Success in baseball is simple to explain but much harder to achieve. The number of hits, errors, base runners, or any other of the myriad statistics that go into making baseball interesting do not count in the end. All that really matters is the number of players who touch all four bases in a counterclockwise sequence in a particular game.
As a spiritual coach, I have discovered four “bases” I need to touch each time I meet with someone. The bases are the same regardless of the person’s level of maturity or the type of coaching I use. Whether I am following up a brand new believer or coaching a ministry leader with years of experience, I must touch these four bases to create an effective discipling relationship. They are vital whether the setting is formal or informal, structured or unstructured.
The four bases are: Connection, Exploration, Application, and Intercession. Each time I meet for coaching or mentoring, I spend some time on all four areas. This doesn’t mean I spend equal time on each one, but I touch each one—just as a baseball player may spend extra time on first base before running to second and third to score at home. I adjust the time spent on any one question to the current needs of the individual.
An easy way to remember these bases is to think of four questions:
First Base—Connection: “Because we care, what do we need to know?”
People often feel isolated and are asking, “Who knows and who cares?” An effective discipling process creates a safe environment in which people can relate to one another on a deeper level than news, weather, kids, and sports. Initially we answer this question by sharing our personal histories. Gradually I invite them to tell me about events that are affecting their lives in a positive or negative way. However, people will only feel free to honestly share their real concerns when they feel safe: confident of continued acceptance and respect. They must also know I adhere strictly to confidentiality.
Second Base—Exploration: “Because God’s Word is true, what are we discovering?”
Scripture should form the core of a coaching relationship. It is our source of perspective and learning (see Psalm 119:105). We want to help each person become comfortable and skilled in handling Scripture, able to personally search the Word for answers to life (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This base includes teaching, mutually sharing what we are learning, or both. It can be covered by reading and discussing the Word together, discussing a prepared Bible study, or sharing from personal time with the Lord.
Third Base—Application: “Because God’s Word is relevant, what is He telling me to do?”
To follow Christ on this journey, we need more than knowledge and understanding. We need application. Application takes the truths of the Bible and integrates them into the fabric of life. Maturity comes as we apply God’s truth to our personal, family, and professional life. Spiritual truth must not be isolated to a “spiritual compartment” while most of our thoughts and energy go into the business of everyday living. God’s plan is to integrate his truth into all aspects of our everyday, ordinary lives.
A helpful way to think about application is to use the acronym SPECK. As we reflect on Scripture we ask ourselves if there is a . . .
Sin to avoid
Promise to claim
Example to follow
Command to obey
Knowledge (truth) to believe
Part of the coaching process includes a periodic review of previous applications so we can pray for specific needs and hold one another accountable.
Home Plate—Intercession: “Because God cares, how can we support each other in prayer?”
Holding each other up in prayer is critical for spiritual encouragement. Sharing needs and victories together in the context of prayer builds a connection and puts the focus on God’s powerful, transforming work in our lives. Continued prayer during the week is an essential part of effective discipleship.
Next time you meet one-on-one for discipleship or lead a small group, try using each of the four questions. You’ll be pleased with the results you “score”!
Ron Bennett, senior staff with The Navigators, has led discipleship ministries in many settings in the United States. He and his wife, Mary, are currently serving with Navigators Encore in Raymore, Missouri. While on the national leadership team of Navigator Church Ministries he wrote Intentional Disciplemaking and coauthored The Adventure of Discipling Others and Beginning the Walk (NavPress). This article is adapted from “The Relational Diamond” in Ron’s blog The Adventure of Discipleship, April 30, 2018.