Close this search box.

Training Disciples: Why Do Learners Not Change on the Pathway?

Path in the forest

Over the years, I have had the privilege of walking with many followers of Christ as we seek to follow Him together and obey Him.

In my praying and making a disciple of Christ, I have been frustrated at different points for many reasons. One of the main challenges is that a learner of Jesus’ way will agree to obey and do, and then does not follow through on the commitment.

An example could be that we agree to read a chapter of John each day and take 15 minutes to pray. The disciple and I would talk it over, and many times Bible reading and/or prayer would not happen.

Instead of driving it harder or leaving the disciple behind due to his lack of commitment and faith, I have come to ask several questions that help me in diagnosing the block in the disciple’s growth.

THE FIRST QUESTION is whether he has a sufficient Biblical understanding and knowledge from God’s Word on the principle he is to be living out. Conviction and “principle living” must come from the Bible. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God’s Word, he reminds Timothy, is the foundation of our teaching/doctrine and is what is to be used in bringing about completeness in a man’s life. It is the Holy Spirit’s tool in bringing about deep conviction and change – not cool programs and activities.

Christ at the end of His earthly ministry would state in John 17:17:

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

God’s Word is His tool in purifying hearts and minds. The Word is truth. That truth is a compass for our souls and churches today.

So when a man is struggling with doing the first question, whether he has drunk from the Word on the subject – that would bring about conviction.

I do remember a disciple-maker sharing one time that when he came to Christ from the world, his leader did not tell him to stop smoking cigarettes. Instead, his leader got him in the Word, and when he came to 1 Cor. 6:19-20 – where he saw that his body belonged to God and he was not caring for it as God wanted – he repented and stopped immediately after being convicted by the Word, not by a moral Christian saying.

THE SECOND QUESTION to ask is whether the new disciple knows how to do the thing he is supposed to do for Jesus.

It is easy in my Christianity to overload new believers with things that I learned decades ago, but I must make sure they can carry out the task. I have had guys who struggled with arriving on time all the time. Instead of being critical of their laziness, I have studied the Word with them on their yes being yes, and their no being no, along with seeking first the kingdom (Matt. 6:33).

The way we manage our time shows our hearts and priorities. I have showed men how to sit down once a week and make a plan for living out God commitments. Also, we have talked over preparation time for Bible studies and when that could happen.

A passage in Ephesians 5:16-17 sets the stage for how we must use every day God gives us as his children.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Taking advantage of God’s time and not robbing others of it is a true sign of a growing disciple.

THE THIRD QUESTION I ask is whether they are struggling because of lack of accountability leading to consistency. It takes 21 days to create a habit, and one to break sometimes, but many times a disciple needs someone alongside to keep them on the path.

If a guy is not getting up to pray as he committed, I have asked for the right to call him during the week at that time in order to pray with him and encourage him.

Accountability is talked about in our culture, but no one really wants it naturally. Every disciple grows in community through mutual accountability best.

Paul in Galatians 6:2 notes that community life is vital:

Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The verse prior talks about restoring someone, but verse two connects with the need that I have to be available to walk with and carry another’s burdens and challenges. As I do that, I am grown, and the other is grown at the same time.

THE LAST QUESTION to tackle is whether the follower of Christ has gotten burnt out and stagnant in his doing the basics. “Sure I have a quiet time each day,” I have had guys tell me. But, it is when I push in that, that I see that they are settling for drivetime listening and prayer, instead of pushing deeper with the Lord. One friend shared that his best time is in the morning on the way to meetings. So what would God want in his life for him to go deeper? Paul understood this in Philippians 3:13-14:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

Learning and pressing on toward Jesus is a daily need in the life of a follower of Christ. Doing the same activity every Sunday or every day can lead to stagnation if the meaning is not touched and the opportunity to grow and go deeper is not actualized.

Every person has in them the need to grow and create. I have seen that – when I challenge a disciple to begin leading and giving into the Bible study they can move to a deeper commitment.

So in the future instead of just pressing in and living frustrated with a disciple you are investing in regularly, ask the questions and respond in wisdom.

Scripture quoted above is from the Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

State Missionary Brian Harper serves as lead church planting strategist. He may be contacted at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 2332, or (334) 613-2332,

Share on Social Media: