going to.

    So go ahead. Make like Jesus and reach out to them. Eventually, yes, they’ll be in a place where they can reach out. But don’t expect it at first. Just love them anyway, and God will bring them around.

    6. I’m sorry, but I thought you were called to emulate God first and foremost, not your spiritual father first and foremost.

    To the extent that our spiritual fathers are like God, then yes, we are to emulate them. Paul wrote that in 1 Corinthians 4:16:

    Start-quoteTherefore I urge you, imitate me.”

    He said it even more clearly in 1 Corinthians 11:1:

    Start-quoteImitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

    To every extent that our spiritual fathers and mothers imitate Christ, then we should absolutely, positively, 100% imitate them also. I’m the biggest believer in spiritual fatherhood there ever was.

    Related: How To Find a Spiritual Father (series)

    But when we start imitating our spiritual fathers and mothers in things that are NOT Christlike, that’s SIN. Anything that is not just like the character of God is sin. And sin is sin is sin, no matter who you learned it from.

    The fact of the matter is that we’re called to imitate God. We’re called to imitate Jesus. We’re called to let the Holy Spirit manifest Himself through us in every single aspect of life. And God pursues. Jesus seeks people out. The Holy Spirit–the mighty Hound of Heaven–chases, and chases, and chases some more.

    Check out these key Scriptures:

    Start-quoteBut God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

    …for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

    No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44a).

    “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:13-15).

    So I don’t really care who you learned what from. If it doesn’t lead you to emulate Jesus in every aspect of life, you need to lay that thing down and repent of it.

    There’s simply no place for arrogance in the Body of Christ, folks. And discipleship is not a hands-off endeavor. “Out of sight, out of mind” doesn’t work.

    I’m sorry. It breaks my heart to even have to say that. What happened to all of us seeking out, serving, and laying down our lives for others, the way Jesus taught? I don’t know what happened to it, but we need to bring it back. We need to make like Jesus in every way:

    • To seek people out.
    • To pursue them.
    • To get life-on-life with people, even when things are rough and dirty.

    That’s the only true Christian way.

    Does this blog post hit home with you? If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Image courtesy of RawdonFox on Flickr via Creative Commons license. Image has been cropped and graphics added.

    20 Comments

    1. I have to comment on the disturbing things that are being done today to the church and by the people around the world. The lesbian mayor in Houston Texas the acceptance of churches and people who say they are gay.the amount of this stuff on TV shows anymore but this is something you would expect from Hollywood. To me it seems that they and some other people are now the only ones that have rights. SOCIETY IS on a downward trend and as we well know Jesus is coming very soon. I am a long way from perfect and I am not judging others by the way they choose to live their lives but I do pray for their salvation. I will speak out against homosexuality because it is wrong and sinful. As is coveting your neighbor. My oh my i am sickened to my core seeing the things that go on today. Seeing how far as a nation that we have strayed from our father in heaven and how we have left people twist our founding fathers words to make themselves comfortable we are a nation of accommodating fools and then saying that it is best for everyone. We have no standards anymore to base our government on there are no morals that are followed and worst of all they mock the very god that created them. You can or not mark my words America will be no more before the end of times is upon us weather anyone wants to believe it or not. The trap has been laid i hope none of us are foolish enough to fall in it. God save us

    2. When I read the title of this post, I was trying to think of the different possibilities to the worst discipleship technique….and this one did not even cross my mind! I cringed… I am so guilty of this! Not that I have a lot of experience or people that I disciple yet (I’m coming along), I’ve said this quite a bit. Perhaps linked to excuse #5, because of some past experiences growing up (which God is bringing unto perfection as I yield to Him), I say “call me if you need me” out of fear of getting on people’s nerves and even outright rejection. I rationalize this response as “putting the ball in their court” or “if they want to hear what I have to say then they will ask me…” I’ve come a looonng way though thanks to Jesus

      1. (Somehow the last part of my comment was cut off)—–His Word says to make disciples and even though it can be quite uncomfortable, I desire to be obedient. Thanks for the word, Jamie! #noexcuses

        1. We’re all growing, Katie! I got convicted myself as I was writing this; I need to be more pro-active in taking better care of my LifeGroup. Help us, Jesus, and teach us to make disciples the way You do!

    3. Laurna Tallman says:

      Yes. Yes. Yes. But there are some people who cannot be pursued and there is a fine line between having what they need and merely pushing them away. Grace and kindness and discernment are important. Sometimes, all we can do is plant seeds and allow others to bring in the harvest.

      1. Very true. Just like biological kids… everybody needs to be handled differently. But God will help us! Thanks for reading, Laurna!

    4. Yes. Praise Jesus! Our church is dealing with this *big time* now, and this was the conviction, solution, and prayer I needed to see today. As I meet with my small group tonight, I will bind this to my heart. God’s loves, peace, healing, comfort..etc is not a distant “just for me” thing, and I am here (or should be) as an example and channel for what my God can do through His people. If I am a true follower of my Lord, I won’t mind getting messy. He didn’t!

      1. That’s so awesome, Kay. Thank you for being willing to take the conversation to the streets where it matters most! You’re right… Jesus got muddy and dirty but He raised people up by doing so. Let’s be like Him!

    5. Rafael-Olivier says:

      Very comforting words in a much needed time. I’ve been in a legal battle because of an ex-girlfriend who accused me of criminal harassment. The only thing I wanted to do in the last three years was to go back with her because I loved her and I still do even with all the problems she created in my life. Even if we weren’t together anymore, I tried to help her when shed needed it. I told her hundred times that my door would always be open to her, no matter what. When I needed help, she closed the door in my face. I was hurting, I told her I was thinking about suicide, that my life was broken because she wasn’t there anymore. She told me to find help on my own, that she didn’t want to help me and that she didn’t want me to go to her house. Never would I hurt her in a phyiscal or psychological way, but she played the victim card and got me arrested. If I would have been dangerous to her, I would have understand…but in this situation, I dont get it. Never would I have thought that she would have been so cruel and mean in the end. She was so kindly before. Now at 35 I’m broke psychologically and financially and I have to rebuilt my life totally. I’ve lost my friends, I have no job, I’m always alone and sad. Like Pilates, she washed her hands and let my sank. I have my flaws, I’ve not always kind to her, but when I care about somebody, I care for life. She destroyed me and I don’t know how to climb the latter again. Maybe I’m stupid but if she called me one day and needed help, I would help her on the spot. People are mean and they don’t care about others’s suffering. I’m always the one who is rejected and lonely. I’m tired and exhausted. That person stole 7 years of my life just to leave me on the side of the road. One day she’ll have to face the Lord’s wrath and I won’t be there for her. Arrogance, indifference and coldness towards others suffering leads to one’s demise. Anyway, I’m always the loser in the end. It seems that it’s part of my life and that I’ll always be alone and I will never be able to count on others when I feel bad. People are selfish and they only think about themselves.

      1. Rafael, I’m sorry you’ve been suffering, but I know Papa God has a plan. I would advise you to focus on Him and His best as you walk this path to resolution of past mistakes. I have been praying for you.

    6. Thank you for this post. God knows how to provide us with the encouragement that we need when we need it. My husband and I run ANew Beginning in War WV. God called us here almost a year ago. It has turned into a 24/7 program. But we always know we are called to do more. Thanks again and God bless.

      1. Mary, thank you for reading. And hang in there. Thank you for the work you do.
        My husband is from WV and we have a lot of family there… so hello to the home state from afar! 🙂

    7. Rafael-Olivier Somma says:

      Forget the last one, I just saw that my previous message is awaiting moderation.

      1. Yes, it was. Please remember that it may take me several days to moderate comments and I cannot reply to all emails even. Thank you for being patient and for understanding.

    8. its often bothered me when people say something like “call me if you want to chat” when really im crying out inwardly for someone to reach out to me and treat me like a friend, but i feel if i have to tell them to call me or tell them how to treat me, that i wont really get what i want. on that note, i actually had this sense in myself today that im feeling good being on my own, like its okay that i dont have many friends or the friends that i want right now it was a positive feeling a warm feeling. obviously i still feel friendly with people and will talk to people but my emotional need for them today sensed like i was good being on my own it could be just a part of myself and not my whole being but its good anyhow. ive never felt this before in my entire life. praise God

      1. Michael, I’m so sorry you’ve struggled with this, but I pray the God of all comfort would minister to you, comfort you, and encourage you during this time. Thank you for reading… 🙂

    9. Paige Gregory says:

      VERY perceptive article on a subject that is veiled, however thinly. LOTS of stuff packed into that article. But on the subject of having time for people, going to people, etc. here’s a truth bomb that would flat out tick off a lot of folks.

      First, some context. Recall to your mind the feeling we all have about comfort, habit, preferences, Like for instance when you were looking forward to a night in but someone calls and really needs your help with something. Or you’re leaving the store and are in a big rush and you pass a mom who’s trying to navigate a baby, a toddler and loading her groceries in the car – that moment when you decide if you can lay aside you business and help her load her groceries. Those moments when have to choose between your casual, non-urgent needs and something that is more important. Diapers vs. big boy pants. We all encounter this choice, probably pretty regularly. Sometimes we choose right, sometimes we don’t.

      So to answer your question – What happened to all of us seeking out, serving, and laying down our lives for others, the way Jesus taught?

      The answer is no doubt layered, but I can tell you one of the reasons is the American family, the almost manic striving to check every box, and the worship of family, which I think started in the 90’s ?? The significant cultural changes in the 60’s-80’s led to what seems like a soft law intended to re-calibrate. “We need to make our kids and spouses THE most important thing ever and be in a major protective mode.”

      In this church culture shift to an overemphasis on the family, I think it gave license or cover to pursue what I call “bubble life,” i.e. an insulated, very carefully curated way of living where family units turn inward and live inside this bubble. When families and the individuals in them only live life on their terms, by their schedules, their preferences, with occasional alliances with other families who are the same – they can say it’s all for my family, etc. etc. It becomes a counterfeit type of service. I don’t mean that caring for your family is bad, but when it gets into bubble life status, I feel like the thought is “I’m ‘caring’ for my family which is the highest calling of all, so my serving and discipling check-boxes are done.”

      I think this mindset gives cover to sometimes go the wrong way in the type of scenarios I described above. Worship of the family allows for lots of scapegoat opportunities to pursue what you want instead of shaking up your routine, being stretched, going TO others lives because “being there for your family” has been promoted as the highest possible calling.

      So when someone like me for some reason, goes unmarried, it catapults you into a very tertiary life. You sometimes get to visit their bubble, but rarely do they leave the bubble to come into your world.

      #SorryNotSorry 🙂

      1. Deep thoughts! I agree that sometimes we put family where it shouldn’t be. Problem is, our definition of “family” often means “whatever the kids want to do,” not actually “family” or things that build family. 🙁

    10. I was really down and angry on something at work and I needed healing in my heart for some comments that were made about me that were unjustified. I prayed this prayer and a big decision in my favor was made the very next day. I loved this prayer because it is based on the word and I needed this because the prayer was put together so beautifully

    11. Carlos Delgado says:

      Thank you for these biblical literature. I believe that the Spirit lead me here so I can move onward where God had created me to do….. in my destination. Hallelujah. And it is right on time for what God is going to do. My heart is so thankful and praises God the Father through Jesus Christ. Amen 🙏!!!

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