The 3 Drifts of Disciple Makers

It’s happens all the time. You put in the hard work to make disciple making shifts in your life and church. You focus and execute for weeks—months even—and then wake to realize you’re right back where you started. As you reflect you realize it didn’t happen overnight. The movement was gradual; a compromise here, some lack of focus there. It was so slow that you didn’t even notice. But, it happened to you again. The shift was overtaken by the drift.

Drift /drift/ – Slow, often imperceptible, movement away from where you’re going back to where you’ve been.

The drift happens to us all. It’s the reason we need to be reminded more than we need to be taught. It’s why we’re better in accountable relationships than left on our own.

Scripture doesn’t use the term, but the concept is clearly seen in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Be careful how you live. The days themselves are evil, in some way their natural movement is away from God. Away from progress. Away from who He calls us to be.

It’s why we’re exhorted to stand firm (1 Cor. 15:58, et al) and to be rooted and established (Col. 2:6-7).

Drift always stands ready to reclaim progress from every area of life. Over my twenty years of disciple making, I’ve noticed that there are three primary drifts that disciple makers struggle against. These drifts threaten the fruitfulness of all disciple makers and should neither be ignored or accepted. Let me share them with you:

The Drift of Mission – Disciple making is intended to reach the nations for Christ, but since disciple making relationships are with those who are already following Christ, many disciple makers lose sight of the mission. Mission drift moves us away from the lost in both vision and practice. Many pastors faithfully preach to, care for, and disciple those in their church, but have no relationships with those who don’t know Christ. They’ve lost sight of the mission. They shepherd the flock they’ve been given, while claiming to follow the Good Shepherd who came to seek and save the lost.

It’s not just pastors who fall prey to this drift. Everyday disciple makers often choose the comfort of Christian connections over intentionally connecting with those who are different.

When the mission is missing there’s no power in disciple making. Instead of a Spirit-filled pursuit of maturity so others can know Him, it becomes an ingrown pursuit of understanding and skills. And since more is caught than taught, we’ll then make disciples with no vision or mission.

The Drift of Devotion – At its core disciple making is passing on your life with God to another. As disciple making opportunities grow, it’s easy to neglect a relationship with Christ in the name of fruitfulness. Instead of daily time with God they pick up another person to disciple. The choice is rarely that clear, but the drift of devotion happens because the disciple maker chooses what’s good over what’s best.

Disciple making’s biggest barrier is what makes this drift so widespread. Our culture’s speed forces us to choose between what we know we should do and that other demanding thing.

When our life with God is neglected then our fruitfulness is handicapped. Instead of discipling out of an overflow of our life with God, we disciple with tools and human ability. Such discipling is devoid of the Spirit’s insights and power. And since more is caught than taught, we’ll then make disciples with little devotion to King Jesus.

The Drift of Intention – Disciple making must be intentional. Accidental discipling can’t be intentionally reproduced. Since discipling with intention requires preparation, it’s easy to see why this drift happens. It’s easier to fall back on relational skills or disciple making curriculum than to intentionally invest where the person you’re discipling needs it.

Like much of disciple making, intentionality often comes back to the maturity of the disciple maker. Is she willing to discipline herself to pray, prepare, and follow through prior to her time with the one she’s discipling?

When intentionality evaporates the very foundation of the disciple making relationship is threatened. This isn’t overstated. Disciple making without intentionality devolves into friendship, coaching, shepherding, or mentoring. I use the word devolve because while all of those things have kingdom value, and are often a part of discipling, none share the Biblical mandate of disciple making. And none will bear the fruit of Jesus-style disciple making. And since more is caught than taught, we’ll make disciples who are unable to intentionally reproduce.

The days are evil and drift is real. These three are the most prevalent amongst disciple makers. To combat drift, you must invite a friend, discipler, or someone you’re discipling to regularly ask you about what non-Christians you are loving, how your devotional life is going, and to what degree you are being intentional with those God has entrusted to you.

Whether you are a new disciple maker or have been discipling for decades, choosing to guard against these drifts will increase your fruitfulness for the Kingdom!