Discipleship That Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow

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For far too long, the church has tried to make disciples using a one-size-fits-all approach. Some churches advocate 1-on-1 discipling, others try getting everyone into a small group, while still others training through mission trips or service projects. Yet others focus all their efforts on attracting people to a large group gathering to hear biblical teaching and preaching. But does one size really fit everyone?

Based on careful biblical study and years of experience making disciples in the local church, Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom have identified five key relationships where discipleship happens in our lives. In each relational context we need to understand how discipleship occurs and we need to set appropriate expectations for each context.

Discipleship That Fits shows you the five key ways discipleship occurs. It looks at how Jesus made disciples and how disciples were formed in the early church. Each of the contexts is necessary at different times and in different ways as a person grows toward maturity in Christ:

  • Public Relationships: The church gathering corporately for worship
  • Social Relationships: Networks of smaller relationships where we engage in mission and live out our faith in community
  • Personal Relationships: Small groups of six to sixteen people where we challenge and encourage one another on a regular basis
  • Transparent Relationships: Close relationships of three to four where we share intimate details of our lives for accountability
  • The Divine Relationship: Our relationship with Jesus Christ where we grow through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit

Filled with examples and stories, Alex and Bobby show you how to develop discipleship practices in each relational context by sharing how Jesus did it, how the early church practiced it, and how churches are discipling people today.

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About the Author:

Alex Absalom leads Dandelion (dandelionresourcing.com), which empowers leaders, churches, and denominations to build more effective disciple-making cultures. He is also the leader of missional innovation at Grace Church Long Beach, CA, an avid tea drinker with his wife, and, with their three sons, a huge fan of Liverpool FC!

Bobby Harrington is the co-founder of discipleship.org and the founding and lead pastor of Harpeth Christian Church (19 years). He is the chairman of the board for the Relational Discipleship Network and the co-author of DiscipleShift, and Dedicated: Training Your Children to Trust and Follow Jesus. He has been married to Cindy for over 35 years and they have two adult children who are disciples of Jesus.


Absalom and Harrington have written a 'Velveteen Rabbit' story. Beginning with a communication theory and leaning on the structure of how people belong, Discipleship That Fits makes it all real. Developing a praxis of discipleship that brings the best thought of how people actually communicate, belong, and grow is genius! This book will bring your discipleship program to life."
-- Joseph R. Myers, author The Search to Belong and Organic Community

"Most Christian pastors, leaders and evangelists acknowledge that effective discipleship is the major weak link in the modern Church's life. That's why all should be deeply thankful for this very practical and helpful volume in the five key relationships on which effective discipleship is built. I am thankful for what Alex Absalom and Bobby Harrington have here given the Church and I commend their very fine contribution with all my heart."
Dr. Michael Cassidy, founder African Enterprise and Honorary Chair of the Lausanne Movement, and author The Church Jesus Prayed For

"This book by my friends Alex and Bob is a winner! I have personally witnessed the impact of the ideas that are so well articulated in the pages of this book. Biblically substantial and rich in practical suggestions, Discipleship that Fits is a very welcome addition to the growing writings on the essential area of discipleship."
--Alan Hirsch, founder Future Travelers and 100Movements, and author The Forgotten Ways and The Faith of Leap

"Essential is the adjective for Discipleship that Fits. As a biblical, practical and missional treatment of discipleship, any church leader is guaranteed to gain fresh insight and break-thru ideas for ministry."
-- Will Mancini, founder Auxano consulting, and author God Dreams and Church Unique

"Refreshing. Balanced. Biblical. Practical. Thought-provoking. This simple book carries a big punch, from practitioners not theorists, and is a message we have needed for a long time."
-- Neil Cole,
author Ordinary Hero, Organic Church, and Primal Fire

"Bobby and Alex are discipleship practitioners that I've benefited from richly and deeply respect. Their work on discipleship in a variety of contexts is a much needed resource for equipping disciples in the everyday stuff of life. I plan to add this book to my equipping tool belt as I'm confident it will further aid the church in fulfilling the Everyday Commission Jesus has given us."
Jeff Vanderstelt, Visionary leader of Soma Family of Churches, and author Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life

"Bobby and Alex have written such a practical and inspiring book, I started taking notes and wondering, 'Can I steal this bit for my next book?' I must admit, reading it was like a conversation with friends and with authors I respect, it was great fun. You are going to find this very useful with your colleagues and members of your congregation."
--Bill Hull, Senior Leader of The Bonhoeffer Project, and author Jesus Christ Disciple Maker and The Disciple Making Church

"Bobby and Alex have done a great job of explaining that discipleship happens best and only in relationship. But they have pressed in further to unpack the kinds of relational environments that are needed and how they each relate to the whole picture found in scripture. Not only do these guys write about it and bring clarity but they live it out as well."
--Jim Putman, Founder of the Relational Discipleship Network, and author Church is a Team Sport and Real Life Discipleship Training Manual

"Although Jesus gave us a mandate to make disciples, he didn't give us a manual. Bobby Harrington and Alex Absalom have done the heavy lifting for us by investigating and explaining five relationships that will cultivate spiritual growth. Keep this book handy. It will be a resource you refer to often as you invest in others."
--Robby Gallaty, Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church Nashville, and author Growing Up and Rediscovering Discipleship

"In Discipleship that Fits, Bobby and Alex present a simple yet powerful framework for considering the different contexts within which discipleship happens. This framework will help individuals live more balanced lives with discipleship at the core, and will help church leaders be more strategic about their activities and programs."
--Todd Wilson, Founder and Director of Exponential Conference, and author More

"Understanding the profound truth of the Incarnation, Harrington and Absalom develop the premise that Jesus-like discipling must too be relational... Masterfully developed, you will find the truths of this book are ones that you will come back to over and over again."
--Dr. Dann Spader, Founder of Sonlife and Global Youth Initiative, and author 4 Chair Discipling

"Bobby and Alex challenge us to re-imagine discipleship in all of life. Clearly showing that relationships, like people, come in many shapes and sizes, each designed to naturally and uniquely mold our character in Christ. If you're tired of feeling out of place when it comes to discipleship and evangelism, read this book!"
--Caesar Kalinowski, author Transformed and Small Is Big, Slow Is Fast

"Instead of wandering in the wondering of who, when and where, Discipleship That Fits provides five contexts for disciple-makers to deliberately co-mission with Jesus in His original plan to change the world! I'd encourage you to read it, find your fit and get on with doing it!"
--Dave Buehring, President of Lionshare, and author A Discipleship Journey

"The creativity of methodology and contextualized intentionality without compromising Biblical principles of what it means to be and make disciples makes Discipleship that Fits a very helpful and inspiring read. Very useful and encouraging personally."
--Dr. Kennon Vaughan, Lead Pastor of Harvest Church Memphis and founder of Downline Ministries
"Christianity happens in relationships. They are the context in which meaningful spiritual growth takes place. In Discipleship That Fits, the authors articulate a helpful and meaningful paradigm through which church leaders can utilize natural, relational dynamics to cultivate a meaningful and biblically faithful discipleship ministry within the local church. Do yourself a favor; buy this book, study this book, and evaluate your church's disciple-making ministries in light of its conclusions. A church that utilizes the approach advocated by Harrington and Absalom cannot but produce maturing disciples who labor together to advance the Kingdom."
--From the Foreword by Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO LifeWay Christian Resources

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