Becoming a disciple maker at home doesn’t happen overnight. But God loves ordinary faithfulness and uses our imperfect offerings for good.
By Reid Patton
The first discipleship group my wife and I took part in together was where engaged and newly married couples were mentored by a more mature couple.
At the end of the class, the five young couples decided to continue meeting as a group. And I became the leader. Over the next couple of years, sitting in living rooms, coffee shops, and restaurants with these friends, I learned being a disciple maker doesn’t come with an instruction manual.
I quickly realized the men and women in the group wanted to be spiritual leaders who cultivated homes where spiritual growth took place. Yet none of us knew how. This kind of home-based discipleship we desired wasn’t something that had been modeled for us. So how could we pass on something we wanted but had never seen?
Since then, I’ve spent time reflecting on how I might encourage my younger self to be a disciple maker in his home. By God’s grace, and a lot of trial and error, here are a few bits of advice I would pass on to young Reid (though older Reid knows younger Reid may be too headstrong to accept).
1. It’s OK to admit you don’t know what you’re doing
When I heard guys in my group say they didn’t know what they were doing, it was freeing to me. My friends’ simple confession shifted my thinking from “I’m the only one who doesn’t know what I’m doing” to “I’m not alone.” Empathy lightened my load and gave me the freedom to see my pursuit of discipleship was imperfect, and that was OK.
Whether you’re a newlywed husband or first-time father, you’re doing something you’ve never done before. To do those things while trying to lead your home to follow Jesus can feel daunting. Vulnerability and authenticity create a pathway for growth.“Vulnerability and authenticity create a pathway for growth.” — @jreidpatton Click To Tweet
As a ministry leader, you may feel the temptation to put your best foot forward or refuse to acknowledge a time when you didn’t know what you didn’t know. Consider that the simple confession of “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “There was a time when I didn’t know what I was doing” might be the release some people in your ministry need to pursue discipleship in their homes—without the fear of missing the mark.
2. Lower the bar
As a newly married man, I kept hearing I needed to be a “spiritual leader.” But there was never any clear explanation of what that meant. Because of that, the pressure of the expectations I put on myself was overwhelming. Lowering the bar doesn’t mean giving people a pass but rather giving them a vision for spiritual leadership.
As a new parent, I heard an interview with scholar and missiologist, Christopher J.H. Wright where he was asked how he became a Christian. He began his response by saying, “I grew up in a home where the Lord Jesus Christ was loved and worshiped.” It was another lightbulb moment for me.
But cultivating a home where Jesus is loved and worshiped doesn’t happen through a list of things we do or don’t do. It is a commitment for my wife and I to love and worship Jesus ourselves. It helped us shift our minds from discipleship being another activity to it being our whole lives.“Cultivating a home where Jesus is loved and worshiped doesn’t happen through a list of things we do or don’t do.” — @jreidpatton Click To Tweet
God used that simple statement to change the way we pray. Every day we pray with our daughter that we would love and serve Jesus and seek ways to show other people who He is. It is now a regular part of our conversations in car rides, at the store, and around the dinner table. Over time, it has become an expected, natural rhythm of our home.
Telling me to “be a spiritual leader” wasn’t enough. And worse, it was confusing. I became a spiritual leader when someone gave me a vision of what that meant.
3. To get to the mountain top, you’ve got to do a lot of ordinary walking
We all want those mountain-top experiences, but most of life is not a mountain-top experience. Most of life is what Eugene Peterson called “long obedience in the same direction.”
Consistency in ordinary things is where God does His best work. Though it may feel like nothing much is happening in those car conversations—that Bible reading, those scattered and interrupted family devotions—God is doing much more than you could ever imagine.
Because God is gracious and kind and cares more about our spiritual growth than we do, He will take our ordinary and imperfect obedience and do more with it than we could ever expect.“Because God is gracious and kind and cares more about our spiritual growth than we do, He will take our ordinary and imperfect obedience and do more with it than we could ever expect.” — @jreidpatton Click To Tweet
My daughter recently became a believer. While I believe God restored her soul and made her new in an instant, the process of God working in her life took years. It involved hundreds, if not thousands, of small conversations and moments, reading the Bible and praying across the span of her life.
Having my daughter call me to tell me she believed and trusted Jesus was a mountain-top moment. But it was also something I had prayed for every day of her life. It was the culmination of a lot of seeds planted and watered by all the people who invested in her. It took time, and it depended on God.
That shift in perspective helped me to see the scope and commitment involved with discipleship and allowed me to savor the steps as much as the view.
Becoming a disciple maker in your home doesn’t happen overnight. Not for you, and not for anyone in your ministry. But God loves ordinary faithfulness, and He takes our imperfect offering and uses it for our eternal good.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Reid is a content editor at Lifeway Christian Resources for adult ministry.