Have you ever heard the term DTR? Well, it means “Define the Relationship.” I found out the hard way that this term is critical as it relates to discipleship.

While I was mentoring a young man, there was a time when he was at the church, in our home, on the road with me—nearly 24/7. We would dive into the Scriptures, business, talk about family concerns, girls and finances. After about four years of a consistent relationship, he and I had doctrinal differences. It seemed best that we part ways as he had an opportunity to move into a “Biblical community.” This community was where young couples would live together and be the church.

After a year or so, I received a call from this young man that started out with, “You never discipled me,” and by his tone I knew he was upset. I was hurt! I thought to myself, ‘I’ve invested all the LORD had commanded me to do and this is how you repay me?’ It was several years later that I realized that only one out of four Christians had ever been disciple (The State of Discipleship, A Barna Group Report). This means disciple-makers need to take the time to define the relationship (DTR) with those they disciple.

Lesson Learned

I learned from that day on to regularly define my method of discipleship, reconcile it in Scripture and define it over and over.

Troy A. Evans has ministered for 24 years and, most recently, as pastor of The Edge Urban Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.