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4 pivotal words for disciple-making

Disciple-making at times can seem complicated. I don’t know about you, but I can often feel like I’m not doing the right things at the right times or in the right ways.

Thankfully, a few years ago I came across a tool that has simplified my view of discipleship and relieved several worries. I suggest you try to simplify your discipleship of men and women down to this simple acronym, P.T.L.S.: Pray, Think, Love, and Serve.


When you are giving your life away to making disciples, there will be times you feel helpless. Don’t run from this or try to make it go away by micro-management. Let this feeling drive you to your knees.

Feelings of dependence and desperation should be the attitudes that define your prayer life.

Praying for your disciple’s spiritual development is one of the most strategic and helpful things you can do. Jesus spent all night in prayer for His disciples (Luke 6:12; John 17). Paul prayed for his people constantly (Rom. 1:9-10; Col. 1:9-10).

I suggest we try to make this measurable by having a weekly prayer plan for each of the people we are discipling. Even having something as simple as a note-card with thoughts to pray for them can make a major difference. I think a helpful principle to remember here is: “Talk to God about them before you talk to them about God.”

When you are making disciples, there will be times you feel helpless. Let this feeling drive you to your knees.


The best leadership happens when there is disciplined thinking. Without good thinking we can end up issue managing, and responding rather than leading.

When we take time away from our disciples to think for what their next step is, we give a lot better leadership than if we only try to lead intuitively.
Good thinking occurs when we make consistent observations of our disciples and take the time to consider what this data means.

Asking yourself the following set of questions will give much clarity and direction to your leadership:

  1. Where am I taking them?
  2. Where are they now?
  3. What is the next step?


A truth that has taken me years to fully believe is: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Many of my discipleship relationships in the past were full of so much teaching and lacking in so much love. How could I miss this?! Jesus makes it so clear that love is crucial in His church. (John 13:34-35).

Rather than being overly concerned about teaching my disciples, I instead need to be overly concerned with loving them. What does this look like?

True love is built off of full knowledge of a person and full acceptance of them, no matter what you know about them. Does your disciple feel rejected because they messed up? Or do they feel loved and drawn near by you?


Do you want the people you are discipling to be servants to those around them? The best way to teach them to be servants is by serving them (Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:3-8).

Even Jesus wasn’t above serving others. In fact, it was a major value and strategy of His in His discipleship (Luke 22:27; John 13).

Just like Jesus, we need to serve our disciples even when they don’t deserve it, notice it, or say thank you for it. This is what it means to disciple like Jesus did.

So, calm down and pray for, think for, love, and serve your disciples.