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Checkpoint Autumn 2022: Discipling postgraduates

CMS missionaries Nathan and Diane Lovell serve at George Whitefield College in Cape Town, South Africa. Discipling looks a bit different when you are ministering to postgraduate students, as Nathan explains. 

The work of discipling can be quite different depending on the people you’re relating to and the relationship you have with them.  

Some people are peers and friends, and it’s one thing to be fellow disciples together. Other people sit in a classroom and it’s often more one-way—I try to model what it looks like to wrestle with God’s word with an attitude of reverential engagement and holy curiosity.  

Postgraduate students are somewhere in between 

But postgraduate students are in between, the academic version of teenagers. Neither still students nor yet academics, their Christian character and theology are well-formed, but they are still figuring out their careers. They often get their first taste of being on the other side of the classroom. Sometimes they are also on the other side of ideas and debates that make them feel uncomfortable. They are figuring out nuance and working through challenges.  

But they often know what they want—which is my job or something like it (if we’re honest).  

What discipling postgrads means 

The discipling relationship with a postgraduate is special. They get one-to-one attention as I supervise their research and read their thesis at all 20 stages of redrafting—a process that often takes years, so I get to know them well. They learn the rules of the ‘academic game’, and how to be faithful and scholarly at the same time. I encourage them, but at times that is experienced as being pushed and challenged, so sometimes they cry or get angry. I pray they learn what it means to love and follow Jesus into a ministry that serves his church through study, reading, writing, and teaching. 

Mature in Christ 

The goal is the same as with anyone: to present everyone mature in Christ (Col 1:28). But it’s not the entire goal. The entire goal would be, one day, when they are doing my job, by the grace of God they will do it better than me. I want them to think about how best to teach, train, encourage, model, wrestle, challenge, rebuke, test, pray and hope. I want them to disciple other people to do that too.  

Academic disciples become academic disciplers. And this must be the culture of the institutions where we train people for ministry. It’s the only way we can make sure that the next generations of gospel workers are trained by people who know what it means to follow Jesus themselves.


Many CMS missionaries like Nathan are involved in training Bible teachers to grow as disciples of Christ who can effectively disciple others through their teaching ministry. Can you give to CMS to support this work?

Read more online

CMS missionaries Ian and Jenny Wood describe what it looks like in the North Australia context to help their students think biblically, so that they grow in gospel maturity and can teach others. Read it here.