As you know, I am passionate about discipleship. But it often happens that as soon as I speak my passion with some people they get a glazed look in their eye, and then start backing out the door! I think they feel some potential pressure and guilt coming their way, or maybe another program they need to give time to.
But, of course, those are things I don't believe in. I love relationship.
For me, discipleship is relationship. Not just hanging out relationship, but intentional relationship. I love investing in people, encouraging them, trying to discern what God is up to in their lives, and then intentionally identifying with what that is to encourage their walk with God.
In fact, I believe every relationship is a discipling relationship if I am intentional. Some and are deep and involve lots of time, others are not so involved...but every relationship is a gift from God... and an opportunity to invest in people's lives. What a privilege.
So how does it work? This thing called discipleship? How does "intentional relationship" work? First, a couple things it doesn't mean...
It doesn't mean getting ahead of where people are in their journey with God. It doesn't mean imposing an agenda on people. It doesn't mean pressuring people or controlling them. It doesn't mean I'm responsible for them...
Whew! That's a relief!!
God has put me and you in people's lives to serve them, and in some cases, to very deliberately invest in their journey with God. With that in mind, here a few suggestions of things I have found helpful:
1. Ask questions - find out where people are in their journey with God, and start there.
2. Try to discern through prayer and listening how you might encourage the person. That is intentionality...discerning, listening, and praying... then speaking encouragement. When you frame what you say with encouragement you will never be far off the mark.
3. Define the relationship. Figure what people want or expect, then define what you can give, and how, for how long and how often. Be positive, not demanding.
4. Always come back to Scripture - somehow, someway, involve the Word. With pre-Christians, I ask if they would like to discuss some of the teachings and sayings of Jesus. If not, that let's me know that they are not ready for spiritual input, so I will focus on the friendship, and set my expectations accordingly. Then I look for others that I can be more directly involved with spiritually. I keep the friendship with everyone, but search for those who are hungry to learn and grow.
5. Expect obedience. Discipleship is obedience to Jesus. Little obediences lead to big obediences. I suggest small things for people to put into practice or do, or ask what goals or what God is impressing them to do. Then I watch to see how the person does in obeying what God is saying to them.
6. I involve them with others at the same level of spiritual growth... I introduce them to others who are seeking to know Jesus, or others who are already on the journey, depending on where they are.
7. Celebrate weakness of failure if a person is honest about a mistake or need. Make your relationship a safe place for them to grow.
Okay, those are a few ideas. What has helped you be intentional about discipling people? Share with me so I can pass on your ideas. Thanks!!