Dr. Daryl Eldridge

One of the gaps in our discipleship efforts is assuming that if we tell people something, they will know how to do it. We live in the misconception that if people don’t get how to do something, it’s because we didn’t explain it well enough. We seem to spend the majority of our time telling versus training.

Personal Experience

I recently attended a church that was teaching a series on the spiritual disciplines. That particular day the church’s focus was on meditation. During Sunday School, we heard an excellent lecture on the biblical explanation of meditation. Then in the worship service, a pastor extolled on why it was important to meditate. The service concluded with a ten-minute prayer by another leader who chastised us for not meditating. I did the math. That morning we received about 90 minutes of instruction on meditation. Unfortunately, during all of that time, we were not given the opportunity to meditate, or guided through a meditation. Consequently, we left church defeated, feeling like there was one more thing we are not doing in our Christian lives, but we were still unsure about how to do it. We were taught “what” and “why,” but not “how.”

Learn by Doing

People need specific instructions on how to live out their faith and activities that help them practice what they learned
We learn the Christian life by living the Christian life. We learn best by doing.  What a difference it would have made if the disciple makers in the church knew this educational principle and provided opportunities for the church to corporately practice meditation. For Christianity to become a way of life, rather than belief in a set of doctrines, discipleship must focus once again on training. Whether it is Bible Study, prayer, sharing the faith, or ministry, people need specific instructions on how to live out their faith and activities that help them practice what they learned. If you want your people to pray, design activities that involve people praying. Explore various forms of prayer together. If your goal is for people to share their faith, guide them in sharing their faith in their small group. We shouldn’t expect people to share their faith in the workplace, if they have not shared their faith in a small group.

I was fortunate to grow up in an era of discipleship training in the church. Each week we were assigned “parts” to prepare and teach the next week. Through this form of training, we learned how to speak before a group. We learned how to share our faith by giving a short gospel presentation to our small group. I owe much of my leadership skills to my church’s training.

As you design your next training event make sure you provide opportunities for your people to do what you want them to do. Whether it is using a concordance, practicing solitude, or creating learning readiness in their Sunday School lessons, your people will grow as disciples by focusing on training, not just telling.

Dr. Daryl R. Eldridge, PhD. BACE Lifetime member and President & Cofounder of Rockbridge Seminary.