Pursuing Your Disciple

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 Kindness of Friendship

Jonathan is my hero.  He provides for us an example of the heart of friendship a discipler should have towards his disciple.  Though a courageous warrior, Jonathan was a kind man, living counter to his surroundings and upbringing.  His father, King Saul, was an angry, violent, proud, and irrational person. Although his siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan became humble, loyal, affectionate, and a good friend.  He gives us hope that we are not fated to repeat our family’s dysfunction and self-destructive behavior.

As the story of Jonathan and David’s friendship unfolds we get a glimpse into the heart of Jonathan.  Though heir to the throne, Jonathan was submissive to the purpose and will of God even though it meant for him a displacement to a secondary role.  He actually chose to be a friend to the very man who would take his place as king.

But are there really any secondary roles in God’s economy?   I do not believe that David could have become the man of God that he did without the foundation of Jonathan’s friendship in his life.  Jonathan not only loved David but he taught him how to place a confidence in the purpose of God.  Once when David was running for his life from Saul, Jonathan was able to speak courage into the heart of David because of his own trust in the sovereignty of God.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you.  You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you.  Even my father Saul knows this.”  The two of them made a covenant before the Lord.  Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.  (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Placing others ahead of myself is at the heart of following Jesus and making disciples.  To be a follower of Jesus is to live for others.  This is not only what Jesus taught but also what he displayed by his life.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

When I place the interest of my friend’s life ahead of my own I am illustrating the good news of Jesus to the world.   My nature is to watch out for myself and trust no one.  Only my surrender to the sovereign purpose of God can rescue me from the pull of self-centeredness.

Jonathan embraced God’s purpose for his own life by understanding and embracing God’s purpose for his friend David’s life.  Jonathan then purposed to join God in making David king and to serve him as the second man; in other words, to make David a success.

It is when I recognize that there is a divine purpose for the life of my disciple and that I willingly join the Holy Spirit in fulfilling that purpose, no matter the cost, that I become a true friend.    Many want a Jonathan and David type friendship but few are willing to pay the price.  It is in losing my life for the sake of a friend that I find my own life’s purpose.

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.

Friendship and Making Disciples 4

Restoration Through Discipling-Friendship

The kingdom of God is about relationships. Man was designed by God to be loved and to love. The sad news is that in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve’s relationships were shattered, both with God, and with one another. There were now barriers of shame, self-consciousness, and fear between individuals and between man and God.

The good news is that Jesus has reconciled man to God, so that he can once again have a loving relationship with God and with others. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate how men can lovingly relate to God and to one another, both through His sacrifice on the cross, and through the example of His 30 month relationship with His own disciples. The discipling relationship restores individuals to God’s design so that man can be in relationship with one another as the Lord intended.

Here is how a discipling-friendship works:

  • God loved me first.

    The reason I can love God and love others is because He first loved me. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). I am now able to love God and others out of the reservoir of infinite love poured into my life by God at the cross.Religion tries to manipulates men to love God, but the basis of the kingdom is that God loves us first and we are grateful responders to that love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

  • Relational restoration takes place in the bond of a discipling-friendship.

    A discipling-friendship relationship is vital component in the kingdom because it is means by which men learn how to love and to be loved. Jesus has given us the example of how to love by the laying down of His life for us. In the same way I am to love others by laying down my life for them. It is in a discipling-friendship that I experience being loved and then also having the opportunity to love another.

Friendship and Making Disciples 3

Many desire a “Jonathan and David” friendship but few are willing to pay the price. The starting point for such a friendship is a heart surrendered to the Lord. If I am not yielded to the will of God, not only will I have difficulty embracing God’s purpose for my own life, but I also open myself up to jealousy and envy, even with those to whom I am closest. Jonathan exhibits for us a heart that is surrendered to the purpose of God that resulted in his extraordinary friendship with David, in spite of their circumstances.

As Jonathan and David’s story unfolds we see deep into the heart of Jonathan. Jonathan was to be the king of Israel after his father Saul, but due to Saul’s stubbornness and disobedience, his family loss the right of succession. Jonathan’s loss of the throne was due to no fault of his own, and yet he is submissive to the purpose of God even though it means a lesser role for him. Not only was it a diminished role, but he submits himself to the very man who is to take his place on the throne.

And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” (1 Samuel 23:16-18)

Jonathan had the freedom to love and serve David rather than consider him as a threat because he was surrendered to God’s purpose in all things. Viewing others from a surrendered heart removes all threat and gives me the opportunity and privilege to lay down my life for my friend, first out of my love for God but also out of love for my friend. Also, David could trust Jonathan because Jonathan’s surrendered heart would never allow him to thwart God’s plan. A surrendered heart finds joy in making others a success, no matter the cost.

Here are some final thoughts:

  1. Take an afternoon with the Lord to pray for your disciple/friend and seek what the Lord’s purpose maybe for your friend’s life. (Most people will never have anyone do this for them during their entire lifetime.)
  2. Communicate to your friend your belief that God has a purpose for his life and together seek out what that purpose may be.
  3. Ask the Lord to provide opportunities for you to serve your friend.
  4. Help your friend to recruit a team of people to prayer for their life’s purpose.

Friendship and Making Disciples 2

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:

  1. Friendship is a learned skill. I teach my disciple how to receive friendship and how to be a friend.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Friendship and Making Disciples 1

To make a disciple is to make a friend. As Jesus disciples were His friends, so my disciples should be my friends. The inability to make friends means an inability to make disciples which in turn hinders the multiplication of the kingdom of God.

The Western world-view tends towards a homogeneous oneness which has shaped its view of friendship. We absorb from our culture that a friend should be our age, look like us, come from a similar social/economic background, and share in our interests. This concept is illustrated in the legendary television show Friends. The characters were all from the same race, age and background. This perspective not only narrows our prospects for friends but it also limits the extent of what a friendship could be.

As the flight attendant broadens our perspective by reminding us that the nearest emergency exit may be behind us, so I need to be reminded to widen my field of view in friendship to include people who are younger, older, or different than I am. The friendship of Jonathan and David serves as such a reminder.

Jonathan was the oldest son of Israels king Saul.He was the crowned prince and a distinguished warrior when he first met David, who was as 17 year old sheep herder. Jonathan lived in palaces while David slept in fields. Jonathan was the oldest son, David the youngest.Jonathan was married, and David single. Jonathan was respected while David had lived with ridicule from his family. Although setting dates in ancient history is difficult, we can approximate that Jonathan was 20 years older than David.

Jonathan is my hero. He lives counter to his surroundings and upbringing. His father was an angry, violent, irrational, and self-serving man. While his other siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan rises above the fray and gives us an example of what a Godly man and friend should be.

Here are some closing thoughts on friendship:

  1. Broaden your search for a friend. Your new friend may be 20 years older or 20 years younger than you are and not look anything like you.
  2. Friendships are made. You may have to teach your friend how to be a good friend just as Jonathan taught David.
  3. Read the story of Jonathan and Davids friendship (1 Samuel 18 through 2 Samuel 1) from the perspective of Jonathan being 20 years older than David and that their friendship covered 13 years.