8 Characteristics of Disciple-Making Relationships

  • 20 March 2017
  • Randy Wollf

3 women laughing togetherGrowing relationships are an essential component of discipleship in the church. Without relational depth, discipleship suffers.

In this blog, I will describe eight characteristics of effective disciple-making relationships within a larger community.

1. Transparency

In a transparent community, people are open and real with one another. They share successes and struggles. They’re not afraid to deal with tough questions. In fact, when this kind of transparency exists in a church, young people are much more likely to stick with the church as they move into adulthood (see blog on the Hemorrhaging Faith Study).

2. Investment

Developing deep relationships requires a significant investment of time and energy. Are we willing to carve out this space in our busy lives? Of course, maintaining meaningful relationships takes time and effort, as well. When we get close to people, we enter their world—a complex and sometimes messy place. Living in those spaces requires commitment!

For several years, my family participated in missional communities that met in homes. Some people called them "simple church." Yet, we discovered that even though the structure was simple, the life-on-life discipleship that took place was far from simple. However, the Jesus-followers in effective disciple-making communities are willing to invest deeply in one another's lives.

3. Levity

When we laugh and enjoy one another, we are in a much better position to go deeper with one another. Levity is the gateway to and moderator of the intensity that is often required for deep discipleship.

4. Intensity

We want to have fun together, but we also need a certain amount of intensity that will position us to press more deeply into one another’s lives. For example, if someone is struggling with a particular temptation, we would want to provide the necessary support and accountability.

5. Prayerfulness

Six Marks of a Missional Church

  • 12 January 2015
  • Randy Wollf

In Acts 2:42-47, we see an inspiring example of a missional church – a loving, Christ-centered church on a mission to be and make growing disciples of Jesus. What can we learn from the early church in ACTS about being missional today?

Lamp post with words missional church beside it


The early church devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).

The Greek word for “devotion” means to give something our steadfast attention, to care for it relentlessly, to wait courageously on something constantly. What were the objects of the early church’s devotion?

They were devoted to learning truth according to what the apostles taught. They learned and lived out the truth wholeheartedly and courageously.

They were devoted to the fellowship. They were committed to each other in an enduring sort of way.

They were committed to remembering Jesus. They broke bread regularly as a way of rallying to Christ, keeping him at the forefront of their lives.

They engaged in extraordinary prayer.


In the early church, “Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).

The people were amazed at what God was doing in, through and around them. It was a powerful time when God regularly demonstrated His power. When God is working in us and through us, there is always evidence to show His working. Sometimes, we miss it. Yet, as we take the time to notice and give thanks to the Lord, we too will be amazed at the miracles that God is performing in and around us.


All the believers were together and had everything in common (Acts 2:44). One would get the impression that the early Christians enjoyed a strong sense of community. They were close to each other. They helped each other. They met together in large groups and small groups. They were together in their relationships and in their sense of mission for Jesus.


The people were happy (Acts 2:46). Wouldn’t we be happy, too, if we were experiencing this kind of vibrant, intimate, Christ-centered, truth-inspired, prayer-driven, awe-inspiring community?


God was powerfully at work in the church in Acts. Part of this work was granting the Christians favor in the eyes of those around them (Acts 2:47). This favor was an important part of people receiving the gospel message and accepting Jesus.

Loving, Christ-centred Community on a Mission

  • 8 November 2013
  • Randy Wollf

Alpha Course Small GroupWe were about halfway through the Alpha Course. As discussion leaders, we had gotten to know those in our small group quite well over the six weeks we had been meeting together. One of the people in our group was very skeptical about Christianity. I wasn’t sure why she kept coming, but I was glad that she persisted. As we were talking about the church that night, this woman looked around the group at each group member and said, “If church was like this, I might consider it.”

This one statement about the importance of community and open dialogue spurred me on to grow deeper in my understanding of the church. I studied and preached through the book of Acts. I was struck by the deep sense of community that the early Christians experienced (e.g. Acts 2:42-47). I read numerous books on the church. I came to realize that a healthy church is a loving, Christ-centred community on a mission to be and make growing disciples of Jesus. This vision of the church led me into a church planting ministry for several years and continues to burn in my heart as I serve as co-moderator at South Langley Church and teach students at MBBS-ACTS Seminaries at Trinity Western University. I want to do all that I can to make this vision a reality in my church and in the churches of those I have the privilege to train because I strongly believe that the church can be “like this” and so much more.