Urban Discipleship 103

It was a tough first half. His confidence waned as he struggled to find his shooting groove, but with less than a minute on the clock, Kyrie Irving found himself with the ball in his hands during Game 7 of a hard-fought NBA Finals.

As the reigning MVP Steph Curry guarded him closely, Irving created just enough space off of the hesitation step and sank the championship-clinching three-pointer to secure the Cleveland Cavalier’s first NBA Title. He’d just hit the biggest shot on the biggest stage of his career.

“Mamba Mentality”

After the celebration and the presentation of the championship trophy, Kyrie stepped to the podium in the post-game press conference to answer questions from the media.

A reporter raised his hand and asked about his mindset before he drained the game winner. He said, “all I was thinking in the back of my mind was Mamba mentality, just Mamba mentality. That’s all I was thinking.”

Irving credited his approach to late game-scenarios and drew inspiration in the last moments of the contest from his ice-veined mentor Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant.

The 5-time champion, who is revered for his heroism in “clutch situations” grew close to the 20-year-old in 2012 during their time on the USA Basketball Team, and has continued to be a constant source of encouragement and advice.

Kyrie’s response is proof that Kobe had a profound influence on the career of the budding superstar. Although he’s retired from the NBA; he’d left a legacy through mentoring his young prodigy.

Mentorship (i.e. discipleship) plays a pivotal role in a person’s development, and as you contemplate on pastoring, planting, and serving in leadership roles in inner city churches, have you considered the importance of adopting a mentor’s mentality as a means leaving a lasting legacy?

Maybe you’re seeking creative, biblically informed ways to serve and disciple young men and women in the inner city context. If that’s you, here are 3 things you can do to help overcome urban discipleship dilemmas and adopt a “mentor mentality.” 

1. Determine What’s Been Hindering You

Urban Discipleship is a messy and time-consuming business. It requires consistency, intentionality, and patience. Seeing young men and women come to Christ while growing in his grace, however, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling tasks that we’ve been given to.

In my experience, one of the biggest hindrances from people making disciples is insecurity. Insecurity is the general unease of feeling inferior to others in some way. We don’t share the gospel, let alone invite them into a discipleship relationship because we don’t feel equipped to do so.

We suffer from low-self esteem and have deep, lingering feelings that we don’t do things well. Although insecurities may be indicative of underlying issues in our own spiritual walk, we should seek out ways to become equipped by employing virtual mentors (i.e. podcasts, reading books, studying the scriptures) and searching out people who already make disciples well.

You’ll always feel unfit and under prepared to make vital spiritual deposits in the life of others if you aren’t proactive in your spiritual growth. So, pray, study the scriptures, repent of your sins, discern who you are in Christ, and discover ways to become better equipped to disciple and lead those who follow you.

2. Make Sure That Your Disciples Are Filled Up

This is a very simple principle. Disciples will not go far unless you put fuel in their tank, and you won’t be able to put fuel in their tank if you don’t have any to spare. As a mentor, it is incumbent upon you to help provide resources to help your disciples mature.

While the burden is not exclusively upon your shoulders, you should be able to point them in the right direction and that includes providing them with books, YouTube links, lectures, etc. that will help them grow.

There are two things that I want my disciples to discern about me.

Firstly, I want them to recognize that I am a person that has been in the presence of the Lord. I want to be marked as a man that diligently spends time with Jesus praying, repenting of my sins, and reading the scriptures.

This is the foundation of the process.

Secondly, I want to always be able to “bring something to the table” by way of what I’ve been reading, studying, or reflecting on throughout the week. I never want to show up to a DNA (Discipleship, Nourishment, and Accountability) Group without something relevant to offer them as a resource for their growth. In the words of John Maxwell, “there is no greater thrill than putting into other’s hands a resource that can help take them to the next level.”

3. Avoid Digitized Discipleship

In the digital age where more information is available to us at our fingertips than any previous generation, we can be tempted to divest discipleship responsibility by referring brothers and sisters exclusively to podcasts.

Discipleship that becomes exclusively digitized only cultivates isolationism and consumerism. While I’m a staunch advocate of reading and podcasting, we cannot make the error of divesting personal time with people. This is one of the primary errors in our discipleship process. Intentionally investing time in people is a personal endeavor, not an exclusively digital one. We should be spending the bulk of our time creating a process of developing, leading, shepherding, and modeling the gospel in personal ways.

This requires a personal touch with coaching dimensions that provide guidance and a sense of belief that Christ is working in the heart and mind of that person. See them as valuable and go the extra mile by investing in their future.

Don’t expect podcast, sermons, lectures, etc. to mature people exclusively. These are all supplemental resources that help propel them to spiritual maturity, but the personal work of discipleship is the primary means that Christ uses to transform people and ultimately transform our cities.


Ultimately, becoming too concerned with your own success without investing in the personal development of others is a misdirected, unfulfilling task that often leads to burnout, frustration, and a lack of productivity within our churches.

So go make disciples and take others on the journey with you!

That’s all I got for now. Let’s talk again soon.

Grace and peace.



Ernest Cleo Grant, II

Ernest Cleo Grant, II (@ernestcleogrant) is the Lead Pastor of Epiphany Fellowship Church of Camden, a graduate of Reformed Seminary (D.C.), and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education from Stockton University. He and his wife Sarah have been married for almost a decade and have two children( Amaela and Chancellor). He's an avid reader, a community advocate, and has bylines in The Witness, Christianity Today, The Star-Ledger, Desiring God, and other publications


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