Discipling Relationships
A short teaching ON DISCIPLING relationships


The best context for true and genuine discipleship is friendship. In his brilliant book, Anam Cara, John O’Donohue says, “Real friendship and love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.” In friendship, we recognize one another. To recognize literally means, “to know again.” We walk around all day forgetting one another – treating each other as strangers, and wondering why we feel so alone, so disconnected, so angry, so sad. Humans were created by God for relationships. We long to be known for who we really are, and to be loved for who we really are. We want people who allow us to take off the mask we use to protect ourselves. We want someone to recognize us – not for our accomplishments or our possessions, or for what we can give to them – but because when they see us, they see the image of God in us. That is what we mean by a spiritual friend, or, as the Irish say, an Anam Cara – a soul friend.

The kind of spiritual friendship we strive for makes space for one another.  This is a friend who loves you as you are, and as you are becoming. Spiritual friendship makes space for growth, change, suffering, joy, sorrow, mystery, birth, and death.  It is big enough, and flexible enough, to expand as God grows us throughout life, and all it’s inevitable turns.  It is a relationship with continual movement toward trust, openness, and freedom to be and to become.


While there is no manual for being a good friend, there are some key practices and virtues that must be present for deep spiritual friendship to unfold.

A Posture of LISTENING

One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen, to be known, and to be understood. Love is most often experienced when another person offers their presence to you – when they listen closely to you, and seek to understand what you are trying to say.

Listen compassionately.
Listen with hope.
Listen with creativity.
Listen to what is said, and listen to what is not said.

Sometimes, what is needed is not a solution, but an ear. Someone to see us and understand. Someone who is willing to simply be with us.


When you listen to each other, you will learn about each other. Remember that your friend was once a stranger. There was a time when you did not know each other. Now your life is unimaginable without them. A surprising gift that you did not see coming when first you met.

Each day seek to learn more about the hidden person of your friend. Both of you are complex – full of ideas, desires, hopes, fears, motivations that even you yourself do not always understand or realize. There are things that your friend will know about you that you do not know about yourself. And when they reveal these things to you, sometimes you will be annoyed, frustrated, or hurt. Other times, your friend will call something beautiful and brave out of you that you didn’t know you had in you.

Helping your friend to discover all of the complexity that God placed inside of them when he made them is one of the most wonderful gifts of friendship that you can offer.

A GUIDE for Kairos Conversations

There are intuitive patterns in our best relationships where we are helped to listen and respond to the still, small voice within us. The Kairos Circle is a formal structure that helps us into rich conversations about what God is doing in our lives.

The Kairos Circle gets its name from Jesus’ words in Mark’s Gospel. In Mark 1:15, as Jesus begins his public ministry, he says, “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” The word that Jesus uses for time is kairos, which is a Greek word that means “appointed time or season.” A kairos moment interrupts the normal doings and goings of our days and lives with an appointed opportunity for growth. The Kairos Circle is a framework for listening, processing, and responding to God’s invitation and challenge in our lives.

In the Kairos Circle framework, friends may ask each other open-ended questions, but should refrain from offering suggestions or giving advice. The purpose is for each person to learn to hear and obey God’s voice, not ours.

So, what does the Kairos Circle framework look like in an actual conversation? Two things: 

1. Rich, or devotional, reading of Scripture
2. Rich, or devotional, discussion of what’s uncovered in the text and in us


Agree on a passage of Scripture to read together (shorter is often better). Read it slowly on your own each day throughout the week before meeting. The purpose is not Bible Study, but reading Scripture devotionally as an essential part of learning to hear God’s voice. In a way, you’re allowing Scripture to read you. Consider starting with the Gospels, the Psalms, or the Epistles. See curated list of Scripture passages below.

Discussion/Reflection on the Past Week

Accountability Question (skip during the first week)

  • How did your “one thing” you committed to do the previous week go? (see the “plan” section below)


  • What resonated with you from the text?
  • What challenged you from the text?


  • What experiences, situations, or challenges from your own life – past or present – made this particularly striking or powerful for you?


  • Discuss what you uncovered in the “observe” and “reflect” sections.
  • What might God be inviting you to start?
  • What might God be inviting you to stop?
  • What might God be inviting you to continue?


  • In what ways will this take on flesh for you?
  • What is “one thing” you can do to live this out this week?


  • What does accountability look like for you?
  • What do you want to be asked the next time you connect?


  • What is the first step of your “one thing”?

Curated Scripture Passages for Kairos Conversations

  • Genesis 16:6-15
  • Exodus 3:1-4
  • 1 Samuel 30:1-6
  • 2 Kings 6:8-17
  • Psalm 1
  • Psalm 3
  • Psalm 13
  • Psalm 22
  • Psalm 46
  • Psalm 63
  • Psalm 73
  • Psalm 84
  • Isaiah 30:15-21
  • Isaiah 43:14-19
  • Isaiah 55:9-12
  • Zechariah 3:1-10 
  • Matthew 1:18-25
  • Matthew 3:13-17
  • Matthew 4:17-22
  • Matthew 5:1-10
  • Matthew 5:13-16
  • Matthew 8:5-13
  • Matthew 11:25-30
  • Matthew 17:1-13
  • Mark 1:14-20
  • Mark 1:21-39
  • Mark 4:26-29
  • Mark 4:35-41
  • Mark 5:24-34
  • Mark 6:30-44
  • Mark 7:31-37
  • Mark 10:46-52
  • Mark 16:1-8
  • Luke 1:26-38
  • Luke 2:41-52
  • Luke 4:38-46
  • Luke 5:1-11
  • Luke 6:12-23
  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Luke 11:1-13
  • Luke 13:10-17
  • John 1:43-51
  • John 3:1-15
  • John 3:22-4:3
  • John 4:27-36
  • John 5:1-20
  • John 6:5-15
  • John 10:3-14
  • John 13:3-14
  • John 15:1-12
  • Acts 7:54-60
  • Acts 16:22
  • Romans 8:10-17
  • Romans 12:1-2
  • Romans 12:9-12
  • 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • 2 Corinthians 12:7-12
  • Ephesians 2:8-10
  • Ephesians 3:14-21
  • Philippians 3:7-11
  • Colossians 1:9-14
  • Colossians 1:15-20; 2:3, 9
  • Hebrews 1:1-4
  • Hebrews 11-12
  • 1 Peter 5:1-12
  • 1 John 4:7-11
  • Revelation 3:14-22
  • Revelation 22:1-5 


Pray, asking God to help you make a list of people who might be a discipling friend for you (Jesus referred to these individuals as “people of peace” in Luke 15) – people who you trust deeply, and who you think might be the kind of friend described above.

Pray over the list for a few days or weeks, asking the Holy Spirit to give you discernment about a person you might have a conversation with about entering intentionally into a deeper kind of friendship. A friendship where you might begin to truly recognize the image of God in each other.

Notes for 1:1s or if you’re teaching this…

A few notes on what Jesus says here…

Time: When Jesus says that the time has come, he isn’t just speaking about chronological time. He uses the word, “kairos.” Kairos means an appointed time or season. It’s not chronological time but God’s time. A kairos moment interrupts the normal doings of our days and lives with an appointed opportunity for growth.

Kingdom: When Jesus says the “kingdom of God”, he means the place where God’s reign and rule is on display. God’s reign and rule looks like the fullness of goodness, truth, and beauty. …or, some might say, it looks like shalom or wholeness.

Nearness: Jesus says that the kingdom of God has come near. Essentially, God’s reign and rule is waiting on tiptoe to be displayed. However, we have to do something first.

Repent: Jesus says that the first thing we have to do is to repent. To repent is to turn or to change direction. The prodigal son was moving away from his father. Repentance was the moment he realized he needed to go back toward his father. Some people describe repentance as changing one’s mind.

Believe: Jesus says that the second thing we need to do is believe. When we believe, we don’t just change our minds but we allow what we believe to shape our thoughts, words, actions, and influence. To believe is to act on our repentance. 

Good News: We experience good news, or transformation, when we accept the invitation embedded in a kairos moment to make God king over a particular area of our hearts, minds, lives, relationships, resources, work, or influence. 


Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship Direction by David G. Benner
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer