Making Disciples Relationally

Two young boys taught me the essence of “true” disciplemaking.

I grew up in an environment where making disciples meant working with another person to fill in the blanks in a book focused on the Gospel of John.

These guys put it back into the perspective of the New Testament. I mean, can you imagine 13 guys hanging around the Sea of Galilee without talking about women or skipping stones across water? In short, making disciples must be relational in order to be real.

These kids stood out, Dan Boyd was a tall, lanky 12-year-old with braces when we met. By the time I was hired, he was 15 and the clown in any room. Jeff Miller was the pastor’s son—we had known each other since he was about eight. They were all good kids, but Dan and Jeff shone whenever concern for the Lord would show. Both Dan and Jeff became leaders in the youth group and today, both are successful leaders in their denomination.

Dan got into church planting early in the life of our movement. He planted a Hope Chapel near Marina del Rey and now pastors Hope Chapel in Santa Rosa, California from where he has launched numerous churches including a growing movement in Fiji.

Jeff spent much time as an executive in one of the denomination’s regional offices. He also pastored successfully. Both are successful husbands and fathers.

 The Son I Never Expected

After graduating from a Bible college, I was just settling into my first church job (and my marriage) when my 15-year-old brother-in-law, Tim Correa, moved in with Ruby and me.

Talk about being stressed-out. I had no idea how to cope with this sudden addition to our family. It was complicated by the fact that he had been caught with marijuana which is no big deal today but those times were different. I was in shock for the first couple of weeks.

It was Dan who first befriended Tim. And it was Jeff who found an after-school job for him. Their friendship drew him to Jesus while I was still wringing my hands trying to figure out what to do. They literally discipled him into faith. After Tim accepted the Lord, Dan taught him to live like a follower of Jesus.

As I watched the interaction between Dan and Tim I slowly became aware of relational disciplemaking. Dan simply spent time with Tim until his faith rubbed off and Tim decided to follow Christ.

Watching them caused me to realize that I had actually been doing much the same thing with Dan and Jeff. They both came to our apartment after school, on a daily basis, eating our cupboards bare. These kids taught me what it meant to make disciples relationally rather than out of a book.

Making Disciples Bears Fruit

Under Dan and Jeff’s leadership, many young people came to Christ and a very effective witness went out to what was the largest high school in the country at that time.

They organized a six AM prayer meeting every Tuesday morning with about 30 high schoolers in attendance. They ran a Bible study at noon on campus, singing Jesus songs right next to the radical “Students for a Democratic Society.” A couple of the SDS leaders decided to follow Christ as a result.

One result of Dan and Jeff’s labor is Tim—today he is an elder in his church and his kids love God. Another result is the change those kids enabled in my life and ministry.

Equipped For Change

When my wife and I planted the first Hope Chapel, in a cavernous building (it held 66 people) with ten other people we were better prepared for what came next. The second Sunday attendance was 150 percent of the first week (18 is bigger than 12), but the crowd changed from a bunch of our friends to new believers put off by other churches. These were hippies and bikers. A straight-laced Bible college graduate, I was ill-prepared for these people. I simply did not know what to do. And neither did the surrounding churches. However, the lessons lived by Dan and Jeff soon took hold and I learned that personal relationships change people. The new attenders grew in Christ, but so did I. My horizons expanded to loving people just as they are. Whatever change needs to happen usually occurs where two or three gather in his name. Over the years we even learned to disciple people into pastoral ministry. We study books together but the primary emphasis is always relational.

Church multiplication is a great journey that wouldn’t have happened to me if it weren’t for lessons they never taught me in college. I’ve found that making disciples, relationaly, bears fruit you would never expect. Doctrinal issues, culture clashes and even lack of facilities become smaller issues if you build tight relationships with those you would disciple. Struggle plus relationships often birth innovation and relevance.

(Adapted from Let Go Of The Ring)




1 thought on “Making Disciples Relationally”

  1. This is great! Many followers of Jesus fear the concept of the making of disciples. My wife offers some of the best advice by saying, “Just go be yourself.”

    One of the best places to observe relationship turn into disciple making is prison where the inmates who follow Jesus rub off on others. I’ve seen men quickly move from refusing to look at me, or shake my hand, to leading worship or sharing a testimony in a matter of weeks. Thanks Ralph!

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