Many of us in college ministry have recently begun a new semester of ministry. And the Spring is always a little different than the Fall, with different focuses and emphases. Usually, the Fall is jam-packed with “going wide” in our ministry. This simply means to expand our ministry contacts, to meet incoming Freshmen, to establish friendships and relationships with new students.
Now, the Spring is usually a little different. Our focus tends to shift from “going wide” in our ministry to “going deep”. If our Fall went according to plan, in meeting new students and evangelizing lost students, then in the Spring, we are ready to begin to focus more on establishing our students as disciples of Jesus.
And with that focus comes the decisions to choose who’s ready for discipleship. Because if you’re strategic in your discipleship process, for the purpose of maximizing multiplication, then you must have some sort of criteria for choosing students who are ready for much more intense growth through discipleship. There are healthy “marks” of those who are ready for the commitment. And I want to walk through an acronym I learned many years back that has helped me distinguish in my own ministry who is really ready for discipleship: F.A.I.T.H. Disciples.
The “F” stands for faithfulness.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul lays out this characteristic: “Entrust to faithful men (or women)”. Faithfulness is an often-neglected fruit of a life that has been transformed by the message of the Gospel. It’s one of the few things in our Christian walks that we have control over. We can control (for the most part) whether we’re going to “show up”. And if you take discipleship seriously, then it’s a big commitment and has expectations for both involved. Therefore, you want to make sure that the student has shown the characteristic of faithfulness as you have observed them.
The way I usually try to discern this is by giving a student responsibility to see if they keep it. I challenge a student to see how they take it. Do they respond with eagerness to grow? Do they show up? I don’t mean simply faithfulness to be somewhere, but a faithfulness in their relationship with Jesus as well.
The “A” stands for availability.
Do those you’re inviting into discipleship bear the mark of availability? Do they have the time required? Do they “bite your hand off” for opportunities to be around you? Availability is important because for discipleship to truly be transformative and impactful, the disciple must be available to be around their mentor. Jesus’ disciples were available for ministry opportunities and teaching. They recognized their need for time with Jesus and made decisions in light of it.
But all the work for this mark isn’t on the disciple, but also the discipler. Are you giving your disciples/students chances to be available to come with you as you do ministry? Are you inviting them into your evangelistic conversations? Are you inviting them to spend time with you while you’re on campus or with your family? Jesus was so good at this! He invited His disciples to participate, not to merely observe.
The “I” stands for interdependence.
There are 2 extremes when it comes to a person’s growth. They are either completely dependent upon someone else, co-dependency. Meaning they cannot function without that person. Or there is independence. They don’t see their need for anyone else, the church, or any community. They are a “Rambo” Christian. But we need students and disciples who are in the middle. They see their need for others, but able to feed themselves.
Does the student see their need for the body of Christ? Or is it just you that they hang out with? Do they know others and are connected to others in the ministry? This part takes time to assess yet is drastically vital to a disciple’s health. They need the Church, and they need smaller groups who know and challenge them. They don’t just need you to spoon-feed them.
The “T” stands for teachability.
Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.” Does the person you’re looking at discipling have a teachable heart? Are they a sponge, or more of a rock when it comes to their response to knowledge?
If a disciple doesn’t have a teachable spirit, it is impossible for them to grow. Do they bear the mark of the good soil that multiples from Matthew 13? They value the Word of God and the Word being taught and are eager to receive truth. They don’t harden their hearts to correction but embrace it as a part of their growth. An easy way to assess this mark is this, what do they do with the resources you give them?
The “H” stands for Hunger.
We all know that you cannot force-feed a disciple. You cannot choose a disciple based merely off their “potential”. I’ve had students who I thought, “if they got it and really began to embrace multiplication, they would impact so many”. But the truth is, they weren’t hungry for discipleship.
Hunger I believe is easy to assess. This is the student who has nobody telling them what to do, they are already doing it on their own. They’re already devouring scripture. They’re already having evangelistic conversations. They’re already seeking for opportunities to serve. They’re already seeking to walk in holiness and accountability. They’re reaching out to you for anything they can get from you. The list goes on and on. But the truth remains: we need to invest in the hungry, not merely the influential or one with the most “potential”. We don’t have much time, so invest it wisely.
Now, not every single student you want to disciple will bear all these marks perfectly, but they should be at least bearing some fruit of these characteristics. If you’re more strategic with who you intentionally disciple, you set yourself up for more multiplication. And you keep disciples who aren’t genuinely ready for the commitment out of your group where they cannot slow everyone else down.
For those who aren’t ready for intense discipleship, we have a place for them. We don’t just disregard them. We have small groups for them to begin to grow and bear these marks! So, be picky with your disciples! It pays off in the end.