Family and Making Disciples 5 – Belonging

Chicago Tribune writer Marla Paul took a risk when she wrote a self-revealing column confessing her sadness and frustration over her own inability to build and sustain friendships. She wrote this column expecting little, if any, response. However, she was inundated with letters from others experiencing the same kind of isolation.

One person wrote, “I’ve often felt that I’m standing outside looking through the window of a party to which I was not invited.”

Marla Paul ended her column about loneliness with these words: “Sometimes it seems easier to just give up and accept disconnectedness as a dark and unshakable companion; but, that’s not the companion I want.” She writes, “She is going to keep longing, searching, trying, and hoping that someday she will be able to discover and develop community.” [1]

People need to belong. The television show “Friends” is popular because people long to be part of a tribe of friends as seen on the show. This desire in man to belong comes from the nature of God. For all eternity the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have had each other and belonged to one another. Since man is created in the image of God, we too were made to belong to others.

Part of the discipling process is helping your disciple understand that they belong to God as a son and also to God’s family. A disciple of Jesus belongs to the family of God because he was wanted and adopted by the heavenly Father. Trevor Burke writes: “Adoption is about being wanted. It is about belonging” [2]. Along with discussions around the word of God about what it means to be a child of God, the discipler must continually include the disciple in his own life as well and draw his disciple into a loving group of the children of God.

Some closing thoughts on belonging:

  1. Include your disciple in your life. By allowing your disciple into the routine of your life, he will see how you relate to your spouse, children, and friends. It illustrates to him what it means to belong to God’s family. (Paul wrote of this approach in 1 Thessalonians: “You know how we lived among you for your sake…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.”)
  2. Teach each member of your discipling community to consistently communicate to one another that they belong to the group and that they are an important part of the family. (We cannot be reminded too often that we belong.)
  3. Serve your disciple. One way to say “you belong” is by serving your disciple when they have a need. Even better is when a whole community can serve a need of one of its members.

[1] Paul, Marla, The Friendship Crisis: Finding, Making, and Keeping Friends When You’re Not a Kid Anymore, (Emmaus: Rodale Publishing, 2004)

[2] Burke, Trevor J., Adopted Into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), p.197.

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