In order to be effective at Christian discipleship, you have to listen. Remember that listening is an active verb ... a very active verb, and it takes both effort and practice. You need to listen both to your partner (the person you are discipling), and to God.

  • Listen to what is said. This seems obvious, but sometimes it is ignored. Listen to what is being told to you. Be willing to lay aside your own plans for the discussion if your partner brings up a topic that they obviously need to talk about. Just as your partner is not a project, your time together should not be run on a rigid agenda. Listen to what is being said to you, and respond to it directly and with your whole person.
  • Listen for principles. If you are discussing something going on in your partner's life, listen for the principle that is involved and bring that principle to light. For instance, they may say that they have can't stand having their father over for holidays. Rather than just commiserate, probe deeper: are there underlying issues of bitterness, broken trust, or forgiveness that need to be addressed?
  • Listen to stories and tangents. Your partner may not know how to bring up a topic that concerns them, or may be nervous about bringing it up. To compensate, they may tell you a story or go off on a seeming tangent that alludes to the topic they really want to address. Listen carefully to stories, and pay attention to tangents. They may contain the seeds of the life lesson you need to talk about.
  • Listen to what is not said. Finally, listen for what your partner doesn't say. Are they avoiding some topic? Are they uncomfortable about something? Pay attention. You may be sensing an area of great need or hurt, or an area of sin that that needs to be confessed. Touch these areas very carefully, and with great prayer and sensitivity.

As you learn to listen, your skill in Christian discipleship will increase multifold - and the lives of the people you disciple will be greatly enriched.

© 2008 Paula Marolewski

You have my permission to reprint and distribute this article as long as it is distributed in its entirety, including all links and copyright information. This article is not to be sold or included with anything that is sold.

Author's Bio: 

Paula J. Marolewski provides challenging and interactive adult Bible studies for individuals, Bible studies, small groups, and adult Sunday School classes at Sink Your Roots ( Studies include such topics as Debunking the Myths about Knowing God's Will. The above article is an excerpt from Walk with Me: Being a Faith Partner in the Family of God.