The Navigators have a principle they call the with-them principle. It is based on Mark 3.14:

He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14 (NIV)

Jesus’ method of making disciples was largely about spending time with them. It was discipleship by hanging around. The Navigators published an article in Discipleship Journal that explained it this way:

Go places with them, listen to them, talk to them, think with them, pray with them. Follow-up is not done by something, but by someone—not a method or a system, but you.

If we think about discipleship at all, we tend to want to make it much more complicated than this. We develop notebooks, we print material, we develop courses, we have people sign things, and we have people commit things.

Jesus’ method of making disciples was largely about hanging around. Jesus realized that Christian living is more caught than taught.

Robert Coleman has an excellent book on this, Master Plan of Evangelism. In it he says:

Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program—just letting his disciples follow him.

When one stops to think of it, this was an incredibly simple way of doing it. Jesus had no formal school, no seminaries, no outlined course of study, no periodic membership classes in which he enrolled his followers. None of these highly organized procedures considered so necessary today entered into his ministry. Amazing as it may seem, all Jesus did to teach these men his way was to draw them close to himself. He was his own school and curriculum.

The natural informality of this teaching method of Jesus stood in striking contrast to the formal, almost scholastic procedures of the scribes. These religious teachers insisted on their disciples adhering strictly to certain rituals and formulas of knowledge which distinguished them from others; whereas Jesus asked only that his disciples follow him. Knowledge was not communicated by the Master in terms of laws and dogmas, but in the living personality of One who walked among them. His disciples were distinguished, not by outward conformity to certain rituals, but by being with him, and thereby participating in his doctrine (John 18:19).[1]

Effective Bible Teachers do this as well. They spend as much time as is reasonably possible with their students. They go to lunch on a regular basis. They fellowship together. They stick around after church. They go out to dinner. They have people in their home. They practice hospitality, as the Scripture commands. (For more on this, see my book Christian Hospitality.)

Ineffective Bible Teachers are quite the opposite. They are more or less like school teachers. They are content to present the material and go home. They give their lecture, click their PowerPoint slides, and call it a day.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach I simply need to ask a question: who is the most Effective Bible Teacher you have ever had? My wife has asked this question dozens of times in seminars where she teaches teachers. The answers are always the same. The most Effective Bible Teacher is not the one who lectured the best, or was the most polished, or the most articulate. The most capital effective Bible Teacher is always the one that followed the with-them principle.

I think about a teacher in my own life—Barry Price. He taught me about half the years through junior high and senior high. He kept moving up with me. He was the best Sunday school teacher I ever had. Funny thing about that though, I don’t remember any Bible study lessons he actually taught. What I do remember is he had me in his home. He took me snow skiing with his family.

I remember one time he got stopped for speeding on a snow skiing trip. After the policeman left and we were on our way his young daughter spoke up in protest, “That bad policeman. He should not stop Daddy.”

“No dear, that policeman did not do a bad thing. That policeman did the right thing. Daddy did the wrong thing. Daddy was driving too fast.”

I don’t remember any lessons Barry Price taught about taking responsibility or admitting that you are a sinner, but I remember what he said to his daughter that night in the car. I will never forget.

What about you? Do you spend time with-them? I think it is a good idea for every teacher to share a meal with every student at least once a year. There is one exception. Because sexual temptation is such a problem, I recommend you follow what I call the Andy Stanley rule: I am never alone with a woman. I don’t share a meal with a woman. I don’t take a trip alone with a woman. I don’t counsel a woman. I never talk about anything personal with a woman.

With this exception, I recommend you make it a habit to share a meal with each of your students on a regular basis. Have them in your home. Do things together. Spend time with them. Effective Bible Teachers always do.

[1] Coleman, R. E. (2006). The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.