Spiritual growth in the life of your disciple moves to a three-steps-forward, two-steps back cadence. What is important for the discipler is to focus on the one step of progress rather than to get discouraged over the two steps of failure.
The extensive account of Jesus’ time with his disciples allows us to witness this rhythm of growth in the life of his men. Jesus is patient with the maturing process of his disciples because he never loses sight of what each man could and would become. Paul writes: “Love always hopes” (1 Corinthians 13). It is vital that your disciple always senses this hope from you especially in the midst of his failure. Hope focuses on the step of progress, which can be difficult because often there is twice as much failure as there is progress.
- Regularly point out to your disciple the steps of progress he/she has made in recent months. I usually do this four ways: face-to-face, in a note, text message, and email.
- Tell your disciple what other people are noticing about his growth.
- Help your disciple learn from his failure but do not let him dwell there. People tend to dwell on their steps backward and lose sight of their overall forward progress.
- Frame for your disciple the maturing process in context of years and therefore he must be patient with the process. Jesus spent nearly three years with his men.