8 Phases of Disciplemaking that Mirror the Hero’s Journey

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Familiar with the Hero’s Journey? It involves a person on a quest who faces challenges, gains insights, and ultimately returns home transformed by their experience. This story structure has been around for centuries and adapts incredibly well to the disciplemaking process. Here, Jesse Cruickshank considers the phases of disciplemaking through the lens of the hero’s journey. Let’s join Jesse as she unpacks this process and helps us to become more aware of what’s happening when we agree with God and join him in his call to make disciples.

Like all things of God, discipleship has its own natural rhythm of beginning and ending. It has phases and seasons that can be recognized. Disciplemaking has a map, and we can figure out where we are, even when we don’t know the exact route. The Hero’s Journey can help us orient ourselves to where we are and discern where we’re going.

1. Ordinary Person

We are all ordinary people on a journey, whether we know where we are on the map or not. God is pursuing each of us, so we can join him in that—any person, any place, any time. Maintain a posture of availability, listening to see who God might send you to.

2. Answers the Call

When we tune our ears to hear from God, we can begin to see how God is at work in our lives and the lives of the people around us. This allows us to join him in what he is doing. Joy and mutual affinity can happen when God draws people toward each other. He brings us together so that we might learn from and be shaped by one another. This may be the privilege of a onetime experience with a stranger, or God may be asking you to commit to journeying with someone for a period of time.

If God is drawing people toward you, pray and ask Holy Spirit if there is an intentional discipleship relationship to be formed, or whether you are just meant to be friends and peers. Ask Holy Spirit if you are to be intentional about meeting with the person regularly to discuss spiritual issues and to model what it looks like to follow Jesus. You can also ask Holy Spirit if there is a specific lesson or season from your life that might hold some treasures/revelations to share with them.

3. Teams with Others

As we team up with people, we recognize discipleship will look different with every person. For some, the season will be short; for others it can cover years, even decades. Your role with the same person might change over time. The first season, you might be more of a guide, whereas in later years, you’re a friend helping them along the way.

4. Learns New Things

As you hear Holy Spirit and discern what new idea, freedom, or breakthrough God wants to give the disciple, you can then begin to use content to help the disciple grow in the key areas God is highlighting. These could be Scripture, books, podcasts, sermons, or other resources. They are something to give you the biblical text, foundation, idea, or teaching to have conversation around. Regardless of your own maturity, it is important that you approach the conversation as a student yourself— as a fellow learner alongside the disciple. In exploring the content chosen, be a companion on the journey. This way you can learn old truths in a deeper way, gain new insights, or be refreshed by the amazing love and truth of God.

5. Feels the Struggle

As a disciplemaker, you continue to invest in this person—caring for them and wanting what is best for them. You may feel like a broken record or that you are hitting your head against a wall. The disciple may feel like they have heard all you have to say and are receiving less from the relationship.

This is where you need to be present and patient, even more dependent upon God yourself. This is also where you can inspire courage in the disciple, letting them know that God is for them, and you are there to help them. This will be important because you cannot take the next step of the journey for them. They must choose it for themselves.

6. Experiences Revelation

Deep transformation happens in the unseen. When a sword is first being formed, it must be tested to see what has melted into the sword and become part of it, and what has not bonded and will easily break away. Likewise, the disciple must be tested to see what they have truly learned. What internal pathways have truly been made new? What deep convictions have formed and revelations been birthed?

This is how character is forged as part of God’s faithfulness to us. This is how we are made new again and how we know that we know something—because it has been tried and proven true. 

Challenges and struggles reveal what we believe. As a disciplemaker, this is where you wait, pray, and encourage. This is where an ordinary person becomes a hero, and a disciple is changed by Jesus.

7. Lives Changed

Though it can feel like it, the struggle does not last forever. The earth turns, the days pass by, and we walk out the other side of the wilderness. The disciple is a different person because they have encountered the resurrected Jesus. (And we, the disciplemaker and guide, are a little bit older and probably a little bit grayer.) The disciple is living with a new love for Christ and his Kingdom. Their identity is reformed and they are experiencing freedom where there once was bondage. The deep change that has happened in the heart of the disciple is revealed in their relationships with those around them. The work of God proves itself as they live life in a new way. Both their trust and your trust in God deepens as you see that he is faithful and good. The question that lies before you is, “What’s next?”

8. Discerns the Season 

As a disciplemaker you have witnessed the greatest miracle heaven has to offer: a changed heart. It is worth celebrating! Unlike a habit or behavior, heart change is something that is not easily forgotten. Revelations are hard to unlearn.

The next season in your relationship with the disciple is a new question to lay before God: How should it change, and how should it stay the same? Sometimes God leads you to journey with the disciple through another season, having you mentor them as they mentor someone else. 

God brings people together to journey with one another for a time. They have their adventures together, and then the season changes and the nature of the relationship evolves. Whether discipleship is one-on-one or with a small group of people, teasing out the natural phases of the disciple/disciplemaker relationship helps us better walk alongside others, according to God’s design.

Jessie Cruickshank 

holds a M.Ed. from Harvard in Mind, Brain, and Education. She is an ordained minister and a nationally recognized expert in disciplemaking and the neuroscience of transformation. She has spent two decades applying neuroeducation research to discipleship, ministry training, experiential education, and organization development. Jessie is respected globally as a missiological thought-leader and a church and denominational consultant and is the founder of Who-ology. Jessie lives and adventures with her family in Colorado.

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