Whether you started making disciples before or during the pandemic, we all share the same sentiments of how difficult it could be to deepen relationships with the people we are discipling online. Like it or not, our current situation brought changes to our discipleship routine. Instead of meeting people in fast-food chains, we opted to stay safe and meet them on any social media platform available.
While some enjoy high-speed Internet connections, others are struggling to remain consistent with their weekly group meetings because of their laggy internet connections. With the constraints of our current situation, we are limited to a few minutes of catching up, sharing lives, and praying for one another.
Because of that, we are left with a question: How could someone like us, used to discipling people face-to-face, build a deep and strong relationship with the people we are leading to Christ today?
I asked Pastor Dave Estrera, and here are some of his tips to help us make disciples even through an online setup.
The starting point of navigating our current setup is to acknowledge its limitations. Yes, it is not wrong to miss discipleship groups that have been meeting face-to-face. Even the apostle John, in one of the books he wrote, expressed his desire to talk to people personally, as communicating through paper and ink has its limitations.
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
2 John 1:12
The advancements in technology bring communication to another level and our social media platforms provide borderless contact with other people, but nothing beats meeting people face-to-face.
However, these limitations should not stop us from doing the mission that God has called us to do. We should maximize the resources we have—making disciples at our very homes where we can be safe. Right now, we can communicate with people with just one click. We can send messages, encouragements, and prayers either through video chats, calls, messages, or even voicemails.
So there’s no reason to stop reaching out to people and sharing our lives with them. We can and will continue to make disciples even online.
Because of our access to different communication platforms today, we can be more strategic in using those to build deeper connections and stronger relationships with the people we are discipling.
And to be strategic means we can explore different ways to do so. For some days, we can call them up to ask how their day went. We can also play online games with them or have a watch party with them. But other times, we will be called to minister to them, remind them of God’s word, and encourage them through prayer.
We can be connected with the people we are discipling even outside the borders of a weekly group meeting.
Lastly, when we meet the people we are discipling online, the best thing to do is to partner with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him where the conversation is leading. As you make disciples, remember that He is active and at work. If the Spirit is calling you to engage, do it. If He is calling you to pray and share the word, do not hesitate and be obedient to the call.
As you continue to answer God’s call to reach out and make disciples, remember that where you are right now is the best place to start engaging and discipling people.
Sometimes you will feel like there’s no fruit and that you’ve already exhausted all the possibilities to build deeper connections to the people you are discipling today. Remember that more often than not, God works in the unseen and is causing growth that might not be visible just yet.
Our labor in the advancement of God’s kingdom is not in vain. When it’s not working out today, it doesn’t mean that it’ll never work out. So, let us remain in Him and answer His call to make disciples wherever, whenever.
As we experience God’s immeasurable love for us, we are compelled to reach out to others and preach the gospel to them. But as we do so, certain challenges come along our way, which hinders us from being fully effective in advancing God’s kingdom.
Take for example a student leader who is the only Christian in her class and desires to reach out to her classmates, even those who are of the opposite gender. Is her situation enough to stop her from reaching out and preaching the gospel?
Here’s the thing, when there’s an urge to preach the Good News, differences in gender, in backgrounds, or in context should never be an issue. We are called to reach and preach to people with diverse, contrasting, and varying personalities and upbringing as us. We are called to share the gospel in different settings, whether on campus or online.
Here are three truths you need to remember when faced with any challenging situation:
Identity. You are a child of God. Your effectiveness in reaching out to people—whether you see it as a challenge or not—won’t be based on your gender but on how you apply who God is in your life. When challenged, stay faithful and continue to deposit godly truths to others.
Calling. Our calling is to be a Christian wherever we are. When we learn to constantly live this call, people will be drawn to us—even those of the opposite gender. Their curiosity to get exactly what you have is a good opportunity to preach the gospel.
Mission. Your mission is not based on your gender, but it is based on preaching the gospel. The mission, not our differences, should always have the final say when we reach out. When God calls you to preach the gospel to your classmates, focus on the mission—setting aside all biases and excuses.
Whether you are a male or a female, the mission remains the same. Whether you are alone or not, the mission remains the same. Whether you are reaching out on campus or online, the mission remains the same.
As you continue to be faithful with what God has impressed you to do, here are few practical tips in reaching out to someone of the opposite gender:
We are actually not alone when we reach out to people because the Holy Spirit is in us, empowering us to spread the gospel. This means we can discern where He is leading us in each moment. If we are led to reach out to a specific classmate or group, the Holy Spirit will definitely supply the very words we need to be effective ministers.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
As leaders, we are to live a life above reproach. This means that who we are with the person we are reaching is consistent with who we are with other people. Do not let a person be misled with your intentions in reaching out. It is best to set a conviction and boundaries when needed.
Campus ministry is best done in the context of a church community. It is beneficial to course the person you’re reaching to someone who could fully understand and relate with what s/he is going through—maybe a campus missionary or a small group leader in your local church. Remember that there are times when God will call us to plant the seed and ask someone else to water it. Ultimately, God is the one who will cause it to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6–9).
As we preach the gospel to others, remember that our differences aren’t the real issue but hardened hearts. God’s promise of harvest in the campus is real as there are plenty of opportunities to present and demonstrate His Good News.
As we reach out to them, let’s partner with the Holy Spirit and discern who’s ripe for harvest—those who are ready to surrender their lives and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.