Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb 13:20-21).
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12).
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? (James 2:15-16).
Has anyone ever cast a great vision to you, but not explained to you how to reach it?
People like to say quick blurbs about what they believe. One thing a lot of pastors like to say is, “I hate debt. Nobody should ever go into debt.” And they’re very proud of it.
And I agree, to a fair extent. As someone who has owed a lot of money, I can say very firmly I hate debt.
But saying, “I hate debt. No one should ever go into debt,” is a pretty useless statement. Because what is debt? Debt is a symptom of not knowing how to manage your money.
Nobody wants to go into debt. Most go into debt simply because no one ever taught them how to manage their money. Some go into debt because of emergencies, but for the most part, Americans have, more than ever, gone into debt because we don’t know how to manage our money at all.
James says it’s useless to wish someone warmth and food when they’re cold and hungry. It is likewise useless to wish someone a debt-free life—or to command them to not go into debt—if you don’t bother to actually teach them how to do it.
This is an important part of all discipleship. And it’s an easy mistake to make.
So often, disciplers get caught up in telling people what to do, we don’t teach them how to do it. And it’s a failure in our discipleship itself.
Another common thing pastors fail in discipleship with is sexual purity. We will tell you to avoid porn and lust, and why to avoid it, and the consequences of it. But how often do pastors tell you how to get out of porn addiction and slavery to lust? Wouldn’t the latter be much more useful?
The latter is all the more important when you consider that the average age of porn exposure is somewhere below age 10. So by the time pastors even start preaching about it, people have probably already been exposed to it. By the time your campus pastor talked about it last semester, you or your friends might have been addicted for years.
This makes teaching how to be sexually pure so much more important! More important, even, than telling people to stay pure. Because by age 20, it’s probably too late to tell people to stay sexually pure; they need to learn how to get out of sexual immorality, in whatever way they’re caught up in it.
It is so very, very vital that, when you disciple people, you teach them how as well as why and what.
How can you do that?
First, ask if they have questions. Give them an opportunity to ask how. If they trust you, they’ll ask. If they think about it.
But some people are processors and they won’t think, “Oh, I don’t know how to do this,” right away. They’ll realize that later. So ask more specific questions.
Coach them. Guide them with questions. Ask them how they’re going to do it.
Let’s say you’re coaching someone in getting out of debt. What pointed questions can you ask that will teach them how to do it, interactively?
For starters, you can ask simply, “Do you have a budget?” For most people, the answer will be, “No.” That’s just statistics. And even if the answer is yes, ask them, “Do you live by it?” For a good portion of those who said yes, they aren’t living by it. Which is useless.
If they don’t have a budget, you can ask them (a) if they want to, (b) if they know how to make one, and (c) if they’d like help with it. If they do have a budget but don’t live by it, you can ask them (i) what’s keeping them from living by it, (ii) what they can do to start living by it, and (iii) if they’d like help and encouragement to do so.
Simple questions, but questions that will get them to start solving their problems. Because often we see the problems and just stop there, giving up. But they aren’t insurmountable.
So use your questions to guide them through the problem. And give your insight, encourage them in it, and teach them.
And then you keep following up on it. More problems will come up. So you need to keep asking about it. Keep asking questions month after month.
This is so much more effective than just telling them to do something or not to do something. It will make you a much better discipler, and it will make those whom you are discipling much better disciples and much better disciplers when their time comes.
Don’t be satisfied with just telling people what to do. Teach them how to do it!