The Relational Covenant

  1. Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder
  2. Believe the Best
  3. Talk To, Not About

Read previous entries in this series:
An Introduction to The Relational Covenant
Believe the Best (Part 1)



So, why is standing shoulder-to-shoulder essential in a discipleship relationship? We’d like to start answering this question by revisiting the first three of our seven key standing shoulder-to-shoulder principles (using the Ancient Greek Hoplite Phalanx Maneuver as a word-picture):

1. They would line up in close order.

We’ve said it before and we’re sure we’ll say it again: discipleship starts and ends with fostering an authentic, one-on-one, intentional, life-on-life, vulnerable relationship. You simply can’t have a discipleship relationship without the relationship part! It’s practically impossible to develop authenticity or vulnerability without sharing real life, and we can’t share real life without actually living that life together, in close community. It’s only when we’re living close together that we can see our ways to the best point of impact. So, how are some ways you can live life “closely” with the person you are discipling?

  • Get regular, intentional time together to share life and time in the Word and prayer. (Need ideas on what to talk about? We have LOTS of them here!) There’s no right set-up for this, but we typically find setting aside 1-2 hours once a week, bi-weekly, or even once a month works well.
  • Be even more intentional about initiating “non-discipleship” time together – invite him/her (and spouse/kids if applicable) over for dinner, go to a movie or sporting event you’d both enjoy together, meet at the gym to play racquetball or tennis, get outside for a game of golf or a hike, try a new coffee shop – anything that gets you together to live life and laugh out loud together!
  • Be watchful for ways to “show up”! Have they been sick? Bring a meal or volunteer to come clean their kitchen or do their laundry. Are they feeling overwhelmed with their schedule? Offer to take their kids so they can have a date night or bring a meal over. Has a loved one recently died? Try to attend the funeral or bring a meal. Did something exciting happen? Bring them a celebratory cake or card. Is it his/her birthday? Drop his/her favorite coffee order off at their workplace. (You may start to notice a pattern in these ideas – because there is truly something special that happens when sharing food together!) Please understand, gifts are not the only way to “show up.” Simply sending a text, email or call is a great way to connect – a way that will continue to keep the door open to hear ways you can meet needs and spur him/her on in faith.
2. They locked their shields together.

The heart of discipleship is commitment. Maybe not a full-on, legal adoption; but by entering into a discipleship relationship with someone, you are committing to their spiritual health, and that requires faithfulness over time on your part and theirs. Now, that doesn’t mean an hour a week for the rest of your lives. But what does it look like?

  • It may mean an hour a week for the next year or even two to ensure they first have a strong faith foundation, and that, second, they are equipped and prepared to pass it on – to begin making disciples themselves, because your are fully committed to their success. So much so that you see their success as your own. As they begin to disciple others, they may not need a weekly connect, but will probably benefit from a monthly or even an annual check-in so that they have a safe space to process the good and the hard, and have wise counsel when they encounter things they don’t feel equipped to do or lead out in.
  • More than time together, though, you are committing to “stand in the gap” for the person you are discipling. How do you do this? By faithful, committed, intentional time in prayer on their behalf. Consider 1 Samuel 12:23,  Ezekiel 22:30, Psalm 106:23, and Isaiah 59:16, and 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 11-12 for more on this. (We also talk more about prayer in discipleship here.)
  • Finally, commitment means follow-through. In your time together, if you say you are going to do something (e.g. meet them at 5 a.m. on Sundays, pray for them, find a quote’s source that you mention, hold them accountable for something they want to grow in, etc.), DO IT. This is one of the very hardest parts of discipleship, because it usually means we have to die to ourselves – our own priorities or plans – to do what we said we’d do. (Feeling too busy to commit or follow through? Check out this great perspective on time management.)
3. Soldiers carried their shields on their left sides to protect not only themselves but also the soldiers to the left. The shields provide a wall to protect those behind them and around them.

Romans 15:1 boldly states that “we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak.” There’s several very important notes on discipleship in this short verse:

First, it starts with “we who are strong.” We’re not called individually, we’re called as a Body: some of us will be stronger than others not because of our own virtue but because of how God has placed us in the Body. If you are at a point in your life where you are passionate about growing in discipleship, you are probably stronger in your faith and confidence in Christ than a younger or less mature believer. It’s not arrogant to accept this, but it is important to remember that not only does it not make us superior to the weak, but it also makes us responsible for our weaker siblings. When we enter into a discipleship relationship with a younger Christian, we have an obligation to them. A couple other thoughts on that word, ‘strong’:

  • It comes from the Greek word dynatos, which means ‘able’ or ‘powerful.’ Why is this important? Because our strength has nothing to do with our superiority or prowess. Rather, it comes from the simple fact that God has called us to Himself and has given us His sufficiency: we are able because He is able.  As 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” HE makes us sufficient and able to persevere on someone’s behalf in discipleship.
  • It’s the same word that is used in Romans 4:20-21: “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Again, strength comes from our deep conviction that God has the power to do what he has promised! We are deeply convinced that He will not only fulfill His promises to us, but also to the person we are discipling: it’s our job to help them not only never forget that but begin to live out of those promises every day!

Next: “have an obligation.” For whatever reason, our culture usually assigns a negative connotation to the word ‘obligation.’ However, here, this word is connected to the idea of accruing by being bound or indebted to someone. Many translations even use the phrase “ought to” instead of “have an obligation.” So, who are we indebted to and what does that mean for discipleship?

  • In John 13:14 Jesus says, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” When we died with Him, we were raised with Him to be like Him – we are forever indebted to Christ for redeeming us, and our gratitude gets to manifest in acting as He acted: humbly serving those around us. In this example, Jesus chose to do the lowliest of tasks for the men He was investing His life in so that they would understand His love for them. He humbled Himself so that they would know their worth in the Father’s eyes.
  • As disciplemakers, we must be willing to sacrifice our time and perhaps even our dignity in order to step into the lowly, unappreciated tasks to serve those we disciple and set them up for success to serve others well, also. We must be willing to humble ourselves, removing ourselves from the “lofty master” to the “lowly guide.” This protects those we are discipling from feeling like a “project” and more like someone worthy of our time: we serve in order to guarantee that those we are discipling know how very precious they are in the Father’s eyes. (See also 1 John 3:16-18, 4:10-12.)



There’s perhaps no better example of standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the Bible than in the story of Ruth and Naomi. At the time of Naomi’s deepest sorrow — as she was leaving the home she’d made with her family after the death of her husband and two sons — her daughter-in-law Ruth not only refused to stay in her homeland, she insisted on following Naomi with one of the best known statements in the Bible: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

Ruth was so fully committed to Naomi that instead of fleeing the poverty they found once they reached their destination, she volunteered to go do manual labor gathering harvest leftovers: a humble and potentially risky task. Later, when she found wealth and status through marriage, she did not leave Naomi behind, but entrusted her son to Naomi’s care: inviting Naomi into one of the most precious relationships on earth, that between mother and child.

We rarely get to see the long-term impact of our choices, and although Ruth and Naomi didn’t get to see beyond the immediate impact of Ruth’s choices (a home and status for both, a kinsman-redeemer for Naomi, and a husband and son for Ruth), we know that those choices also resulted in the birth of King David and then in the birth of Jesus. How wonderful to know that one woman’s choice to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her mother-in-law would bring about such a beautiful ending!



  1. You’ve shared life together recently: a meal, an activity, a laugh.
  2. You’ve shared hearts recently: an honest conversation about sin, struggles, or surrendering to Jesus.
  3. You’ve made a commitment to be available and present for however long it takes to help the person you are discipling to grow in spiritual maturity.
  4. You’re willing to serve and protect, even at cost to yourself, in order to ensure your person has the best chance at growing spiritually and otherwise.
  5. You’re careful to Believe the Best and Talk to, Not about in your relationship with this person.


©2018 by Jack McQueeney. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without express permission.

The Apprentice Approach is about helping every-day people master the art of disciplemaking and grew out of the fact that…. Many Christians struggle with making disciples, they feel busy, overwhelmed and not qualified. We understand this struggle which is why we created a Bible based framework so any believer can master the art of disciplemaking! One of our outcomes is seeing the folks we engage with walk away saying, “I can do that!”

Jack McQueeny
Jack McQueeney

Jack McQueeney is the founder of The Apprentice Approach and is wholehearted about helping people grow, develop, and deepen their walk with the Lord. He believes that as we grow in our love for Christ, we will serve, love, and trust God for the BIG things He calls us to. Jack has been on staff with The Navigators since 1982, serving in multiple roles from assistant to the President, to Collegiate Ministry and as the Executive Director of the Glen Eyrie Group, the camp and conference ministry of The Navigators.  

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