A disciple-maker’s greatest task is to help the people they are discipling hear God’s voice and do what He says. The goal isn’t to fill people with exhaustive knowledge of the Bible or get them to lead a city-impacting ministry. It’s to bring them into a space where they can encounter God and get to know him on a level where they are able to discern His voice and obey His commands.
Samuel was one of the great men of the history of Israel as both judge and prophet, one of the few that remained faithful throughout his whole life. God anointed David as king through Samuel’s ministry, restored Israel to worshiping the true God, and judged the nation. None of those things would have taken place if it hadn’t been for the instruction he received in his childhood that helped him discern the voice of God.
In 1 Samuel 3, Samuel, still a boy, lies down to sleep in his usual place in the temple. As he’s lying there a voice calls his name. Thinking it’s Eli, his master, he runs to Eli and asks what he wants. Eli tells Samuel to go lay back down – he didn’t call him.
The voice calls a second time, and Samuel again runs to Eli to ask what it was that he wanted. Eli sends him back to bed. Then it happens a third time, and Eli realizes something bigger is going on. “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” (1 Sam. 3:7)
It’s not until Eli tells Samuel that it’s the Lord calling him that Samuel is able to identify God’s voice. Samuel listens to Eli and believes him. The next time he hears the voice he responds by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening,” and the Lord declares the first of many prophecies to Samuel.
This incident is the launching pad for Samuel’s ministry. Eli’s brief instruction apparently reveals the word of the Lord to Samuel and enables him to discern God’s leading for his life – a leading that shapes the course of Israel and ultimately leads to the messianic line being established.
Teach the people who you are discipling to discern God’s voice and obey; his voice both in the written word and the word that he so often speaks to us through the Holy Spirit on a day-to-day basis. As we and those we are discipling learn to hear, discern, and obey, we will encounter God in massive new ways that will radically shape our future and the futures of the people around us.
The goal of discipleship isn’t to get people to do what you want them to do or be who you think they should be. It’s to empower and release them to do what God has called them to do. Let’s be that kind of disciple maker.