When you’re too busy to, personally, make disciples

“I need to delegate disciplemaking.” “Running the church takes so much time that I need to delegate that.” “You don’t know how busy I am. This ministry has grown huge and lots of people depend on me.” And on and on…

Over the years I bet I’ve heard a hundred reasons why busy leaders (like you?) are so time pressed that personal disciplemaking is out of the question.

But is it really?

My favorite thing to do in disciplemaking seminars is to get everyone poised with pen in hand, hold my breath for five seconds and then tell them to write the names of their three closest disciples, without thinking. Some scribble three names in a hurry. Others have a longer list, but many others just stare at the paper. Some of those eventually put down a name or two, but if it takes a while to list them I always wonder if they are really making disciples.

So, what do you do if you are too busy to make disciples?

You cut something out. It’s pretty simple. Jesus never told us to go build a big church or a large and successful parachurch ministry. He did say that we are to make disciples. And he showed us how to do it.

Yes, it takes time—lots of it. And I understand that you may feel that you are too busy or too necessary to a smooth-running organization to spend time with just a handful of people. Gut this isn’t an option. It’s a command, and it happens to lay a path toward turning whatever you do into a movement.

A reality check

A side benefit to making disciples is the way they keep you real. The ivory tower isolates leaders.

You may be surrounded by people who make the world turn. They may turn on your every word, but I guarantee they are no substitute for close contact with a few people in a disciplemaking relationship.

Get friendly enough and your disciple will argue with you, which is infinitely better than surrounding yourself with people whose paycheck comes from your desk. You’ll learn to cry with some and rejoice with others. Your disciples will pry your fingers off sophisticated programs in favor of building relational equity into your organization.

Ultimate benefits

If you make disciples, their victories become yours. You gain a broader perspective on ministry–you even grow when disciples blow a tire or turn against you. Paul did. And you reproduce (hopefully multiply) yourself many times over.

Jesus spent more time with the few than with the crowds. We have much to glean from his example. Someone counted the events in Jesus’ walk, discovering that more than 70 percent of the recorded events find him relating to his disciples. This may be hard to grasp, but the movement he touched off is bigger than yours or my church or 501 c3. The grand reward for making disciples is more disciples of Jesus as your disciples repeat the process.

I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this intends to leverage their life to its fullest potential. Trouble is we get sidetracked by things that promise much but deliver little. Just look at your budget from three years ago checking off those wonderful investments that brought little return.

Consider your staff meetings. How could they be modified to provide disciplemaking opportunities? How could a relationship with your next-door-neighbor enlighten you to spiritual needs and opportunities you never considered. If you’re too busy to make disciples its time for a serious priority check.

If you’ve faced this problem and overcome it, maybe you have advice for the rest of us. Or, perhaps, you stumbled into a unique way to relate in a disciplemaking relationship. Please comment below…




10 thoughts on “When you’re too busy to, personally, make disciples”

  1. My favorite part of this post is: “Get friendly enough and your disciple will argue with you.” That’s encouraging since mine argue with me every day!

  2. I’m a church-planter pastor, and I found myself in just this position…too busy running a church to make disciples. So I began to pray and ask God for some new disciples. Then I began making friends outside of the church. In just a couple months, things began to change.

    I now have four disciples in various levels of spiritual growth. Two are still not Christ-followers, but they will be. I meet with them every Saturday morning.

    I found new vitality as I moved out into the culture for new friends. And I can talk about discipleship in an entirely new way. So guess what…my staff is now doing the same thing, and they are loving it.

    We discovered we are not too busy in ministry to carry out the Great Commission!!!

  3. Good stuff, Ralph. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. The theology of Jesus without the methodology of Jesus will not produce disciples of Jesus.

  4. I work with the multi-generational poverty culture; 15 years now. Most are in survival mode and locked in concrete thinking. The only discipleship method that works is life on life. Being with them when they are making decisions and helping them ask themselves questions they have never asked themselves produces precious moments of growth. The “daily” nature of the first church is essential. Though poor, most have a smartphone. Getting connected and communicating daily provides a way to help my disciples to think outside the box. Still, it is the time being present with them that works the best. Body English, eye contact, tone of voice, sensing their mood increase the quality and deepen the understanding of the relationship. Yes, it is time consuming. But there is no cure for that.

  5. Nice thoughts… I definitely agree that it is easy to become too busy to focus on impacting lives for Christ.

    I do have some thought, though. It is often assumed (as I pick up in this article) that discipleship is the individual responsibility of each Christian and that when Christ told us to make disciples he meant for each Christian to do the work of one-on-one or small group leading other people to grow in Christian maturity. But isn’t this a hyper-individualized picture of discipleship?

    Christ gave the great commission to the Church, that is, to a community. It is a corporate command to be realized in community and not as several individuals. And we see each respective Christian is given varying gifts (1Cor 12; Rom 12) that accomplish different things for the building up of the Church. The point is that it is possible to be part of the Church’s disciple-making commission by faithfully living out your appropriate spiritual gift(s) without every engaging in one-on-one mentoring or small group leading. If we are spending our time “building up the church” (1Cor 14:12, 26) then we are spending our time wisely, even if we don’t have a long list of people we are individually mentoring.

    I could be wrong, but I have found nothing anywhere in Scripture that hints that it is the responsibility of every Christian (or even every Christian leader) to have individuals they can identify as “their disciples”. In fact, such a narrow focus of discipleship has a potential to run counter to our mission because it leans toward us reduplicating ourselves and building, even if unintentionally, a following around ourselves. (Such was the problem in the Corinthian church per 1 Cor 1:10ff.

    Thanks for the article. Stimulating thoughts. Blessings!

    1. This is well said. I think this is especially true of campus ministries. I came to Christ through one and led one as a college student so I’m deeply grateful for their impact. But they do not gather for worship with the word and sacraments. They do not have eldership etc. Campus ministries major on life-on-life discipleship and entice the church back to her original calling that way. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a church to raise a disciple.

      But I think of the original mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28). While this was given to Adam and Eve as the representative of humanity (only know as “Man” at this point), it’s clear that it is a commission carried out at an individual level. It takes a man and a woman to be fruitful and multiply. Similarly, I believe the Great Commission (Matt 28) is given to the church at large. But it is carried out by individuals as they bring people to Jesus then raise them up to maturity and to the point where they can reproduce disciples themselves.

      Maybe that was confusing but my point is: yes the great commission was given to the whole church but that does not mean anyone is left out of the calling to make, mature, and multiply disciples through life on life disciple-making.

      That’s my take, I’d love to hear pushback.

  6. Pingback: A Belated Thank-you to My Youth Pastor – Ralph Moore

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