Relational Discipleship

23 06 2009

In my first series article entitled Intentional Discipleship, I sighted that ‘our job is to make disciples to all nations and our goal is to finish the Great Commission.’ Here are the highlights:

1. Who made you? Who did you made? When it says ‘go and make disciples’ it means that there are people who made us a disciple and people who we can make into a disciple. We knew each other then, those who made us one and those when we are going to make. It’s intentional because it’s a relationship.

2. Find from your circle of friends . Mostly the ‘how to find people to make disciples?’ question is frequently asked. The easiest way is from your circle of friends and from there pick those people who believe in you and trust you. I believe that these are the people whom God prepared for you to ‘make disciples’ of Jesus.

3. Take them to Christ. As my friend Mike Peters says, ‘we are taking men to Christ to be discipled by Him.’ We only ‘make’ them disciples of Jesus, not ours. We are not told ‘to disciple’ people but only to ‘make’ them. We are not the discipler, the Holy Spirit is. We serve Jesus to lead them to Himself. It is time to fully trust the Holy Spirit’s work in a person’s life.

4. Lead for awhile. Lead from behind, not in the front. This will not make the person dependent on you but this is thrusting him to depend on Christ right from the start. The person may follow ‘you’ because he is ‘lost’ but that’s only for a while because your intention is to let him follow Jesus and not you. So, you lead him for ‘awhile’ like John the baptist having his own followers but not for long because sooner his followers followed Jesus ultimately.

5. Be a parent in the Lord (Eph.6:1). Our relationship to the person is simply to father/mother him/her in the Lord. It is not a lifetime of discipleship that we are maintaining here but we are ‘engaging’ ourselves in a lifetime of ‘relationship.’ Like Timothy became a ‘son in the Lord’ to Paul and John the Beloved becoming a father to many children. Their hearts was never to ‘draw disciples for themselves’ (Acts 20:30) but to draw the disciples to Christ.

6. Be friendly. “I’m not gonna make someone a disciple unless he’s a friend.” I said to my ‘evangelist’ friend. “What if God told you to make him into a disciple?” He ask. I replied, “Well, I’m gonna make him my friend.” We are relational people, we’re called to relationships. This is not commanded of us, this is ‘expected’ from us! Just as Jesus makes friends, he calls people by their names, we too should act the same. He’s called a ‘friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ Dear friend, the command to make disciples was never to the ‘found’ already who’s sitting next pew to you at the church building. To make disciples is to the ‘lost’ who is in the ‘world’ not in the ‘church.’

We have lost the connection: we don’t have ‘unbelieving’ friends anymore. All our friends were Christians already. Remember that the ‘field’ was never the church, it is the world! “Light of the world, You step down into darkness. Open my eyes let me see…” What a wonderful song but unfortunately, what the churches does instead of going out and takes that light outside of the four walls of their building they just stand and stood very still and sang with their hands both raised up high with their eyes closed! Why? I do not know but I have an idea. Maybe their light was being puffed up by the way they lived after they get out of their churches? The Good news to the world was never the message from the pulpit – that only produces pew-sitters and bored-listeners, not disciples. The Good news is Jesus Christ and how your daily life with Him is affecting those around you!

TRADITIONAL DISCIPLESHIP v/s INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP

The most common discipleship model in today’s Christianity can be pictured in this scenery:

As Jesus and the disciples’ were walking along the hills and valleys, Peter stood up and says, “Jesus, this is a very nice location here. Let us build three temples here, one for you, for me and for James. This would be perfect as our training camps for our discipleship group sessions.”

“Oh really?” Jesus was dumbfounded of Peter’s opinion. “Are you suggesting?” The wind blows wherever it wishes but He finally ended up submitting Peter’s idea. Peter, have them sit down by two’s and hand them some copies of the lesson: Studying God’s Law.

After a year of extensive ‘Bible Study Weekly Meetings’ they’re all exhausted and started feeling burned-out. Then one night as they were all asleep, Jesus separates Himself with them, He went up to the mountain and pray and behold a crowd of five thousand people was awaiting Him at the foot of the mountain and started pressing Him on every side asking for more free meals as they all have taste His goodness of providing meals during His disciples’ seminar last week. Half asleep Matthew pull out Zaccheus table and raised Jesus a little bit higher from the crowd. Jesus had no choice but to start preaching the Sermon of the Mount. People were amazed at His teaching and was cut to heart and asked, “What should we do?”

“Respond to the altar calling” James shouted. Many who were healed of their diseases and was blessed. Under the fig tree Judas is observing carefully, seeing the great crowd he started passing around the basket to take up an offering. It wasn’t enough so he took another round of offering only this time he ask his co-disciples to use the 12 baskets that was used to fill up leftovers of food to be used. They have collected also some gold tooth and silver nails.

“Let us build ourselves a church.” Someone is giving his own opinion again, this time it comes from the crowd. “We have raised $2 million and fifty! Judas said as he counted the money.

“How about a building made of titanium? Or a glass?” Someone suggested.

“Nah, that’s too costly.” Someone aptly said. “Why not send a text message to Joseph, Jesus’ father, to see if he’s available for work, say starting next week?”

How absurd but sounds pretty familiar right? This is how we simply do and live-out our Christianity in our churches today. It’s all about ‘us’ and not ‘Jesus’ anymore. It’s about ‘our’ church and not ‘His’ anymore. It’s not about Jesus telling us what to do but it’s about us telling what we want Him to do. Jesus, the disciples, and the early church never did this but surely we are ‘suggesting’ it.

Our way of ‘teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you’ is found in the four corners of our church building, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else. It’s how we obey the great commission. If Jesus only spent 12 hours a day with His disciples for three years, it takes us 36 years to become Jesus’ disciples following our way of Sunday-Cum-Wednesday Night approach of Christianity. It won’t transfer kingdom values.

Intentional discipleship is about relationships, not programs. It is engaging your life to the person treating him or her as your own children ‘in the Lord.’ Your ‘spiritual’ kids that is. Right from the beginning of making the person into a disciple its foundation is your friendship with that person. Unlike in what is so-called evangelism of our day is ‘hit and run’ type of ministry. Preaching at the person of which you don’t even know his name. Intentional discipleship is not like that. It is growing together as a family. It is walking together like father and son relationships. You may use a book but it’s not a means to an end. Your life is. Life-together is. Living-Jesus-Life together as a family.

 

SYSTEMATIC DISCIPLESHIP v/s RELATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP

A beautiful scene of how Jesus perceive discipleship is as He walked into the valleys and the hills He said to His disciples, “Look at the birds” and it became a lesson on faith. “Look at the grass” and it became a lesson on trust. He didn’t create a book as discipleship teachings. He didn’t create even His ‘own’ materials or curriculums. Instead He uses what His Father has made already as His discipleship materials to teach about Life. The kingdom of God is like a ‘seed.’ He uses earthly stuff as we know them as ‘parables.’ He said to Nicodemus, “I am using earthly stuff and you didn’t get it? How much more heavenly stuff?”

When you ‘teach’ someone ‘to obey all’ of Jesus commands, that doesn’t confine in a building with a time schedule. Teaching is not by the book right from the start. It is by the Life of Jesus, how He lived on earth. It is teaching them how to live, not ‘about’ God. There’s a big difference between knowing ‘the’ person and knowing ‘about’ the person. You may not know your best friend’s birthdate but you know that you know him. Learning ‘about’ God comes from our life-experiences with God as we live with Him among other brethren. It’s the by-product of our relationships with Him, not the other way around. God cannot be understood by logic but by obedience because He is a person, not a book!

When the disciples said, “Jesus, teach us how to pray” He didn’t told them to get paper and pen and start writing down ‘definitions’ of prayer. Instead He prays! The best way to learn prayer is to pray. Jesus didn’t teach theoretically correct theology! That’s why He messes Pharisses and Sadducess up! Now, He messes up the theologians. Take for example, He didn’t teach us how to heal the sick, instead He told us to heal the sick. In the same way with making disciples, He didn’t taught us how to make disciples, instead He told us to make disciples. Simply because His way of life here on earth is teaching us exactly that.

 

TRADITIONAL DISCIPLESHIP v/s INTENTIONAL –RELATIONAL DISCIPLESHIP

 

The Main Event  Sermons as a means of discipling  -Everyday life inter-actions with God

The Main Job      Pastor is the discipler                        Only ‘make’ a person a disciple, HS is the discipler

Position                 Lead for a lifetime in the front       Lead for a while on the side, then move behind

The leader            The pastor                                           Jesus is the Only Leader – everybody follows/servants

Activity                 Lifetime of discipleship                    Lifetime of relationships (family)

Meetings              Scheduled classes                              Family Gatherings-everywhere, anytime.

Relationship        The pastor and the member            5-fold Equipper (‘Parents in the Lord’)

The motive          Draw disciples for themselves        Draw men to Christ for Him to be discipled

The goal              Church-goers                                       Finishing the Great Commission

The Bottom-line- Institutional Church                       The Kingdom of God

 

Discipleship in Jesus’ times was never a collection of people and materials and lock them up in the room doing a ‘study’ about life in Jesus. But it is a ‘living’ Jesus’ Life together in a daily basis. It is not ‘talking’ life together or ‘study’ life together in a room. A very good question for every disciple would be: with whom are you living Jesus Life with?

The Life that we have from Him was never intended for us to live in isolation. There are 75 commands of Jesus, the 58 of them alone is about ‘one-anothering.’ Means, I can’t live without you, you cannot live without me. The hand could not just say to the foot, “See you next Sunday.”

 

Stories:

“What does it mean when Jesus said, ‘deny yourself?'” Jomie ask me one morning.

“Why?”

“Well, while I am having my coffee in the garden and at the same time taking out weeds, God told me that.”

“What are you thinking while God said that to you? What is in your heart?”

“My family.” Jomie said.

“Well, Jesus said that ‘he who loves father, mother, brothers, sisters more than Me is not worthy of Me.’ What do you think?” (end of conversation)

If it would be like any common discipleship class then it would look totally very different conversation. It would surely become a ‘bible study.’ But Jomie and I lived together in one house as family. I am fathering him. Take another example,

“Silver and gold i have none,…” Jomie said to me directly while staring at me intently.

“But in the Name of Jesus stand up!” I continued his statement.

“Wrong.” He said. I was shock. “Why?” I asked back.

“‘But in Jesus Name I will make you a disciple!’ That’s what I told those people in the island when i started making them into a disciple.”

I was dumbfounded. If it be a systematic discipleship then I should be so right.

 

Another story:

Jomie’s brother named Ranel visited us at the house. Ranel was made into a disciple by Jomie. I am working on a bookshelf alone this time, we normally do things together and while doing it we discuss a lot of things. Anyway, Ranel express how hard it is being a married person. “Do you know how to make a cabinet?” I started a conversation.

“No” he answered.

“Well, marriage life is like a cabinet. If you do not know how to hold a hammer and a nail and what’s its purpose for then you can’t marry yet. Let alone having children. To marry right is to learn everything, everything.” That day we talk about marriage life and a lot using what we are in our hands and around. Like Jesus teaching faith by cursing the fig tree – right there and then He is showing it how faith works!

 

One more story:

Without a plan of sending Albert and Jomie to make disciples, they did it anyway while having a camp out with their friends. They baptized five. I told them to drop by at the house while on the way home. My plan is to meet them all in person and have a meal then do the Lord’s supper welcoming them to the family. They arrived the next day, we had wonderful times together sharing. We all ate together and went home. “I forgot Albert!” raising my voice remembering what needs to be done.

“What?” Albert asked.

“Was suppose to do the Lord’s Supper with them.”

“It’s ok kuya.” He said.

“Why?”

“We did that already.” He said.

“Really? When?”

“Right after we baptised them.”

“How did you do it?” I inquire.

“I open my Bible and share about Jesus sacrifice and eating with His disciples, ….” I listened as he goes on talking.

“He get it.” I said to myself.

 

So many stories to tell about how we do ‘relational discipleship’ here. We don’t call it that name, we don’t have to. But what we do is that we do it directly instead, as we go.

 

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One response

24 01 2013
Wolfgang

I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!
! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I’ve got you book marked to check out new stuff you post…

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