By Paul Wilkinson

In The Disciple Maker’s Handbook, Bobby Harrington offers a 5-step example of his discipleship cycles. The 5 steps are: Listen, Recruit, Prepare, Engage, and Release.[i] I will give a sentence or two on each of these in order.
Listen. Harrington means that we must seek guidance from and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as we intentionally seek to engage the discipleship process. Harrington vulnerably admits that “the groups that I led in the past that failed to multiply had one thing in common: they were built in a prayerless, hurried fashion.”[ii] The best teachers simply share what the Lord is teaching them; likewise, the best disciplers are those who explain and model the life of a Christ follower out of the overflow of their own walk. To experience that overflow, we must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit through prayer, Bible reading, reflection, . . ., in short, the spiritual disciplines.
Recruit. This step requires an incredible amount of intentionality and discernment. Not everyone is ready for an intimate discipleship relationship in every season. Harrington suggests using the AFTeR acronym: available, faithful, teachable, reliable.[iii] Is the person committed enough to carve out focused time for a discipleship relationship? Has the person consistently held true to his or her commitments? Are they submissive to teaching, adapting, and changing? Can you count of the person to show up and take seriously the rigors of discipleship? And all of this should be couched in continued prayer through the Holy Spirit.
Prepare. We have to offer something after recruiting people to join us in a discipleship relationship. Harrington suggests presenting a covenant on the first meeting for the sake of accountability. Cast a vision during the first meeting for what these individuals (and the group by extension) will become through this process. Be open and vulnerable with your life and your story from the beginning and it will set the tone for the group.
Engage. We use the Word to cast a vision of the kingdom and the kingdom life for those seeking to know and follow Jesus, or to know better and to follow better Jesus. Curriculum abounds for walking with a group. We suggest Bible or Foundations Curriculum. Either way, we are using the convicting principles of the Word to drive people to be transformed, formed, and conformed into the word and deeds (think worldview) of Jesus. You must meet regularly with the group and it is essential to keep contact during “down times” through text, email, etc. Harrington also suggests meeting 1-on-1 with each group member every 4-6 weeks for more focused attention.[iv]
Release. We prepare and disciple people not for the purpose of keeping them in our local community forever, rather we disciple them so that they will go disciple others. We have to empower those we disciple to do the work of discipleship themselves. And the reason a sound, reproducible process is so important is because people generally disciple others in the same way that they were discipled: as we do unto them, they likewise will do unto others. It is our job to keep the terrible privilege of kingdom multiplication in the front of our disciples’ minds; we must continually cast vision of the reward and joy in making disciples.
[i]Bobby Harrington, The Disciple Maker’s Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 47.
[ii]Ibid., 47.
[iii]Ibid., 50.
[iv]Ibid., 55.