I love one-on-one discipleship. I think it is what Jesus meant when he told us to make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20. Yes there must a corporate setting (church services) for believers to grow in - large group. This is a biblical command for believers (Hebrews 10:25). This large group must become smaller - small group. This is vital to fellowship and accountability and also biblical (Acts 2:42-47; 20:20). But small group must become smaller - one on one. This is where relationships grow deep. This is where believers are most transparent and effective in discipleship. Jesus did large group. He even had a small group. But His true discipleship happened in the one-on-one interaction with his small group of disciples.
This takes time. Years in fact. That's one of the reasons I believe pastors must stay put in a community for an extended period of time. How can you make disciples if you move from church to church every year or so? Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Disciplines, said, "Our tendency is to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years."
Most believes would love to have a "spiritual" growth spurt this year? This can happen through one-on-one discipleship. The word "disciple" comes from a Greek word that means "apprentice" as in "one who learns by doing or working alongside someone else". One-on-one discipleship happens when one Christian takes another Christian under his "wing" to help them become an "apprentice" of Jesus Christ and to experience spiritual growth by learning and doing (James 1:22-23).
Discipleship has got to be more than just teaching someone some facts about the Bible. It is not simply gaining information but transformation! Discipleship means spending time with the other person -- sharing meals, discussing problems, serving others - it means showing them how to do ministry! Discipleship means nothing less than walking together side-by-side and growing together in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."
This method of discipleship requires way more time than what Christians typically do in discipleship efforts but it produces better fruit - fruit that remains. Just think if Jesus had chosen his disciples and simply had them attend a seminar or two about ministry in three years. What if He had only given them a "read the Torah in a year" checklist and told them just to go to church on the weekend and find a place to serve in the local synagogue. Where would Christianity be today?
Jesus realized that he had to share his life with his disciples if they were going to take on his nature and be true disciples. If we are going to truly disciple people, they must become dear to us. We must share our lives with them. Do life together with a few other people as you grow in Christ. Find those in your small group who hunger and thirst for God and disciple them. Just share with them on a consistent basis what God is showing you and encourage them to do the same. Take them with you to do ministry.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, in Life Together, "So long as we eat our bread together, we shall have sufficient even for the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue."