Making disciples and making friends requires an initiator. Jesus told his disciples that He had chosen them – they had not chosen Him. It is life changing to be pursued by love, whether in romance, friendship, or discipleship. As a discipler I do not wait for disciples to come to me, I pursue them.
Jonathan gives us a good example of taking the initiative in his friendship with David. Jonathan begins their relationship by drawing David into a love covenant with himself. “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself” (1 Samuel 18:3). To understand their friendship we need to be aware of how a covenant worked in the eastern world. A covenant was an agreement between two parties that set the conditions of the relationship. A covenant was not between equals; rather it followed the pattern common to the ancient near east treaties. The victorious king would set the terms of the covenant with the conquered people. The covenant implied relationship, promise, and expectation. At the beginning of their friendship, Jonathan, as the crowned prince, initiates the covenant with David who, at this point, makes no commitment to Jonathan.
Making disciples is a covenant friendship. In a discipling relationship the discipler takes the initiative to reach out to his disciple. In the beginning a discipler cannot expect a disciple to understand biblical friendship nor discipleship. My purpose is to be their guide as Jesus guided his disciples and Jonathan guided David. Jonathan guides David for 13 years through his formative years in preparation for his life’s purpose to be the king. One example of this guidance is during a time when David discovered that King Saul was on his way to kill him. Jonathan found David and had him focus on the Lord, reminding David of God’s sovereignty and purpose in his life (1 Samuel 23:16-18).
Here are a couple of closing thoughts on being the initiator in a discipleship-friendship:
- Friendship is a learned skill. I teach my disciple how to receive friendship and how to be a friend.
- The pursuit of the friendship is an expression of love and value. The pursuit is a key component of the discipling process. Jonathan pursued David, Jesus chose his disciples, and Paul recruited Timothy.
- The pursuit takes time. I must continue the pursuit of the friendship until my disciple comes to the place of maturity and understanding where he can reciprocate in the friendship. If I waited for my disciples to contact me after our first few meetings, I would have few disciples. The process takes months (sometimes years) rather than weeks. It is important to remember that Jonathan and David’s friendship covered 13 years, Jesus was with his disciples for 3 years, and Paul was with Timothy for 16 years.
You said: “Friendship is a learned skill. I teach my disciple how to receive friendship and how to be a friend.”
couple of questions:
1) how do you teach someone this?
2) how do you teach this to someone who is extremely selfish?
I teach friendship by being a friend to them and by their observing my friendship with others. Practically, this means pursuing them by spending time with them and during that time getting to know them and discovering with them God’s purpose for their life. (Note: Jonathan understood clearly what God’s purpose was for David’s life.)
Nothing cures selfishness like sacrificial love. My responsibility is to love the other even in their selfishness. My conviction is that the Holy Spirit is at work in that child of God and that he will orchestrate perfect circumstances at the exact time to deal with the selfishness in their heartIt was sacrificial love demonstrated on the cross of Jesus that was the death blow to all of our pride and self-centeredness.
Lewie, how does the initial response of the potential disciple play into this? We see in the gospels that Jesus calls some and they won’t come, and others come to follow Jesus and he will not let them. Is an openness to that friendship a prerequisite to the identification of a potential disciple?
I do think the initial meeting and response tells a lot. It is not only their response buy also my own response. I can usually discern if the Holy Spirit was in the encounter or not. (I have wondered if the Spirit of God put into Jonathan a love for David because Jonathan was to be an instrument in the hand of God to prepare David for kingship. Does the Holy Spirit put a love in me for a person who I am to disciple or befriend?) I do ask the Lord to send the right people to me and keep the wrong ones away. My point is to be aware that others may not have the skill set or the emotional health to be a friend.
You make a good point about the Jesus and his various encounters with people. I do find it interesting that he chose the 12. There is no record of any of them coming to him seeking to follow him. (As you point out those who came to him to follow him he either turned away or the price was too great for them to follow.)
What if you are a person who is seeking to be discipled and feel led to a certain person? Should you pursue that or wait?
Yes, I would pursue the discipler. A discipler has a heart for men like you-as Jonathan did for David, Paul for Timothy.
But don’t be surprised if the man you ask to disciple you does not follow through or says no. Usually the reason they don’t follow through or say no is because they don’t feel qualified. (even if they are.) Don’t be afraid to pursue the friendship with the discipler even if you have to take the initiative. A young friend can teach an older person how to be a friend.
Lewie – I wanted to send you something in the mail – where I can mail it to you?