Cookie-Cutter Discipleship is a Waste of Time

Thursday is for Discipleship

The Call to DiscipleshipThought:

“… most spiritual growth happens on a haphazard need-to-grow or need-to-know basis. As life happens, we’re suddenly confronted by the need for personal growth or more biblical information in an area of life that up to now hasn’t seemed all that important.”  

(Larry Osborne, A Contrarians Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us, p. 53).


  1. Programs for spiritual growth are easier to administrate but may miss the mark.
  2. Curriculum for spiritual growth may waste time because they are filled with too much that isn’t in the need-to-know-now category.
  3. We have to learn how to better “seize the moment” of the need-to-know moments and run on from there rather than try to cookie-cut every moment with a set curriculum that we plug and play to no-effect.
  4. Not everything in life is linear in its development or progression to maturity.


Years ago, I was working with a young man, we’ll call him Joe, who I had the privelege of leading to faith. I was getting ready to go on a trip when he came up to me and told me that our discussions had really stimulated his desire to pray. In fact, the night before, he informed me he had done something that he had never done before in his life; he had prayed the entire rosary straight through!

What should I say?

He is powerfully motivated to pray. He spent considerable time in praying. He feels a sense of growth and progress in his spiritual development.

  • Should I take him aside and tell him that Mary is the mother of Christ. She should be respected and honored and her life should be examined for clues to how we might similarly obey God but she is not someone to whom we pray?
  • Should I begin to teach him the magisterial doctrine of the priesthood of believers and the biblical Mt. Everest that declares that we can boldly approach the throne of grace without human mediators like Mary and saints?
  • Should I douse the flame of his zeal with everything I know about prayer from years of study of God’s word?

What should I do?

I’ll tell you what I did.

“Joe,” I said, “I’m excited you are excited about prayer. Listen, while you are excited and motivated about prayer, let me give you a couple of texts to study and look at about prayer.

  1. Tonight, read John 17. The whole chapter is a prayer that Jesus prayed the night before he suffered.
  2. Go to Matthew 6:5-14 where Jesus teaches the disciples to pray. Ask this question as you look at the passage. ‘Who does Jesus say we should address when we pray?’
  3. When you are done there, go to 1 John 5:13-15. It talks about the confidence we can have in prayer. I’m excited for you brother. God is at work in your life. That’s why you are so motivated to pray.”

The next day he returned. “Hey, I read those passages. They were cool. I probably shouldn’t have been praying the rosary to Mary huh?”

“Well,” I said, “if we can talk to Father directly, why talk to anyone less about the needs of our lives?”

Thirty-three years later, “Joe” is walking with God and is a mighty warrior in prayer with a fantastic ministry as a coach of young people.

Pay attention to the “moments” in a believer’s life when they are teachable and back them into the Scripture for substantive growth.

2 thoughts on “Cookie-Cutter Discipleship is a Waste of Time

  1. This is why the most profitable times in prison ministry are when the men and I have a chance to sit together and talk about the challenges in our lives. Out come the Bibles and the conversation takes off. We all profit by the opportunity to dig into the Scriptures and learn together.


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