As I coach leaders to start and lead huddles (discipleship groups for training leaders), one of the questions that often comes up is “How do I decide who to pick for my first huddle?” People want to make sure they are investing in people who are going to pass on the investment to others, which is, of course the whole point of the investment.
I’ve written before about this, and it is an important issue to think through, but it’s easy to over-think this and end up immobilized and unable to make a decision. So how do we choose wisely without succumbing to the paralysis of over-analysis? As usual, Jesus shows us.
In the Gospel of Luke, there is an instructive progression in Jesus’ relationship with his disciples that can serve as a model for us. After Jesus is tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4), he begins his public ministry. He comes to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit,” authoritatively preaching in the synagogues, casting out demons, healing the sick, and teaching about the kingdom of God.
Then in Luke 5, Jesus calls his first disciples after preaching in one of their boats. He then continues to proclaim and demonstrate the availability of the kingdom of God, through healing, eating with “sinners” and teaching. The new disciples are basically in the background this whole time. They are barely mentioned at all.
But then Jesus spends a night in prayer on a mountainside, and in the morning calls his disciples to him and “chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles” (Luke 6:13). The instructive pattern I see here is that there was a gap between when Jesus first called them to follow and when he chose the twelve. Almost like there was a time of observation and testing before he chose twelve to “be in his huddle,” so to speak.
So here’s what I think we can take away from this:
- Jesus starts by simply doing the stuff. He doesn’t wait until he has some disciples before he begins proclaiming and demonstrating the kingdom of God. So in our own desire to make disciples, let’s make sure we’re actually living as disciples. Let’s be moving toward having lives that are worth imitating. Otherwise there’s no context for what it might mean to “follow.” Follow into what? Make sure you’ve got a “what.” Do kingdom stuff.
- Jesus then invites people to join him in what he’s doing. Jesus keeps doing kingdom stuff, but is simply inviting others to join him in his work. Jesus is using the fixed points of his kingdom mission as opportunities for people to orbit his life and demonstrate their interest and availability in being part of his mission. I’m sure the disciples are mainly serving Jesus in practical ways at this point.
- Then (and only then) does Jesus choose the Twelve. The in-between time seems to be a time of testing and observation. Now that they understand a bit about what it means to follow him, to participate in his mission, are they sticking around? Are they growing? I’m sure Jesus was watching the disciples closely during this time. Only after observing them for a bit and spending a night in prayer does he choose people for deeper, more intentional investment.
So if you are trying to figure out who to disciple, I’d encourage you to relax and just follow the pattern of Jesus. Make sure you’re “doing the stuff,” and then simply invite people to join in doing the stuff. Notice who responds to the invitation and challenge you bring in those environments, make adjustments as necessary, pray about it, and I’m sure God will lead you in the way you should go.
Bob Rognlien says
Great insight Ben! This is exactly what we have found through trial and error and then (like you) noticed that Jesus did it this way.
We have also learned the importance of developing oikos (extended family) as the best place to get to know potential disciples and discern if and when they are ready for the more intentional discipleship that happens in Huddles. In Luke 4:38-41 and 5:17-26 we see Jesus gathering with people and potential disciples in the house of Peter, which was not a single family dwelling, but an oikos house. In Luke 5:29-32 we also see Jesus spending time in the house of Levi with his extended family and friends. Jesus was forming a spiritual oikos, inviting people into it, using that as the base of his mission, and then discerning who he would invite to be his twelve. This is a great way for us to discern who we should be investing in at a deeper level: inviting people into our home and into the life of our extended family, sharing life and carrying out mission together, and then discerning who is ready for a deeper level of discipleship.
Thanks for all the great insights!
Ben Sternke says
Great stuff Bob! Thanks for the comment.
Cathy Ward says
I have been huddled and foresee real months last year God kept telling me to get off my backside and choose some ladies to huddle…but how? was my question. Well God knows best and just recently put la dies before me who are keen to learn more. Wow!!! Now I am helping others and learning myself. How good is that? I talk regularly with the wonderful lady who huddled me and feel God guiding me every step of the way. Thank you for your article on huddling. Cathy
Cathy Ward What a great story! May God continue to bless you and pour into you as you invest in others.