What Is Relational Discipleship?

May 7, 2013



What is Relational Discipleship?

Here is a very simple definition of relational discipleship –  a close personal relationship out of which a person gets relational help to follow Jesus with his head, heart, and hands.

To really understand the meaning of the term – relational discipleship – then one must look to the method and message of Jesus. Relational disicpleship is the method of discipleship that Jesus used to train the 12, especially Peter, James, and John. Some key thoughts about relational discipleship from the life of Jesus: 

“Without relationship, there is no discipleship, just the passing of information.”

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  • We cannot accomplish what Jesus wants or be what Jesus wants us to be, without doing it the Jesus way – which is relationships.
  • Jesus’ whole methodology is about relationships.
  • If a church does not create relational environments for discipleship, people will have to find ways of getting them outside church structures – these churches do not give people the ability to be what God wants them to be.
  • You can impress people in a lecture setting – but you can usually only impact people through a relationship.
  •  Maybe the best way to understand relational discipleship is to compare and contrast it with classroom or programatic discipleship. Here is a partial list that Eastside's staff team created:
    Classroom Discipleship Requires Attention to scripture Scripture & Holy Spirit Head Academic Emphasizes Factual Knowledge Study and Facts Information Content No Breaking of Bread Know facts about Individuals Attendance Start & Start Time/Quick Teacher has all the Answers Large Group Building/Campus Numerical Growth Oriented Lesson is the Agenda Setting is Formal Program Country Club Limit Space Conformity Traditional Habit/Expected
    Relational Discipleship Requires a personal relationship pointed to Jesus Scripture, Holy Spirit & Relationships Head, Heart, and Hands Modeling/coaching Emphasizes Life Application Bible Application Transformation Supportive Relationship Breaking of Bread Know the hearts of Individuals Shepherding (love/care/pray/protect/encourage) Meet in Homes Daily/Takes Time Let’s figure it out Together Small Group Home Spiritual Growth Oriented Doing Life Together Setting is Casual Program with Purpose (making disciples) Bar Unlimited Space Individualistic Expressions Organic Desire/Want to be There
    Goal of the small leader is to create a relational place where people are urged to become more like Jesus.  What would you add? How would you define Relational Discipleship?  (This article is adopted from Jim Harris and Harpeth Community Church in Nashville, TN)


    1. Rob Cizek says: May 9, 2013

      People have greatly differing views of what discipleship is. Some think it’s a scary word and want to go no further. As pointed out above, many see it as primarily education. Others think simple fellowship is discipleship. Others think any church activity is discipleship.

      I appreciate the way you compare classroom discipleship and relational discipleship in columns side-by-side. It clearly illustrates the differences. This is a great tool for helping a congregation understand what is meant when you say “relational discipleship.”

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