Covert vs. Overt Disciplemaking

Covert vs. Overt Disciplemaking
Chris Adsite

Any spy worth his shoe-phone knows that espionage is carried out on one of two levels: covert or overt operations. In some circumstances his overt, or “open to view”, activities are entirely appropriate. But at other times the success of his mission depends on covert, or “not openly shown”, work.

Many of us have found the same thing to be true in disciplemaking. There are times when it’s simply not appropriate to tell a person, “God told me to start spending two hours a week with you so’s you can get conformed to the image of Christ. Get out your calendar.” Often, it’s best to begin discipling a person without them even knowing they’re being discipled. I call this “Covert Disciplemaking.”

There are many reasons why a Christian might initially hesitate to enter into a formal discipling relationship with you. A busy wife and mother might feel her schedule is already full enough. A man might be suspicious of your motives: “I hardly know this guy – why does he really want to spend so much time with me?” One might have formerly lived next door to the Baghwan Shree Rajneesh and is fearful that you’re trying to set yourself up as some kind of guru. Or a person may simply question the value of what you have to offer in exchange for his time and energy. In cases like this, you’ll need to spend some time “proving” yourself to the prospective disciple.

If God has laid a certain person on your heart to disciple, ask Him to begin giving you insight as to how you could meet needs in that person’s life. They may be spiritual needs, physical needs, financial, emotional, familial, automotive, health – whatever! Just look for casual ways to spend more time with that person (invite him to lunch, go to a ball game, sit with her at church, etc.) and then look for ways to meet needs. Any needs!

But in this need-meeting context, take advantage of opportunities to inject scriptural truth into your conversation from time to time. Meet felt needs, but steer them to the Book that contains the words of the One that will meet their real needs! In this way, you’ll not only be demonstrating your care and concern in a tangible way, you’ll be feeding their soul and spirit as well.

Before long, the potential disciple will find himself saying, “Seems like every time I’m with old So-n-so, good things happen. And I feel refreshed! And I’m learning more about myself . . . and God!” As that attitude grows, it will motivate him or her to make more time to spend with you. After a while, you might say something like, “You’re really interested in the things of God, aren’t you? What would you think about you and me meeting regularly to study the Bible together?” If they say yes, then you’ve crossed the threshold into “Overt Disciplemaking”.

In this phase, you are now meeting regularly one-on-one. You’re spending time in the Bible each time (at least discussing it pointedly, if not actually opening the physical book), you’re teaching and he’s learning. Somewhere along the line, you’ll need to actually formalize the discipling relationship – discussing expectations and responsibilities, and making sure you both know that your friendship is now a very unique “discipling” relationship.

A few years ago I met a professional man here in town, and the Lord immediately made it clear to me that He wanted me to disciple him. However, at the time we met my friend was not exactly chummy with the Lord. In fact, he was running from God, the church and Christians in general. To suggest an overt discipling relationship would have been met with a brick wall of rejection. So I joined the YMCA where he worked out. Soon, we were meeting three times a week, thrashing each other to within an inch of our lives in the weight room. Eventually we became good friends, and more and more frequently our conversation turned to the Lord.

Within a few months his fire for the Lord was rekindled, and he is now as zealous a Christian as I’ve ever known, and we’ve maintained a strong co-discipling relationship for the past couple of years. Isaiah 32:2 describes well the kind of Christian we need to be as we are involved in “Covert Discipling”: “Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.”

The above article, “Covert vs.Overt Disciplemaking,” is written by Chris Adsite. The article was excerpted from website, where it was published in October of 2012.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal resource or research