Love is the mark of a follower of Jesus. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) In my first 20 years of making disciples I followed the “one-on-one” discipling model. But after studying the discipling methods of Jesus, I decided to pull my disciples together one night a week at my apartment to form a community. I was in for a shock. Not only did these guys not love one another, but some of them did not even get along with one another.
I realized that sitting in a Starbucks a guy could snow me by giving the impression that all his relationships were healthy, but in a community with other believers his relational fault lines are exposed and his true character is revealed. Finding oneself in authentic community can stir up old fears and insecurities. Over the next several months I was coaching the guys individually on how to love the others and how to receive love. I would have to teach Tim specifically on how to love John. Some of the men did not believe they could ever be loved. I remember Grant working hard to learn how to receive friendship from the other men in the group.
Jesus took 30 months with his disciples to shape their community and to exhibit his love for them. Jesus then instructed the disciples to love one another with the same love that He had for them, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) For eternity God’s love has been revealed in the community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, so then, our love for one another as disciples is an illustration of God’s love to the world.
You said: “I was in for a shock. Not only did these guys not love one another, but some of them did not even get along with one another.”
This sentence really interests me. So how to start a discipleship group appropriately from the beginning for the maximum result?
Two of the most memorable Lewie quotes on community discipleship:
“It’s so easy to love people when I’m sitting by myself at home.”
“I am the best friend anyone could ever want. It’s the other 6 billion people that have the problem.”
Thanks for writing!
P.S. You should give the guys in your examples non-English names. That would be awesome.
Thanks for the wisdom and friendship from a distance. I think this is the hardest part because we are so human and also forget how long Jesus invested in these guys.
It’s hard to break away from the programitic mind set.
My natural tendency is to first get a group together, tell them what we’re going to do/achieve and then work with them to get there. Jesus said, “Come follow me” and Paul encourages to “Do what I do”.
These to concepts are difficult in my western, modern mind as the results are unpredictable and requires me to be more like Jesus (righteous).
In my self-righteousness it’s hard to go into every encounter/relationship thinking of the opportunity to show people who God is and not trying to plug them into a program of “making them a better person”.
To begin a discipling community/group I would recommend you begin small and build slow.
When I moved to Chicago there was only 2 of us. After a couple of weeks we added 2 more. There were only the four of us for 6 months and then we added only 1 more guy. It was 5 of us for the 4 months and then we added one more guy-so it was 6 of us for the next 6 months. That summer we added 4 bringing the total to 10. Now after 2 1/2 years we are up to 16. (Our group is made of up of 6 women and 10 men)
During this whole period, no matter how small, we worked on loving one another and learning how to love one another.
My point? Disciple making requires patience on the front end because it is a slow process, but after the 3rd year it multiplies quickly.
I think you really understand something fundamental about following Jesus. It has been encouraging for me to see this blog.
But I was concerned about about the last paragraph you wrote and I want to comment. I may have not understood your communication, but talking about 3rd years and things multiplying quickly smacks of a regression back toward programs, formulas and contrived religious systems and away from the simple, pure, fundamental of just being about each other.
I hope not to be presumptuous but this is just to caution against slipping into our deeply ingrained tendency to look to timeframes and numbers and man made benchmarks as a means of trying to validate practice and lifestyle that the world does not value or understand. The world does not understand living by faith, which is entirely what one is doing when he decides to commit to being about others. The world values and understands membership numbers, full buildings, trendy movements, high profile programs and all the various forms of religious activity. But as you rightly acknowledge, at the end of the day (or time as it were) the only thing that matters is: How did you love one another? Don’t let that simple aspiration, loving one another, be sullied or confused by any other.
Again forgive me if I am out of turn. I only want to see you truly succeed in your endeavor. And the level of that success can’t be measured by numbers. It is something we can’t know until the end of time when all things are revealed. Live by faith.