Three Needs Every Disciple Has

There are those “aha” moments when you realize you are on to something big. I had one of those when I read Joël Malm’s book Fully You. Joël put words on something that I knew but didn’t fully realize.

Joël explains three needs humans have: safety, connection, and empowerment. It looks like this.

It may sound a bit sensitive and squishy at first, but it clicks when you see the opposites of those three needs.

Bingo. We all have felt abandoned, rejected, and controlled (manipulated). And we hate feeling that way. Every great relationship is one of acceptance, connection, and empowerment. And if you think about it, that is precisely what Jesus provides.

  • Unconditional love, acceptance, and protection.
  • Restoration to a relationship with God.
  • Empowerment through the Holy Spirit to live the life God wants for his children.

Likewise, our disciple-making relationships need to provide

  • Safety and acceptance,
  • Connection and community, and
  • Empowerment to become a self-sustaining follower.

Meeting the Need for Safety

We need to provide a safe environment that accepts anyone into a disciple-making process. People need to see and experience the kind of acceptance that Jesus offered. John described it this way.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:17

They also need to see and experience hope. The hope that they can follow – that they can do this. If you don’t believe in those that you want to make, if they can’t safely share, they will never let you make them. Disciples need to know that you accept them, believe in them, and that they can trust you.

Meeting the Need for Connection

We all know the value of providing community through small groups. But when it comes to trusting someone with your soul, people want something more profound than a dinner party. They want a connection with people living out something better than what they have. They are looking for a leader who is prepared, confident, and skilled in their faith. Who, like Jesus, can lead them to a fuller life.

When I set out to intentionally, measurably make disciples, I got the safety need. But it took me a bit longer to realize that would-be disciples needed something more than a teacher or friend. To really go deep, they wanted a qualified guide to get them up the mountain. My life had to be the proof of concept of what I was inviting them to do. In other words, I needed to be prepared, confident, and skilled in my faith. And my faith needed to be visibly transforming me into someone who lived abundantly. They needed to see the value in following. And they needed a connection that showed them the way to where I had been.

Meeting the Need for Empowerment

What good is discipleship if disciples can’t follow Jesus on their own? Hopefully, you have figured out the power of empowering disciples to be self-sustaining followers who don’t need you anymore.

But I have to be honest. It took me several years of making disciples who went nowhere after discipleship before I realized I was not helping them become empowered to do it on their own. I could not just walk alongside them and cheer them on. I had to get them to a place where they didn’t need me. I had to do what Jesus did – release them. And to release them, I had to devise a plan to prepare them. I had to figure out what a disciple looked like at completion, and I had to figure out how to get them there. Our last book, Well Made, Well Done, is about this. It documents the three Biblical goals in disciple making and three simple strategies to achieve those goals.

Today it takes me three years to make a disciple who does the right things for the right reasons, navigates the unknowns, and makes disciples on their own without me having anything to do with it.

That’s my end goal – do my part to get them saved, to get them to follow Him, and then get out. After all, they can (and should) do this without me.

How do I do this?

I love learning and applying great things to improve my disciple making. Things like the three needs that Joël taught me. I am constantly looking to improve my ability to make disciples that thrive with God on their own.

Along the way, God has shown me a method that works about 95% of the time (you can get the complete plan here). It incorporates incredible things like the three needs that Joël outlined in Fully You. The method leverages things I have learned about how people think, choose, and learn through my studies as a Decision Scientist. It includes a simple way to get people to actually hear from God as they read the Bible. The method builds on simple truths like “be comes before do.” It includes knowing precisely what each disciple needs and when they need it. I am so very thankful that God showed us, in his Word, how disciples mature.

At the end of the day, I work the method because the method keeps working (we are on our eleventh generation of disciples making disciples with a 90% success rate). But my favorite thing about the method God showed us is that it is a collection of proven, how-to practices instead of more theory.

If you want to learn more, up your game, or start making disciples, all we have learned is yours. There is no sales pitch. There is no hook. I used to struggle to get people involved, much less get them to maturity. Now, I don’t. And I love being more effective at this thing Jesus called me to do.

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Challenging words to help make prepared, confident, and skilled followers of God.

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How to Make Disciples

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