the shape of leadership

Make Disciples Like Jesus

The importance of intentionality, accountability and direction

Kent Ingle on May 1, 2023

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” When Jesus called His first disciples, their reaction was immediate. They “left their nets” and “followed Him” (Matthew 4:19-22, NASB 1995). There was no hesitation. Andrew and Peter stopped what they were doing and went after Christ.

As Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave the same charge to the disciples to be fishers of men by making disciples of all nations. It’s this commission that we must follow today. 

Many Generation Z members often lack guidance on how to follow Christ, yet three-fourths of teens are motivated to learn more about Jesus. With the next generation’s desire to know more about Christ, it’s critical that we also teach them what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Below are three steps for discipling the next generation.


Prioritize Intentionality

The disciples were immersed in Christ’s ministry — they experienced the miracles, heard His teachings, and were part of His everyday life. Mark 9:30-31 (NLT) says, “Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them” (emphasis added).

Christ knew His time was limited. Yet He prioritized instructing the disciples so they could continue His ministry. As Jesus did, your discipleship process must incorporate being present and engaged with those to whom you are investing — even allowing them to be a part of your daily life.

Many young adults have people who feed them spiritually, but they often lack someone to consistently connect with. Whether you are discipling a young person or would like to be, make sure to establish a recurring time to meet one-on-one with them. Schedule a weekly time in your phone or on your calendar to pray for them. Send text messages of encouragement.

Be intentional on how you connect, making it personal and relevant to the young adult’s life. Share what you are currently studying in the Bible and how you apply it to your own life. Discuss what they are reading and relate it to current topics, such as how to wisely navigate social media and what the Bible says regarding matters they care about.

For a segment which deals with high levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness, you can be a voice of truth and love when you’re intentional about the way you connect with Gen Zers.


Implement Accountability

Christ made it known early on that following Him wouldn’t be easy. Luke 9:23 (NIV) says, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” Denying oneself requires accountability and discipline while striving toward what God has for their life.

With the next generation’s desire to know more about Christ, it’s critical that we also teach them what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

If you want to help young adults live out what God has called them to be and bear fruit while walking with Christ, you must hold them accountable — and make sure you demonstrate this by having someone do the same for you. Set certain metrics for the young adult’s spiritual and personal growth. This can help them see progress and have goals to strive toward.

Accountability will help transform a young adult’s character to be more like Christ and build a foundation that will withstand the storms of life. As they read God’s word, ask questions about what is being learned. Make sure to welcome tough questions and controversial topics, even if they may feel uncomfortable. Knowledge of the Bible and its relevance for today will be integral to growing and deepening a Gen Zer’s faith.

Should a young adult fall short of their goals, point them to Scripture, employ grace, and encourage them. And be personal by sharing experiences navigated in your faith journey. You want to challenge them to live like Christ and be someone they trust when encountering difficulties. Remind them that their faith was never meant to be easy because it requires the discipline to daily take up their cross and follow Christ.


Give Direction

As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Jesus guided the disciples through His teachings and by how He lived His life.

Like Christ commissioned the disciples, you should have a goal of teaching young people how they can act upon what is learned from the Bible — whether it’s in ministry or their careers. Provide them with guidance on how to practically apply what they are reading to what God has designed for their lives.

Your end goal should be to encourage a young person in discipling someone else. Faith shouldn’t be something that’s simply talked about; it should be worked through by the decisions made and the actions taken. If there are questions while living in faith, encourage the young adult to share them so they can be discussed and prayed about.

The incredible part regarding Christ’s commission is that He did not leave the disciples to minister alone. As Luke 24:49 says, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” The Holy Spirit came to provide the disciples with spiritual guidance — and it’s the same for the young adults you are discipling.

When young people can’t find answers, they often turn to the Internet, social media, or influencers. This is why discipleship is so imperative. When you prioritize discipleship, it not only transforms the person you are discipling, but it will also change your life. How can you make discipleship a priority in your life today?

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