Bill Mowry is a veteran staff member with The Navigators. He has a masters in adult education from Ohio State and is a published author in the areas of education, learning, discipleship, and leadership. Bill and his wife, Peggy, live in Columbus, Ohio, and serve with The Navigators Church Ministries. His passion is to create ministry cultures where people are relationally doing the Great Commission, one person at a time.
Disciple!: Your book is titled, The Ways of the Alongsider. Where did that descriptor originate? Describe for us just what an “alongsider” entails.
Bill Mowry: It occurred to me that while the Gospels talk about disciples, there is little or no reference to that term in the epistles. The model we see in the early church was one of “one another”—individuals coming alongside others to help follow Christ whole-heartedly. Rather than a hierarchy of teacher and student, it’s an emphasis on two adults in relationship where one is intentionally helping the other to follow Jesus.
D!: In the book, you say that you want to change how people think about disciplemaking. What do you consider to be the biggest misconception about making disciples?
Bill: A pastor I worked with was teaching a class on discipleship and one of the adults in the class said, “I don’t think I could ever be a disciplemaker. I could never stand in front of a class and teach like you do.” In this man’s mind, that’s what making disciples looked like and it was something only professionals or particularly gifted people can do. That’s a huge—and common—misconception. And a lot of people think discipleship needs to be complicated. It doesn’t.
D!: So, how does the “alongsider” approach differ?
Bill: That pastor understood that making disciples isn’t just for the professionals. So he asked the class, “How many of you think you could build a solid relationship with another person, read the Bible with them, ask him good questions about his life and what the Bible says about how to live, and encourage that person in applying the truth of Scripture to his life?” Every person in that class thought they could do that.
D!: It’s intriguing that the book focuses on the ways of the “alongsider”—rather than the secrets, the skills, or the methods. Was this intentional?
Bill: It’s very intentional! There should be a certain “way” about those who follow Jesus. Discipleship is relational. An “alongsider” builds authentic, transparent relationships with others in which both parties are vulnerable. The things we pass on aren’t “secrets”—they’re available to anyone. It’s not primarily about methods, either. Discipleship is about helping others discover what the Scriptures say and asking good questions that encourage people to respond to the Spirit.
D!: What do you think is the single most important thing someone can learn from working through the material in this book?
Bill: Two things stand out to me. First, I want to change the image people have of discipleship. I want to move it from the picture of a ministry professional or a classroom to an alongsider who makes disciples in life2life ways. Second, people will learn some practical skills that will enhance their disciplemaking ministry. The book will help them learn how to build authentic relationships, ask powerful questions, read the Bible with others, and start discipleship conversations. The Ways of the Alongsider is more than a book to read or a study to complete. It’s about how to create a new way of life—the life of an alongsider.
Disciplemaking for the Rest of Us
Jesus charged His disciples to “go and make disciples.” But being a disciple of Jesus involves much more than simply doing Bible study or completing the curriculum of some “discipleship program.” That’s why The Ways of the Alongsider is more than simply a Bible study. It’s a guide to learning and developing “life-to-life” skills that are essential for making disciples.
The Ways of the Alongsider paints a fresh picture of disciplemaking that makes it clear that this vital ministry isn’t just the domain of ministry professionals. Making disciples and participating in the Great Commission is something every follower of Jesus can do. The 10 chapters in this guide are packed with Bible studies, creative assignments, and challenging reflection questions that tackle topics such as authenticity, transparency, vulnerability—and other relationship issues that you won’t find in most “discipleship” curriculum.