In my previous entry, I explained that growing to Christian maturity doesn’t just mean acquiring greater Bible knowledge. Rather, it includes living in intimate communion with God, being grounded in the gospel, living in community with other believers, being able to nourish ourselves from the Bible, and actively making disciples who make disciples.

These are the characteristics of a mature disciple, and these things don’t come just from learning about the Bible. In order to grow in these areas, we have to spend time with people who are spiritually mature, observing their life and having formative conversations with them on a regular basis.

In Acts 16:1-5, Paul decides to take a young man named Timothy along as his traveling companion. Paul did this because he understood that much of disciple-making happens in the context of a personal relationship, and he wanted to make this kind of investment in Timothy’s life.

Think about all the things they would do together. They would travel together, eat together, swap stories together, and have countless other conversations together. Acts also records how the two of them engaged in ministry together from one city to another, and Paul even lists Timothy as a coauthor along with himself of the New Testament letters of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Paul and Timothy did life together, and they did ministry together. That’s why Paul can say to Timothy in a letter he wrote to him, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” (2 Tim 3:10-11). It’s because Timothy had personally observed Paul on countless occasions and had countless opportunities to see how a mature Christian approaches life. And in addition to Timothy observing Paul, we can only imagine the conversations they had—the things they discussed, the questions Paul answered, the insights he provided for Timothy. That’s where a great portion of disciple-making happens: observation and conversation.

As a matter of fact, this is also the way Jesus approached disciple-making. Yes, the Bible does record him preaching sermons to crowds of thousands, but it also describes how he chose twelve men and made those twelve his priority. Just like Paul and Timothy, they traveled together and spent time together day in and day out. These men had the opportunity to observe Jesus doing all kinds of different things and were able to have formative conversations with him on a daily basis. How cool would that be?

That’s what disciple-making looks like. It’s about a more mature Christian spending intentional time with a less mature Christian, modeling biblical virtues and having conversations about meaningful things.

It’s similar in many ways to learning a new job. If you’ve started a new job within the past 20 years, you’ve probably had the delightful experience of spending hours in front of a computer screen learning all about that company’s history and policies and everything else they can think of to include in that training. It’s definitely an ordeal to do that part of your training. If you could die from boredom, there’s no question I would have died several times by now. The real learning happens when you’re actually shadowing someone on the job who knows what they’re doing and is inclined to teach others.

Thankfully, the Bible is anything but irrelevant or dull. But as powerful as the words of the Bible are, it’s still not enough to simply sit in a religious classroom of sorts to learn more about the Bible. We need on-the-job training. And, in this case, “on-the-job training” means training in the midst of everyday life—observation and conversation, just like Paul and Timothy. We may not actually be able to live together, but we can make an effort to spend intentional time together during the week.