I hate to tell you this, but you don’t understand the first thing about discipleship.

I was the same way. I had taught and written about discipleship for 30 years, and discipled many people both one-on-one and in small cadres. But recently I realized that my primary assumption about discipleship was wrong.

What am I talking about? I always thought that discipleship should immediately follow someone’s coming to Christ. In other words, I thought that discipleship followed evangelism. But I was wrong. Discipleship actually begins before someone comes to Christ! This is the biblical model. It is the one that works best. And, when we make this paradigm shift it changes everything.

While it’s true that someone who comes to Christ should be discipled—and I co-authored a great book for this, Beginning the Journey, that has sold over 100,000 copies in English and been translated into many languages—underneath this is a flawed assumption. Discipleship ideally does not follow evangelism. Discipleship actually begins before someone’s coming to Christ.

Let’s begin by looking at this biblically, and then we will look at it practically. ...