And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach (Mark 3:14).

Jesus Christ's profound principles of discipleship were taught to us in the simplest ways. His goal was to train and prepare men to carry the Gospel to the rest of the world. He did it by inviting them to spend time with Him. They watched Him and heard Him pray, they witnessed His perseverance under intense public pressure, and they observed His wrathful response toward ungodly foolishness. They gained first-hand knowledge of His love, forgiveness, patience, and righteous anger; all attitudes that He skillfully used to confront people's hearts with the Truth.

This principle often dawns upon my own heart as I attempt to disciple those that are with me; particularly my five children. My goal is to raise my four boys and daughter so that one day, should the Lord call them, they will be qualified and well prepared to serve Him.

Cultivating a love for the faith

Discipleship at the Palla house takes place during homeschooling, family devotions and weekly church activity. Along with being the pastor of a small country church I am also a horse lover and perhaps my favorite times for discipleship are when the boys and I go through our routines of cleaning stalls, training, riding and preparing for our local competitions.

I wanted my two oldest sons, Drew and Dane, to love riding and caring for horses just as I did. The boys, however, didn't have this same affection so I had to "convert" them creatively. Sometimes my personal enthusiasm was enough to spark interest, but other times it only produced strife.  I tried to give plenty of instruction and teach them how a horse responds to certain types of pressure, how to read the horse's expressions and what a judge looks for in a rider. Some things they picked up quickly and easily and some things took a painfully long time.

Jesus had to cultivate a love for righteousness and the Gospel in men who did not have a natural bent for such things. Along with instruction and example, He allowed them the opportunity to ask questions, make mistakes and learn at their own pace. Although they each would differ in their talents and gifts, the majority would emerge with a burden for the lost and a love for the Father that would command great personal discipline and obedience to the faith. He did all this through lectures, meals, fishing trips, hikes, and visits to the temple.

Disciple with individual needs in mind

I have learned a great deal about my children and their horses in the process of family discipleship. After four years of training my oldest son, Drew, and his Quarter horse for easy-going pleasure classes, he decided to try barrel racing and pole bending. I was amazed that the two had substantially more talent for speed than they did for the slower more relaxed style of riding they had been doing. This renewed his interest and he began to see some fresh results in competition.  Drew is a natural leader, and like Paul, once you get him in the right direction, he'll motivate and challenge himself to run the race and finish the course.

Dane, my second oldest son, is one of those kids who quickly rises to the top but easily gets discouraged. He has a quality about him that makes people sit up and take notice even before he gets into the show ring. However, when he gets frustrated, it can be devastating. Discipleship with him is similar to Jesus' style of mentoring Peter; it requires more heart-to-heart talks, a little more patience, and occasionally a harsh rebuke. The Savior worked on getting Peter's focus off the temporary and onto the eternal. In the end, Peter was one who preached to the multitudes with the boldness and confidence of a lion. He had it in him all along, it was redirecting that energy that took creativity and work.

Effective discipleship comes down to a few simple principles that can be copied by anyone:

1. Those that are with you are your best students. That's why God gave your children to you and not another set of parents.
2. Use plenty of real-life situations to learn about your students and teach them godly principles. 
3. Disciple with God's ultimate calling in mind -- whether your students know it or not.
4. Remember that complete training involves seeing, hearing, and experiencing -- in love. Jesus said in Luke 6:40 "A pupil... after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher."

One day Jesus confidently turned his earthly ministry over to those disciples. They weren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they had observed, experienced and heard enough to know what was required of them. They turned the world upside down didn't they? Have hope that, as you disciple those who are with you, they too will understand what is required of them and one day, to your joy, they will turn the world upside down.


Pastor Timothy Palla resides in southern Ohio with his lovely wife Jennifer and their five children; Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan.  You may contact him at tpalla@rocketmail.com.