When the phone rang, I heard my husband answer, “yes, I will accept the charges.” He looked at me with a kind smile and said, “your friend is back in the slammer,” as he handed me the phone.
Molly (not her real name) was a friend of mine. She was a struggling mom with addiction hang ups and grief who was looking for hope. My aunt spent many hours teaching her things from the Bible and connected us because we were closer in age. I learned a lot from my aunt about what it meant to proclaim the gospel through sharing your life with people.
I spent a couple of years with my friend Molly. Because of Molly l grew in many ways. I became familiar with jail and had the opportunity lead a Bible study in a women’s correctional facility and a men’s correctional facility. I saw the tears of prisoners and the sadness hidden behind hardness. My friendship with Molly helped me to grow in courage, faith, and wisdom. We were nothing alike. But our bond was Jesus.
A couple of decades have passed since then and a lot in my life has changed. Looking back, what strikes me about my time with Molly is, it just fit. We had a relationship that was mutually beneficial centered on Jesus. Friendship centered on Jesus is a disciple-making relationship.
Over the years I’ve had many of those! None quite as dramatic as my relationship with Molly, but each one crucial to kingdom building. I can think of many people I have spent time with who have gone on to do the exact same thing; develop friendships with others centered on Jesus. This is living out 1 Thessalonians 2:8 as it says, “because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
My role has changed many times over in my adult life. I have been single; I have been married. I have worked in the corporate world; I have been a stay at home mom. I have worked my own business, and I have answered the call to ministry. In all of the changes over the many years, one thing remained constant, my call to make disciples. This is a call each of us who follows Jesus shares. No matter what you aspire to do with your life, it’s all good when we obey the basic command of Matthew 28 where Jesus tells us to go into all the world and make disciples.
At times we may mistakenly think we must have achieved a certain something or have learned a lot of things to answer the call of Christ. But what Jesus is looking for are people who will love Him enough to obey Him and go after the ones He is pursuing. Using your gifts to glorify Jesus is the best life you could possibly live. But aspiring to be a speaker, pastor, writer, or business leader without building a foundation of disciple making into your life is a hollow pursuit. If we want to use our lives to bring glory to God, we must obey what He is asking of us.
At different stages of life, disciple making looks different. As I look back on my own experience of disciple making, staying at home with a young child looks very different than when I didn’t have any children. So, I offer some practical tips for building a foundation of disciple making in your life:
- Begin by being a disciple. You can’t pour out what you haven’t taken in. We need to spend time reading the Bible and obeying what it says. Take short passages of scripture to read daily. Ask God what He wants you to obey from what you just read. Then do it!
- Find like-minded friends who want to make disciples. Being in a small group with others is a great way to share your progress on reaching out to others. Small group is a place where you can have prayer support and encourage each other to be on mission!
- Do what fits into your life. Look at the places where you live, work, learn, and play. Ask God to highlight someone to you in one of these circles who is open to Jesus and does not yet know Him. It does not matter what stage of life you find yourself in, Jesus is always pursuing people around us. One hang-up we might find is that all we know are other followers of Jesus! If this is the case, start with a simple prayer, “Jesus open my eyes to someone I already know who doesn’t know you.” Don’t be surprised if someone who was on the fringes of your life suddenly keeps popping up! (Think person who sits in the back at the sports booster meeting!)
- Look for mutually beneficial relationships. Let’s face it, we aren’t anyone’s savior, Jesus is! Relationships where we are always trying to fix or rescue someone isn’t disciple-making, it’s co-dependency. Look for mutually edifying relationships. My friend Molly was a struggling addict, but my relationship with her enriched me in many ways and opened my world to new possibilities. If you have a neighbor that has a skill that you are trying to master, ask them for help! That might be a great disciple-making opportunity!
- Invite Jesus into the friendship immediately. As you develop your friendship, begin asking questions about how you can pray for them. Ask about how God is working in their life. This will provide an opportunity for you to begin to regularly share scripture and encourage them to grow. Lay a foundation of looking outward by encouraging them to pray for others and share what God is teaching them with others. A disciple is always asking, “who else needs to know this, Lord?”
I have found, small acts of obedience pays big dividends. As we love and invest in the people God places in our lives, we are touching His heart. Disciple-making shapes us in many ways. It’s not a pursuit for later when we have more time, it is the pursuit He is calling us to each day. Whatever season you are in, God wants you to partner with Him to bring His kingdom. There are people all around you who are longing for hope, perhaps now more than ever. There are so many who are dry and thirsty looking for the hope only Jesus provides. They are waiting for ordinary people like you and me to invite them into friendship that will change their lives; a friendship centered on Jesus.
Pastor of Adult Life