One-on-One Discipleship: Identifying Someone to Disciple

By Frederick Cardoza Aug. 10, 2015 9:00 a.m. Church Life, Ministry and Leadership, Spiritual Formation

As we consider doing personal discipleship, who we disciple is an important factor. It's important to keep in mind that who God might have you disciple may not be the ideal candidate at first glance. Consider Jesus' and his choosing of the Twelve:

  • The Twelve included hotheads like James and John, called 'Sons of Thunder,' and outspoken and rash people like Peter. Then there were people from distasteful backgrounds like Matthew the crooked tax collector, Simon the Zealot (a political fanatic), Judas the betrayer, and others. This was an unlikely group, but it's exactly who God the Father directed Jesus to choose.

In a similar way, we have to ask ourselves: Who should we disciple? How do we find someone needing to be discipled? What are we looking for in a potential disciple? These are the questions on one's mind when we consider the issue of disciple-making. Unless someone is assigned to you as a person to give basic discipleship, here are some basic qualities in someone you might personally disciple.

  • At the outset, begin to pray, asking God to help you identify someone to disciple. (Luke 6:12-16).

Then, I suggest the following 7 principles on whom to choose:

  1. Choose Someone Spiritually Hungry. Identify someone who is inquisitive, motivated, and driven to grow spiritually.
  2. Choose Someone who Honors Your Time and Commitment. Look for someone who seems to understand the value of your commitment and your time and who will honor it (Matt. 7:6, don't waste what is holy ... don't throw pearl before swine)
  3. Choose Someone Teachable. Seek someone who has a teachable spirit and who is willing to listen and learn.
  4. Choose Someone Available. Find someone who will commit the time necessary to meet regularly.
  5. Choose Someone Authentic. Though none of us have arrived, the best candidates for discipleship are those who desire to live a life of integrity.
  6. Choose Someone the Same Gender. One-on-one discipling relationships are intimate by nature and can quickly create strong spiritual and emotional bonds. That type of intimacy can become volatile when it is with a person with whom one might become personally attracted, such as a person of the opposite sex. When spiritual growth is concerned, neither the discipler nor the one being discipled needs that type of potential distraction.
  7. Choose Someone Demonstrably Less Mature Than Yourself. Disciplers should be more spiritually mature than the one they are discipling. Identify someone who can use the assistance of someone farther down the road spiritually than they.

This is not an exhaustive list, but are basic principles that are helpful in identifying someone who might greatly benefit from your investment of time as a believer. When you do, you’ll be honoring part of the essence of 2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV), when the Apostle Paul commanded us, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.


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  • Rachel Aug. 14, 2015 at 1:17 PM

    To be quite honest, what I am reading is to choose someone who is immature enough to observe success in, but mature enough to be worth your time. It concerns me that this may be based on the framework of discipleship as defined by today's church culture versus biblically defined discipleship. Sure, meeting weekly for coffee and reviewing a book or scripture is a great vehicle for discipleship, but is discipleship not largely living life with people, having them get to know Jesus in you and learning alongside you what it is to live a gospel centered life?
    I only bring this concern up after seeing the damage in looking for certain qualities in a person before being a part of their discipleship. No maybe they don't click with you socially enough to want to meet every week, or maybe that format is a foreign concept to them in the first place. Let's meet them where they're at and be patient. Being new to modern day evangelical culture is not necessarily a lack of interest in growing in their walk, which I find it is often mistaken for. If it really is a social issue, maybe there is another spiritually mature believer you know who would be better suited to live life with them for the purpose of discipleship. Regardless, we have the opportunity to extend the grace that facilitates spiritual maturity by demonstrating that one does not have to be at a certain level to experience God working in us and glorifying himself in our relationships.

  • Rusty W. Oct. 25, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    The hallmarks listed here seem a bit unrealistic. If I waited to find someone that fit this description to disciple, I'd be waiting a long time. I find the people who need discipleship most are those who are lacking in hunger, undisciplined, disrespectful and inauthentic. They need to be taught these things. Isn't that the very nature of discipleship?

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