Disciples before Disciplers; Followers before Leaders

One of the things I love about leading 3DM Europe is the overview I have of lives changed and of kingdom growth.

One thing that always strikes me is that often leaders approach 3DM because they recognise a gap in their competency, or a recognition that they want to implement discipleship and mission in their own leadership context. This is often about tools, vehicles, principles, and language: How to ‘change’ their church. But when people connect with us and we have a longer term relationship what I hear more than anything from people is that their hearts, marriages, families, and relationships have changed. They change. Before their ministries change.

I recently read this testimony from someone we’d connected with:

I have grown into more than just a new approach to ministry, but rather into a whole new way of life. I’ve had many breakthroughs in who I am (my covenant identity) and what I do and how I do it (Kingdom competency and responsibility). I feel so empowered to take new adventures and to take part in fulfilling God’s mission. Through this coaching I’ve seen the importance that just knowing about something is not enough, but it has to be about knowing how to do something. I’ve also seen the importance of not just growing in character, but also in competency and vice versa. This coaching has empowered me with tools to pursue God as a disciple and to disciple others

And that makes me smile.

Because if change is purely external then we’re not really seeing the right kind of fruit.

If change is just about changing those we lead before engaging with change ourselves then we’re not really looking for the right thing.

So, what do I mean?

I mean that if someone comes to a learning community, or participates in a huddle, or attends a workshop and goes away simply feeling more resourced to lead more effectively, then we may have done a good job. But it’s not the best job.

Because really in that scenario, we’ve just dealt with the top of the iceberg – the part of our lives that is seen and external – rather than the wellspring of life and a relationship with God that is the source of all that we do (the unseen.)

If change is internal then we can begin to build out His kingdom from that place.

We’re always disciples before we’re disciplers; followers before we’re leaders.


Jesus taught and trained His disciples to be competent in the things of the Kingdom. He gave them opportunities to try things out themselves (“You feed them” in the feeding of the 5,000, “go find the person of peace” in Luke 9 & 10) but at the end of the day He said this:

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing

John 15:5

And so I love it when people connect with us at 3DM and are reminded that our first call is to tend to our relationship with God. And from that place, Jesus clearly tells us to live out that life of love as we love our neighbours and make disciples.

And it’s amazing to see when the light switch goes on and people are re-reminded that living as a follower of Jesus is about the balance between relationship and responsibility: covenant and kingdom.

So often we fall into one camp or another. We either fall into the I’m-so-in-love- with-Jesus-I-just-want-to-sit-at-his-feet-forever camp or we fall into the I-need-to-be-busy-doing-stuff-for-Jesus camp. But actually as followers of Jesus we’re called to do BOTH. And when we see both in action we can see God do amazing things.

One of the bible passages I love that demonstrates this balance is Luke 10. At the end of Luke 10 we see Jesus telling Mary and Martha that Mary “chose what is better” as she sat at the Lord’s feet. And yet earlier, in the passage directly before  – “The Good Samaritan” we see Jesus condemning the religious for not having mercy on their neighbour and then commending the Samaritan for being the one who helped.

Jesus says ‘Go and do likewise”.

Jesus shows us that we need to do both things. We need to sit at His feet and we need to be people who put that love into practice in the world around us.

Sometimes we find it difficult to do both those things. Some of us are more comfortable at one end of the spectrum or another. But when we do both we’re operating in covenant identity and kingdom responsibility.

We don’t get it right all the time.

But we are learning.


Aanna_bwnna is married to Rich and together the Robinsons lead the 3DM Europe team in Sheffield.

They have 3 children; Josiah, Esther and Samuel.

You can read lots of Anna’s thoughts, reflections and stories on family life by visiting here


Categories: discipleship

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