As a discipler, it is not only essential for you to verbally communicate your love to each disciple, it is also important that your disciple communicates his love to you and to the other disciples.
This week I listened to an interview of a father who on 9/11 lost two sons who were New York firefighters. That fateful morning he had spoken to his sons on the phone and the last thing he had said to both boys was “I love you.” This dad finished the interview in tears saying, “I am so glad that the last thing they heard from me was that I loved them.”
Our heavenly Father not only loves us, but he used words to express that love throughout the Old Testament. Then when the God-Man Jesus came to earth he too verbally expressed his love to his disciples. The night before his crucifixion he communicated the full extent of that love by stating: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9)
The apostle Paul also gives free expression in communicating his love for the believers. Early in his ministry he says to the Thessalonians: “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.” (1 Thess 3:8-10) Ten years later, rather than suffering from ministry burnout, he still overflows with love in telling the Philippians: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:8) At the end of his life Paul was still lavishing affection on his disciple Timothy, even after being together for 17 years, he writes: “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” (2 Tim 1:4)
Here are a couple of things I do in verbally expressing love to my disciples:
- My goal is to verbally express my love to each disciple each time we are together. (Each goodbye maybe our last until heaven.)
- Periodically I write my affection in a note, email or text message to my disciple. It is important for your disciple to receive your affection in both verbal and written forms.
- Coach your disciple on how to express his affection to the other disciples in the group.
- I regularly check to insure that the disciples are expressing their love to one another even when I am not around.