By Jim Feiker and Steve Meeker — Relational discipleship takes place behind the scenes. The ministry of investing our lives into others is out of the public eye and needs no recognition. The mentor aims to push others forward into deeper relationship with God and with those in their spheres of influence.

Rather than shining the spotlight on ourselves, mentors delight in seeing others develop beyond us and becoming what God intended them to be. In this relationship, the focus is not on receiving. The mentor finds joy in giving, believing and enabling others to accomplish their vision and dreams.


​Characteristics of the relational disciple

1. A heart that nurtures and steps alongside others to resource them as they pursue their dreams. Mentoring is about making others successful, not about prioritizing our ministry and reputation.

Barnabas was this kind of a person. He started out leading a ministry team with Paul in Antioch and was sent out on the first missionary journey to the Gentiles. But after Paul moves into missionary leadership as the apostle to the Gentiles, Barnabas moves into the background as a discipler in the church in Antioch.

Outside of Acts, very few references are made to Barnabas. Barnabas still traveled to the Gentile world, but he remained in the background, out of the focus of the Christian culture.

Perhaps there is no greater joy for mentors than to see those in whom we have invested walking with God and in the limelight functioning effectively for Jesus Christ.

2. Relational disciplers respond to divinely given moments to encounter the lives of others at critical times.

As a priest, Nathan had a major impact and role in David’s life. David would have never moved on in his leadership if God had not sent Nathan to speak into his life. But Nathan’s recorded encounters with David are few, and any others are hidden behind the chapters and scenes of history and Scripture.  

Barnabas and Nathan never questioned or felt insignificant to God by walking into obscurity. They knew that success in ministry was not based on their accomplishing great things; it was in developing great people. Though they are not mentioned in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, they were significant leaders in the lives of others. 

Steve Meeker runs Leadership Lab International in Croatia. LLI believes no young leader should be thrust into ministry without being mentored and trained. LLI prepares a new generation of leaders to serve on multicultural ministry and church-planting teams through its summer study abroad program. Learn about LLI on its web site. 

Jim Feiker was Steve’s mentor. He wrote that though the relational discipleship model can be difficult for others to understand and measure, those who experience it not only value it, but their lives are changed forever.

Read the first article in this series — Relational discipleship: Hard to measure but worth every moment


You can help LLI reopen this summer

The young people who go through LLI come away changed. In testimony after testimony, they cite the power of a summer spent in relational discipleship and practical ministry. Like Johann, who said, “When I first came to LLI, I had two questions in mind: What does God want me to do? And how do I do that effectively? Those two questions were answered.” Or Amy, who said, “It was refreshing to not only be instructed on how to lead in a practical way, but to also have a clearly defined example before me. We watched our mentors depend fully on God for everything that they needed. … I envy anyone who has the chance to experience this program in the future.” 

A new law in Croatia means that the LLI facility needs $50,000 worth of renovations in order to open in time for this summer’s session. God has already provided the first $10,000, which allowed LLI to begin the demolition phase (pictured above). Please prayerfully consider whether you can be part of how he provides the remaining $40,000, so that more young people like Amy and Johann can be prepared for cross-cultural ministry. Click here to give or to learn more.


Be disciples. Make disciples. Let’s do both, together. 

  • SEND International’s internship programs, like Leadership Lab International in Croatia, include both practical outreach and personal growth through discipling relationships. We also offer discipleship-focused internships in East Asia, Japan, Ukraine, Southeast Asia, Spain, Macedonia and New York City. Find one that suits your interests. 
  • SEND offers more than 200 opportunities to make disciples around the world. Explore them here. 
  • You can use this set of resources and stories to grow in your own discipleship and to disciple others, whether at home or overseas.
  • Sign up for On Mission, SEND’s monthly guide for people who want to become missionaries. Subscribe here, and as a welcome gift, you will receive a free download of a world map that highlights today’s unreached people groups. Together, we can bring them Good News. We can’t wait to join you on the journey!


Banner photo by Greyson Joralemon