The Buddy System
By Dan Vis
Tue May 26 13:07:49 2020

This week's memo is the third in our series of "classic FAST" articles--all from the early days of our ministry. This one is adapted from a lesson in one of the first versions of Team Tactics. It covers some extraordinarily important tips on how to begin investing in the lives of fellow believers. Enjoy!

There is a growing awareness among believers that the Great Commission is not just a call to evangelize, but also to disciple. It clearly calls us to baptize, but then it goes on to say we should teach those new believers the way of life Jesus taught (Matthew 28:19-2019 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.). If we would be true to our task, we must do both.

“The Great Commission is not just a call to evangelize, but also to disciple. If we would be true to our task, we must do both.”

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But when it comes to making disciples, few have any real idea what to do. Where do I start? What steps are involved? How does it really work? Others, eager to get started, launch out into a full-fledged effort to transform their entire church, and are surprised, perhaps discouraged, by the apparent lack of interest. They wonder if perhaps they missed something.

The solution in both situations is to follow what I call the Buddy System.

Look Around

The first step in launching into the work of making disciples is to simply begin looking around. Christians all around us are struggling to be more diligent in prayer, Bible study, Scripture memory, time management, and in their personal witness--and they would be happy to have someone help them. Many would be willing to make real efforts if they had someone to encourage them, and they thought they could make some progress.

To begin your ministry of disciple-making, simply begin looking for one friend or two like this in your church.

Keep an eye out for individuals who express a desire to grow in specific areas of discipleship. Their interest might be quite narrow to begin with, but that's ok. You focus first where their motivation is strongest. Listed below are several specific areas of discipleship people often want to grow in:

This list is not exhaustive, but it makes the simple point: rather than launching a broad training program with lots of assignments and high levels of accountability, try to find someone who has some interest in growing in just one area. And use that as your open door to begin investing in their life.

Be sure to bathe this entire process in prayer. Jesus did not call the twelve until after He had spent an entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12-1312 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;). Investing in lives takes time--so you want to make sure you discern who God is leading you to, before you make a major commitment to them. Which brings us to the next step in the process...

Regular Meetings

Once you have found someone with a genuine interest in some area of the Christian life, approach them about meeting together to encourage one another. We recommend weekly meetings, but depending on the situation, other schedules might work. And the meetings don't have to be long--just long enough to include time for setting specific goals, time for sharing how you both did on the previous week’s goals, and time for prayer together. If it doesn't work to get together in person, set up a time to meet together by phone, or video call.

Avoid turning these meetings into a class or training scenario. Rather, you are simply looking for a "buddy" to work with you on accomplishing some shared spiritual goal. You will have opportunities to share resources along the way, but more as a partner, than a teacher. In fact, it often works best to look for people with a desire to grow in areas you feel you are weak. Knowing you will meet weekly with a friend, and be held accountable for accomplishing the goals you set together is a great motivation to our own faithfulness. And your transparency, difficulties, and personal commitment, will all prove an inspiration to your partner!

“Knowing you will meet weekly with a friend, and be held accountable for accomplishing the goals you set together is a great motivation to our own faithfulness.”

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Note that you may be able to cultivate the buddy system with more than one person. Meet with one for prayer, another to work on memory verses, and still another for time management or some sort of ministry. We are all pressed for time, but as down to business Christians, we are called to a higher standard. And the best way to reach that standard is to find someone who wants to grow in any area we are weak, and strive for excellence together!

Broaden the Training

As you begin meeting with someone, questions will naturally come up about how to do specific things (setup a prayer journal, use a verse pack, find principles and applications, etc). The more familiar you are with our various memos, classes, and tools, the easier it will be to point them to some helpful resource. When starting out, it's often best to simply print out a memo or two in answer to a specific question, and give it to them. After sharing a couple such memos, you can point them to one of our short classes. In other words, introduce them gradually to our site, starting with the resources that interested them most.

You will also find many times, that interest in one area of discipleship often spreads to other areas. Someone who starts out interested in memorization, may start asking questions about how to study a verse, how to claim promises, how to carry out applications, or use a verse in witnessing. Someone who starts out with an interest in creating a prayer journal, may soon want to know how to find promises in their devotional study, how to memorize key promises, how to carry out impressions that come to you in prayer, etc.

Actually, it doesn't matter which area you launch from, it's only a matter of time before growth in that area touches on some other aspect of discipleship, because the spiritual life is all interconnected. If it doesn't happen spontaneously, start introducing news areas of growth yourself, based on their readiness.

Start a Team

If you get to the point where you are meeting with 2-3 friends consistently, and they are each growing in their personal discipleship, it will be time to consider inviting them to go through a more systematic training program like our FAST discipleship track. You can open the invitation up to others, but it's fine to keep this first group small. The important thing is to ensure your group is committed, serious about growth, and willing to be held accountable. The relationships you have already built with these individuals is a huge plus!

Think instead of this group as your future leaders. This is your chance to all become more familiar with the curriculum, to round out your discipleship skills together, and to catch a vision for a larger work of disciple-making. Once you have a team, willing and equipped to help you begin reaching out to others, you can begin laying the ground work for a larger discipling ministry.

And keeping those members of your first team committed to discipling others will not only help reinforce what you learn together, but it will help raise up an even larger crop of workers ready to help reach out to others as well.

From life to life, the work will spread.


Making disciples is never easy. Helping someone become diligent in prayer, Bible study, or Scripture memory is hard. To help them become consistent with time management, and ministry is a struggle. And the fact is, it takes the challenge and encouragement of time together with fellow believers to reach these goals. Hebrews 3:13-1413 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;. The people we want to train need it, and we need it too.

If you are serious about wanting to begin making disciples, look around. Find a person or two interested in growing in some area you want to grow in too. Begin meeting regularly, setting goals and working on them together. Then little by little, let the training slowly expand into other areas, until you can gather a small group of three or four together for more systematic training.

In time, you'll have a well-trained, committed group of leaders, and be in a position to launch a larger discipling ministry in your church.

The Buddy System is a slow, simple process, built on friendships and time together, but it works.

Take the Next Step

Want to learn more about building discipleship teams in your local church? Try this month's featured class from FAST called The Explosion Blueprint. Discover secrets to the explosive growth of the New Testament church, and a step by step strategy to implement them today.

FREE through the month of July. Don't miss out...

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