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Help! I Can’t Find Someone to Disciple Me (Garrett Kell)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.

Making Disciples

In this episode, Garrett Kell discusses why all Christians are called to be discipled and to disciple others. He reflects on why that might look different for different people in different seasons of life, highlights why discipling must always be a two-way street between the discipler and the disciplee, and discusses how to know when to take a break from a discipling relationship.

How Can I Find Someone to Disciple Me?

J. Garrett Kell

When Jesus calls someone to be his disciple, he’s calling them to turn from their sin and love him. In this addition to the Church Questions series, Garrett Kell helps Christians seek out one-on-one discipleship opportunities.

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Topics Addressed in This Interview:

02:02 - What Does It Mean to Be Discipled?

Matt Tully
Garret, thank you so much for joining me today on The Crossway Podcast.

Garrett Kell
It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Matt Tully
It’s probably a cliché at this point to say that there are no lone ranger Christians. I think we all know, intellectually at least, that we are meant for community, that we need other believers to speak into our lives and to help keep us following Christ with our whole hearts. And yet, I’ve heard many Christians over the years say that they don’t think they’ve ever actually been discipled by a more mature believer in their life. Do you hear that a lot? Is that something that you’ve experienced as well when you’ve talked with Christians?

Garrett Kell
I think for a lot of people that’s a common experience, at least they feel that way. I’m not sure if that’s always the case, and it depends on what we mean by discipling. I always want to follow up and ask, What do you mean by that? What is it that you’re looking for? But it may be the case. There are some people who certainly have been walking with the Lord, who desire to grow, and for whatever reason have just not had somebody to be really intentional and to pour into them and to help them follow Jesus all the more faithfully. So, it’s certainly common.

Matt Tully
Let’s dig into that. What do you mean by the word discipled, or to disciple somebody? What does that mean to you when you use it?

Garrett Kell
A disciple is simply a follower. We are all disciples of Jesus if we’ve turned from our sins and trusted in him. That’s what it means to be a Christian, a child of God. We are disciples, and we are following Jesus by faith, of course, and by the power of his Spirit. Everybody is being discipled by Jesus, ultimately, but that does, as you mention, happen in the context of community. We are to be disciples who are making disciples. We want to help other people follow Jesus. So, that’s basically what the Christian life is about. We’re always wanting to help people follow Jesus. It’s either helping people who don’t know Jesus understand what it means to follow Jesus. In that sense, evangelism is the beginning of the discipleship process—we’re calling people to follow Jesus. Or, for people who do know Jesus already, how do we grow in maturity? How do we love him more and seek to obey all that he has commanded us in every area of our life, calling everything under his lordship? Discipling is helping other people follow Jesus and obey him in everything.

Matt Tully
It strikes me that there’s a Christian culture around the idea of evangelism being something that we’re all called to do. Probably most of us have a constant level of guilt because we feel like we should be doing more with that, but I think it’s well understood that that is something that all Christians, to some extent, are called to do in different ways. And yet, I wonder if that’s not always the case with this idea of discipling other believers. We often view that as something that’s maybe more for a specific class of Christians, and it doesn’t necessarily include me. Have you observed that as well?

Garrett Kell
I think that’s a common misconception because we should always all be helping one another follow Jesus. There’s no JV and varsity. There’s no caste system in the Christian life and the community of Christ. In the church we are all to be helping one another follow Jesus, so this is not just something for the super spiritually mature. This is something that we are all aiming to do for one another all the time, and I think it happens in a lot of informal ways, even just with the church gathering. When we think about this strange pandemic season, one of the reasons many churches and Christians are suffering is we’re missing out on one another. There’s something that happens when the church gathers and we’re singing together and we’re reading the Scriptures together and we’re praying together and we sit under the Word together. There’s something that God uses, even in the gathering itself at the local church, that builds up one another, and then the fellowship afterwards and all of that—that’s even a form of discipling. We are all obeying Jesus in that moment, and we are seeking to help one another do the same. That’s been something that I think we’ve felt that’s missing right now. I certainly agree that people have that misconception, but I don’t think it’s a helpful one.

Matt Tully
You mentioned the JV vs. varsity distinction that is not a biblical idea; are there any other common misunderstandings of discipling, and what that even means, that you’ve encountered?

Garrett Kell
I think a lot of times people feel like they have to have their life figured out before they can start helping other people, and that’s just—who’s got it figured out? There’s nobody but Jesus who has got it all together. We are all imperfect people following Jesus, helping other imperfect people follow Jesus. I think there’s got to be a willingness to invite others into the midst of your mess and just say, I don’t have it all together, but I’m a beggar and I’ve found some bread, and his name is Jesus. Let’s go learn to eat together. I think that requires some humility, some willingness to not be ashamed of not having it all together. I think that’s a huge part of being able to be the kind of person that others can look to and desire to follow. That’s going to help them to understand who the gospel is for. The gospel is not for people who have it all figured out.

Matt Tully
You’ve mentioned that discipling can often take many different forms and that even being together on a Sunday morning for corporate worship is a form of discipling that we’re experiencing. A lot of times the way people use that word is to refer to a more one on one or small group kind of relationship where there’s an older, more mature Christian who is intentionally instructing and encouraging and building up a younger Christian. How does that dynamic and particular form of a discipling relationship fit into this conversation?

Garrett Kell
I wanted to start with the other one first because I don’t want to minimize how much good stuff God is doing in somebody’s life by the regular gathering together. I do think this other dynamic is wise and good. We see Timothy being poured into by Paul. He needed it. He was a young believer who needed somebody like Paul to come alongside him and help him to grow, to encourage him in areas where he was timid or fearful, and to be a model and say, Imitate me as I’ve imitated Christ. I think it’s a part of the Christian life; I think it’s wise to seek that out. I think we should pray for God to bring those sorts of relationships into our lives, to pursue those sorts of relationships. I think they’re vital. I don’t think they’re essential, but I think that God certainly uses them.

Matt Tully
What would you say are some key marks of a discipling relationship where it is a one on three or a one to one dynamic? Are there any key markers that you would say would be important to consider (acknowledging that these relationships might look a little bit different depending on the situation)?

Garrett Kell
I think it’s all the basics. In the discipling relationships that I’m a part of, what we’re typically doing is we want to pray together—and pray about what’s really going on. Even on the way over here I was talking with another believer, and we were talking about some of the common stresses right now with family dynamics and different ministry things that are going on. We were praying for one another. He’s giving me wisdom. This is a brother I look up to, and he helps me. I was feeling it this morning and I was struggling. I reached out to him and he helped me. He pointed out some wise things, and then we prayed about it and asked God for help, for wisdom, for strength. So, I think it’s praying, and praying specifically about areas that we are seeking to submit to the lordship of Jesus and obey him in as it relates to the people that are around us, both believers and non-believers. And then the Word. Part of the Great Commission is to make disciples, to “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). I think it’s normal—we talk about this at our church all the time—it’s normal for Christians to sit down and open the Bible together to read it and to ask, What do we see about God? What do we see about ourselves? What does he want us to do? How are we doing that well that we could encourage each other and celebrate and praise God for the work of his Spirit in our lives? What are the areas we need to confess and say, To be honest with you, I am not doing this well right now. I’m really struggling to be at peace with all people. I understand that it says I must be at peace with all men, but right now I really feel like they owe me to come to me. And we can say, Okay, let’s bring that to the Lord. Let’s confess that. What did Jesus do? He sought us out, so let’s ask God for strength to seek them out. So, prayer, Word, and then stewardship of time and money. How are we using those things? Those are areas we don’t always want to get into, but let’s talk about it. And then evangelism. Who are the people around you right now who don’t know the Lord, and how are we being intentional to invite them into our lives, to pray for them, to reach out to them, to have them in our homes when we’re able? I think everything that Christians are supposed to be doing, as we’re doing it, we do it together. We’re having people who are good models that we look up to helping us to see ways that we can continue to grow.

11:26 - Discipling Is a Two-Way Street

Matt Tully
How important is it that a discipling relationship like you’ve just described be a two-way street where there’s a mutual sharing and a mutual bearing of one another’s burdens? I think sometimes people see that, but oftentimes, maybe we think of a discipling relationship as, I’m going and being served by this mentor-type person, and it’s a one-way street where I’m sharing things that I’m struggling with, but that never comes back the other direction.

Garrett Kell
I appreciate this question because this is one of the things that early on I misunderstood, and I get a little emotional about it. I think right now as a pastor people look up to me in our church because I’m a pastor and they’re encouraged to examine my faith. This past Sunday I got up after singing three songs in a row—”All I Have Is Christ,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” and others—and I got up and told them, I want to first thank y’all because I look out there at all these people who are struggling with miscarriages and marriages that are hard, or people who want to be married who aren’t or people who are struggling with sin—you could fill in 10,000 blanks there—and watching them keep trying to trust Jesus helps me. It helps me to keep trusting Jesus. Or when I sit down with a wife who was unjustly left by her husband and trying to take her through courts and all this kind of stuff and I see her through tears say, I just want to trust the Lord. She thinks I’m helping her, but I need that. She helps me follow Jesus. So, there’s something about taking the Word and helping to give it to somebody else, and then watching them struggling to try to obey Jesus that gives life to the person who is helping. It’s always a two-way street. None of us are exempt from needing help from one another.

Matt Tully
Do you think it’s particularly difficult to receive help, and even ask for help, from other people as a pastor and leader in your church?

Garrett Kell
I think it can be. Early in my ministry I felt the need to be something that I don’t think Jesus called me to be, which was the Answer Man. I’m not the Answer Man. My job, as Jared Wilson will say, is to point to the Answer Man, and his name is Jesus. I have learned, by God’s grace and through a lot of failure and pain, to just be comfortable with being a fellow child of God. I am a pastor, but I’m first a Christian. I’m a shepherd, but I’m first a sheep. I think if we ever get over that, then we’re in trouble. By God’s grace we have other elders here, and all of them have that same sort of mindset and they model that well. So, by God’s grace I surround myself with people who love me but are not impressed with me. That really helps me to stay humble before God’s grace and need of him. So, I think for leaders it’s okay. I’ll even start conversations that I’m starting to meet with and say, Hey, I just want to be really clear: Yes, I’m your pastor; I understand that can be intimidating for you, but I just want you to know that I’m a Christian. This is how I came to know Jesus, this is how I’m trusting Jesus right now. I’m going to share things with you that I need you to pray for me about—I think you need some wisdom and discernment about how much to share and all that kind of stuff, but I let people in in a way that I think models for them the sort of weakness that they need to be able to follow Jesus too. If we all just come trying to pretend and impress one another, nobody is going to grow. That’s anti-discipling.

15:10 - Common Objections to Intentional Discipleship

Matt Tully
I wonder if you could respond to a few common objections that disciplers or disciplees might have when it comes to this idea of being intentional with a discipling relationship in particular. The first one, which is probably the most common that we might hear, is, I’m too busy. I’m too busy either to disciple someone else or to be discipled in this kind of intentional way. What would you say to that?

Garrett Kell
I’d say, I appreciate you sharing that. What do you mean? What are you doing? What are you using your time, energy, and effort for? I would first want to evaluate whether or not there are things that could be trimmed out, and I would also ask what are ways that you can involve people in what you’re already doing? I think this is one of the biggest things. When you watch Jesus, he did have sit-down teaching times, but most of the discipling is, Hey, we’re going this way. Let’s go. Come with me. If you’re going to the grocery store and there’s somebody that lives nearby, say, Hey, can I swing by and pick you up? We’re going to go to the grocery store for a little bit. Or, Hey, I’m going to go visit somebody in the hospital. Do you want to come with me? Everybody has to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’re in the D.C. area where everybody is super busy, so we found that using the meal hours is a great time to get together. Everybody’s got to eat anyway, so let’s get together and talk. The Lord seems to use those times. So, I think asking are there things that can be trimmed out, but also asking how can you invite people into what you’re already doing. That’s huge.

Matt Tully
Objection number two, and this is maybe more on the disciplers side: I’m just not spiritually mature enough or knowledgeable enough, when it comes to the Bible or theology or the Christian life, to disciple somebody else.

Garrett Kell
That may be the case. I would like to examine and ask, Tell me why. What do you mean? If they’re a brand-new Christian—like, they’ve been a Christian a week or two—then, okay, maybe that is the case. But I would just say, again, you don’t need to be an expert. Can you open the Bible and read it with others? Invite people to grow with you. For instance, it’s rare for me to read a book by myself. If I’m about to read a book, I’m usually going to reach out to three or four other people and say, Hey, I’m about to read this book; would you guys be open to reading it with me? I just invite other people into it. I almost never read a book by myself because, first of all, conversation partners with a book a lot better.

Matt Tully
It’s a lot more fun.

Garrett Kell
It’s so much more fun. And then you guys can grow together. So, I think the most simple of things works well, just inviting people in and getting away from the performance mentality. I think this is where a lot of American evangelical performance, showy, flashy stuff—it’s intimidating. We can’t do some of this stuff. But that’s not what Jesus calls us to. He says, Just follow me. Open the Word. You can open the Bible with somebody else. You can read it, you can talk about what you see—how it’s encouraging, what’s confusing. Search for answers. That’s one of the things that has helped me most to grow in my Christian walk is having people ask questions that I don’t know the answers to, and I’m like, I have no idea. That’s a great question. How about this: why don’t you do a little research on it; I’ll do a little research on it; then next week let’s come back together and figure out what this means. We both try and do that, we share our resources, we come back, and we’ve both grown. So, just invite others into the process.

Matt Tully
That just strikes me as something that really does run counter to so much of the way that we often think about pastors in our churches and their role. For all of our talk about following Jesus, I think it could be hard for a lay Christian, but especially a pastor, to imagine telling somebody, I don’t know. Let’s learn that together.

Garrett Kell
Well, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know. The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine was really a liberating book for me. In that book there’s three chapters where he talks about how we’re not omniscient, we’re not omnipresent, and we’re not whatever the omni is. You can’t know everything, be everywhere, or do everything for everybody. It was so helpful. You’re not God! And you wouldn’t be a good God anyway, so just invite other people to seek God with you. I just think taking the pressure off trying to perform for one another, that’s the heart of the gospel for a pastor and a leader: I’m a fellow debtor to grace. Let’s come and get some bread.

Matt Tully
Here’s a last objection that we might often hear from a disciplee: I’ve tried it before. I’ve been in a discipling relationship and I’ve been burned. Maybe their confidence was broken—there was a trust violation—or maybe there was something akin to some sort of spiritual abuse. What would you say to the person like that?

Garrett Kell
That’s real. First, I would thank that person for even being willing to share that. Then I would first want to encourage them to remember that God was not unfaithful to them in that, and that God is the kind of God who can even use the disappointments, pain, and wrong views of him that were represented in that relationship to be able to help us to hunger for him in a true, right way that gives life rather than steals it. At our church, for whatever reason, we seem to have a number of people who have had those sorts of experiences, and so what I want to do is depressurize the situation. I would say, If you’re not ready right now, I understand. One of the things I want to encourage you to do is sit and watch and listen, and just be fed by the Word. If there’s something you see that you’re not sure about, I just want you to know you have an all-access pass to come to me, or any of your other pastors, and ask us anything. Depending on who the person is, sometimes I’ll even say, Would you be helped to come and sit at one of our elder meetings? You could just sit in the back row and just watch how we do stuff behind the scenes. Sometimes those sorts of things can correct misconceptions. Again, if this is a pastor meeting with somebody and doing that, that’s one thing. For other members, you can do the same sort of thing. Just say, We don’t need a formal relationship in regards to discipling. Why don’t you just come over to our house. It’s kind of a trick because that is discipling, but you can say, Come over and have a meal with us and do life with us and we’ll talk about what God’s doing. Discipling begins to happen in a way that can give life and heal some of those wounds and help them to be willing to take some more formal steps afterwards.

Matt Tully
But you don’t have to jump right into this formal, rigid type of relationship.

Garrett Kell
It’s not a program. It’s a relationship. There can be set things that you do, sure; but it’s basically doing life together, looking at Jesus together, helping each other do that, confessing when we don’t, and going to the throne of grace again, all the way until we see him face to face.

22:50 - Seasons of Discipleship

Matt Tully
I’ve spoken with a number of college student over the years who have testified to a really great experience in college, working maybe with a collegiate ministry on campus where there was a big emphasis on Bible study and prayer and discipling relationships where you’re meeting with a small group of other Christians and praying together and spurring one another on. And then many, many post-college students have testified to the fact that once they then leave and join a church, it has often been very hard to find that kind of relationship in a church context. One of the things that you emphasize in the book is that one of the best things we can do to find a discipler is to join a church and be involved in a church. But what would you say to the Christian who says, I’ve done that. I’m in a church, but I’m still having a really hard time finding somebody to disciple me.

Garrett Kell
One of our community group leaders who is a friend of mine and comes over to our house to work out was talking to me about this very conversation that came up in their community group. They’re reading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, and basically what they took away from it is that there are different seasons where God is doing different things. What he did in college, you should celebrate that, but trying to replicate that in a different season of life can oftentimes bring frustration because God’s not doing the same thing that he was doing in that other community that he’s doing in your new community. So, sometimes we can have this sentimental view of what it was like, and life is often very different when you’re in college.

Matt Tully
You’re living together in a dorm.

Garrett Kell
It’s just different, right? Typically, there is going to be that sort of letdown because it isn’t as sweet, but I think that’s where you have to ask, What is God doing now? How can we embrace what he’s doing now and be thankful and ask him to make this a different kind of sweet season? At the same time, for people who aren’t married, I think a lot of times coming into the church can be really hard, especially if churches are arranged and segregated—family ministry over here, the singles over here, older saints over here—rather than saying, Why don’t we not do that, and why don’t we just say if you’re not married, just come be part of our family? Come over for dinner. Come live with us. That kind of inviting others into our homes is one of the things we tell new members: If you’re a family, invite people who aren’t married into your homes. If you have an extra bedroom, pray about whether you would have somebody live there. Have people in and have people over for meals. Do stuff together. Go on vacations together. And then we encourage also, people who aren’t married, to be willing to enter in and to offer, I’d love to help you guys put something on at your house if we could get a bunch of people together. Just do life together in a way that brings down some of those walls that we might create, with good intention, that could end up actually undermining what we’re trying to accomplish in the church.

Matt Tully
You’ve been a pastor and on staff at a few churches; why do you think it is that that’s so common, that we see these walls come up? They’re not walls of hostility necessarily, but they’re sort of separating different people in different stages of life from one another, often older, more mature believers from younger believers.

Garrett Kell
I think it’s well-intended. There is something about being able to get together with people who are facing the same sort of struggle in the same stage of life and feeling the pressures in the same way that you can gain wisdom from and encouragement from because someone does experience the same sort of thing that you’re feeling. So I think it’s always well-intended, but we just got to remember that we’re not Gnostics. We don’t need experience of something to be able to help one another. The Lord is going to help us in the midst of that. So, I think it’s always well-intended, but I just don’t think that’s the model of the New Testament. When you read through the New Testament, they’re all together doing things together. Again, I think the more we can not segregate one another the better.

Matt Tully
Another thing I’ve heard from a lot of young adult Christians who really wanted to be discipled and who are really passionate about that and see the value of that is that in almost every instance they had to go seek that out. They had to go ask some older believer to disciple them, and maybe even ask multiple people and really pursue it. Have you noticed that as a trend?

Garrett Kell
I think that’s a reality for many people. Sometimes that’s because the people who would be doing the discipling are already doing that and are full, if you will. Last night at the end of the elder’s meeting, one of the guys said, Hey, we’ve got three college students who want to get discipled. Do any of you have bandwidth? We all looked at one another and we’re like, No, but I bet we could find somebody. Who’s going to help? So, we’re going to help connect them with somebody else. It may be that people are already full—the people that you would typically look to. When you’re doing your discipling, this is something that you want to be thinking about: Who of these guys that I’m pouring into might be somebody that we could connect with somebody else? Always be looking to the next generation of that. I think having that mindset is going to be helpful. I think there’s also the reality that there’s been a whole generation that’s been trained, basically—and I hate to say it this way—of come and sit and be entertained in church, we’re going to cater to you. Are the lights like you like them? Is the seat comfortable enough? Is your coffee the right temperature? There’s been a whole lot of that for a long time, which produces a strange sort of thing in a Christian that is about me and me being catered to. That’s not going to make someone eager to be like, Who can I serve? Instead, it’s, I’ve come to be served. Not every church is like this, and I’m not trying to throw the church under the bus, but I think there’s things that churches could do that don’t actually help, again, Great Commission sort of ministry. So, this is where it’s got to be modeled, it’s got to be encouraged. That’s where some of the younger believers who are hungry may go to somebody and and say, I need help, and then that couple feels like they don’t have anything to offer. Yes you do! You need them and their hunger and their zeal to spur on some of your own growth. And then we’re helping one another on the way to heaven.

29:35 - The Role of Pastors in Cultivating a Culture of Discipleship

Matt Tully
You’ve hit on this a little bit already, but what role should pastors and church leaders play in not just discipling others—we intuitively understand that’s part of the calling to be a pastor or shepherd—but also to cultivate a culture and even to help implement structures of discipleship in their churches where lay Christians are discipling other lay Christians?

Garrett Kell
I think the pastor’s responsibility in that is clear. We’ve got to be the pace-setters. There’s lots of different ways to do it. It doesn’t have to be programs; there are more organic ways to do it. For instance, in most every sermon, when we give applications (which I hope are sprinkled all the way through) we’re always giving encouragement like, Over lunch, why don’t you talk about this with somebody. Ask one another this question. You’re modeling; you’re teaching people how to do that. Also, I think teaching the Bible faithfully when the church is gathered gives the sort of fodder that is going to be for conversations and for building one another up. For instance, at our church we structure our community groups—which is what we do when we scatter. When we gather, we’re all together. When we scatter, there’s different groups that are meeting. Most of those groups have questions that are sent either by me or whoever else is preaching, or one of our pastoral assistants who’s really gifted in putting those kind of questions together, and sends them out to the community group leaders. It’s all oriented around the sermon that we’ve heard and asks, How do we take this and apply it? This is so that the congregation is talking about these things together. I think you just need to be thoughtful. Again, every church is going to look different. Some are going to be more programmatic. For instance, we have an evangelism training course during an early hour, before what you might call Sunday school, and it is a course. It’s nine months long—again, COVID makes everything weird—but when we get together, it’s structured. We have teaching and we have accountability and we have prayer and we have time for testimony. It’s aimed to change the culture of the church where the normal thing is we’re talking about our neighbors who don’t know the Lord and how we’re trying to reach out to them. I do think there’s areas for specifically aimed programs, but even out of that we’ve found what it does is that people are getting together and following up with one another, and it creates a culture of this is in the air; it’s what we do. I think the normal experience for the Christian should be that we get together, we hear the Word, we sing the Word, we pray in light of the Word, we see the Word in light of the sacraments, we scatter, and we help each other apply it. Then we want to help people who don’t know Jesus follow Jesus. That’s normal Christianity. No matter what else is going on, that’s what normal Christianity is. We want to honor the Lord privately, publicly. We want to be repenting of sin and resisting it for his glory and his pleasure—and for our own pleasure and joy—and helping foster that mindset. So, I just think that’s what Christians are and that’s what they do. I think the more we make that normal and expected, I think it’s better for the health of the church and everybody in it.

Matt Tully
Sometimes our language can almost subtly imply, If you really want to go above and beyond, you can get involved in this way or that way. But almost the assumption is, Most of you aren’t going to do that.

Garrett Kell
That is a way to create lazy, disobedient Christians. And we don’t want to foster that. We want to foster courage and trusting the Lord and risking this brief life that we have. We’ve been talking for thirty something minutes; we don’t have those thirty minutes back. Time is slipping away. I think urgency is an important part of fueling the mission and encouraging each other. So, yes, I agree with that.

Matt Tully
As you think about your own church and your efforts, along with your fellow elders, to create this culture of discipling in your church, how have you wrestled through the balance of teaching on the importance of it and proclaiming the importance of it in people’s lives compared to then practically helping to set up some structures that could be in place, or even giving practical advice and help to get people to actually start doing it? What’s been that balance? I think sometimes pastors can wonder, Do I just need to teach more about it and let it happen organically? Or, do I actually need to set up some kind of more practical, on the ground type of helps to get people into this?

Garrett Kell
That’s where I think every church is going to be a little bit different. I think every church is going to need to evaluate what is happening: What is working well? Do we have too many programs that people are so busy doing stuff that they don’t have time to actually meet with people? If so, could we scale some things back? Or, are we so organic and have no structure that everybody is just kind of flailing and trying to figure things out? So, I think every church is going to do some evaluation of that. Some probably need to trim some things, and some maybe should implement a few opportunities. I think just being able to run through everything that you’re doing—from the pulpit all the way down through every program—and saying, How does this create an opportunity for believers to come together and help each other to grow in your relationship with Jesus? That was one of the things we were talking about last night at our elder meeting. We should be able to draw a line from everything that we’re doing to the Great Commission in some way, shape, or form. I think that’s going to be a more church-specific kind of question because I don’t think you just answer that for everybody, but making sure that you’re intentional with everything that you are doing. Again, putting things in your sermons and saying, If you need help in figuring out how to talk to someone about Jesus, come and seek us out and we will help you find somebody. So, you want to take the responsibility and then seek to provide opportunities. Again, every church is going to be a little different in the way that needs to happen, but I do think that’s the pastor’s responsibility.

35:54 - Dealing with Discouragement in Discipling Relationships

Matt Tully
I’m sure you’ve been in multiple discipling relationships over the years and tried to walk alongside other guys by helping them with the basics of the Christian life, and maybe even specific things that they were struggling with. Have you ever wrestled with discouragement in those relationships where you’ve really tried to invest in somebody and just found it doesn’t seem like they’ve made progress? It feels like you’ve been stuck for months, or even years? And if so, how have you processed through that?

Garrett Kell
Yes, I have. The first thing I want to do is remember how the Lord must feel dealing with me, and how patient he’s been with me. That helps me to not grow embittered or overly frustrated. I think we want to remain humble in it and remember that everybody is different and there’s different reasons that people grow at different rates. That sort of charitability is helpful for our own heart, and also for the people that we’re pouring into. We don’t want people to feel like a burden. At the same time, we don’t want to excuse things. I think it’s fine to meet with people—and I’ve had these conversations—and just say, Listen, we’ve met for a while. Do you feel like you’re growing? Do you feel like this is a useful time? Help me understand how? And maybe it really is and they see some things and you’re like, Oh wow! You're seeing all that? Well, praise God! We can keep at it. Or maybe they’re like, No, I don’t. And then it may be an issue where you say, There might be somebody else that you could meet with. It’s okay that not everybody resonates with someone in the same way. If there are some people that are going to resonate with somebody else’s preaching or teaching or leadership better than mine, praise God! That’s fine! Go! It’s okay. Maybe trying to encourage those sorts of things. Then you just need wisdom of when to say, I think it’s going to be a good time for us to take a break and maybe for you to meet with somebody else. I would be happy to connect you, or maybe you just need a break. I don’t see lots of effort right now. Like, if you’re supposed to be reading through a book of the Bible together and they come in and they say, I didn’t open my Bible this week and that happens for a month and a half straight, maybe you should ask, Why did you want to get together? Help me understand. If you just need a friend, that’s cool; but we talked about something else. Being able to reevaluate and having those hard conversations and pressing in is important. I think John Newton’s relationship with William Cowper (or Cooper, depending on how you say it) is really an encouraging study. John Piper’s biography on William Cowper is a good one to listen to. The way that Newton just walked with him. He was a guy who struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies, and just to watch the way that Newton stayed with him for a long time, that’s been really instructive of the way that I think the Lord helped him to heaven through a patient, persistent sort of thing. Again, I think we want to be careful to not just write people off, but also not be excusatory. That’s where every person is going to be different in what they need.


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