Love pursues. Your first step with a disciple is to pursue him. Just as Jesus chose his 12 disciples and as Paul chose Timothy, it is important for you to take the initiative in pursuing your disciple. This first step is key because it establishes the tone of the relationship and sets a trajectory for discipling relationships for generations to come. When others came to Jesus and reversed the initiative by asking to become his disciple he turned them away, which indicates the significance of the discipler pursuing the disciple. (Matt 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62)
The good news of the kingdom is that the Father pursued man and adopted him into the family of God. As I pursue a disciple I am demonstrating to him and the world the pursuing love of God in the cross of Jesus.
Recently I was at a gathering where several disciples shared their stories. A recurring theme was the life change as a result of being loved by their discipler. Not only will your disciple never forget being pursued by you, but it will serve as a point of reference for the rest of his life. Because he has experienced the love of being pursued, he will pursue others.
Some closing lessons from the pursuit:
Pursuing is hard work.
Pursuing is deliberate.
Begin the pursuit by having your disciple tell you his story.
The pursuit of your disciple will take months. Depending on the individual it may take many initiatives before you see a response. (The pursuit often causes a disciple to face his deepest fears which he has avoided for years.)
The experience of being pursued teaches your disciple how to pursue others.
Parents, pursue each of your children. Children, pursue your parents. Brothers and sisters, pursue one another. Friends, pursue your friends.
The church (ekklesia) is a family and is to be led as a family. When the apostle Paul was looking for men to lead the church, he looked for men who were good husbands and dads. Paul understood the family essence of the church and that the same principles that build a healthy family are the same values that will multiply the kingdom of God. He writes: “He (the overseer) must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church (ekklesia)?)“ (1 Timothy 3:3-6)
Multiplication in a family is a natural and anticipated result. Good parents create an environment that is not only safe for the child but also one that moves the child onto maturity. Parents understand that the maturing process takes time but it is balanced with the expectation that someday this child is to leave their home to raise his own family. There is something unnatural about a 27 year old still living at home.
Jesus used the example of yeast and a seed to illustrate the multiplication nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25). The multiplication principle of “death brings life” was taught and demonstrated by both Jesus and Paul through the love sacrifice of their own lives for others. Paul writes to the disciples in Thessalonica: “…but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you” (1 Thess 2:7-9).
The marked difference between how parents approach their children and an organization their members is sacrificial love. Just as a child learns love through the daily sacrifices his parents make for him, so the love of God is taught by the believers laying down their lives for other believers. We demonstrate to the world the love of God when we, as the family of God, lay down our lives for one another. The disciple John wrote: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us“ (1 John 4:9-12). This is why the church is to function as a family and not an organization.