Singleness and Worry

Singleness is not a justification to worry. A distinctive of all followers of Jesus is that there is no place for worry in their lives.

It is only natural for singles to wonder who will take care of them in illness and old age. For some their greatest fear is to die alone and for others it is that they will be all alone in their later years.

The heavenly Father will care for his single children in old age just as he has throughout their entire lives. Our trust cannot be in a government, a 401K, a pension, church, family members, or friends. Social Security could go broke, the economy may crash, the church may close, and family and friends may die before us. Security can only be found by trusting in the keen attentiveness and care of a loving heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:32)

In reality there is little difference between facing the future being married or single. It is presumptuous for married people to think that their mate or their children will care for them in their old age because there is no guarantee that their mate or children will live past tomorrow. It is also assuming for singles to think that “if only” they had a mate and children that they would feel secure about growing older.

Worry is a waste of time and height of assumption. As Jesus pointed out “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27)



Crippling Shame

Your disciple cannot follow Jesus if controlled by shame. Following Jesus is about belonging and nothing destroys belonging like shame. It is not an issue he can avoid nor will it just go away. It casts a long shadow so even shame from years ago he remembers as if it was yesterday.

Shame comes in various forms and degrees. Some shame is emotionally crippling while other shame has less consequence. There is shame he has brought on himself and shame that was not his fault.  Some was imagined while some was very real.

It could be shame associated with his family or the shame of a mental or physical limitation. A man with a learning disability said to me, Lewie, do you know how painful it is to feel dumb every day of your life? School for me was a walk of shame.

Whatever its source shame makes cowards of us all. It was R.G. Collingwood who wrote:

What a man is ashamed of is always at bottom himself; and he is ashamed of himself at bottom always for being afraid.[1]

Ministries have tried to accommodate people’s emotional fears by creating approaches, curriculum, and programs that limits relational risk for everyone involved, including the leader.  It gives the illusion of love and community but behind the façade there are not the bonds of trust necessary for authentic relationships.

Leading a small group, teaching a bible study, leading worship, and doing service projects can be done in emotional safety.  One can give the appearance of vulnerability but the test of vulnerability is in relationships. Recently I was with a friend who told me how her boss would display vulnerability behind a podium, but in a staff meeting or one-on-one he was anything but vulnerable.

Your disciple needs for you to place yourself in the vulnerable position to love him unconditionally. To place yourself in the vulnerable position of being the first to say,  “I love you.”[2]





[1] Collingwood, Robin G. Retrieved September 17, 2012, from

[2] Brown, Brene (2010, The Power of Vulnerability, Retrieved October 8, 2012, from


A Fear of People

Understanding your disciple’s fear is difficult enough but it is even more challenging when he has a fear of people. A fear of people is a powerful and deceptive lens, which transforms the truth to appear as a lie and a lie as the truth.

Jesus exposed the motives of the religious leaders of his day when he observed: “Everything they do is done for men to see.”  (Matthew 23:5). Religious systems are based on pleasing and impressing others, which places a fear of people in the heart of its followers. It was a fear of people that (1) blinded the Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, and Elders from embracing the love of Jesus and accepting his deity,  (2) necessitated that they discredit the miracles that were before their eyes (Luke 6:6-11) and, (3) required them to nullify or modify the scriptures (Matthew 15: 21:23-27; Luke 11:37-53; Acts 7:51-53). A fear of people in a religious context is especially disorienting because it is taught that all we are doing is for God, but in reality many things are being done to please people.

A couple of observations:

  • A fear of people will cause your disciple to be apprehensive of your relationship with him since you are a “people”.
  • Getting to know the religious background in which your disciple was raised will help you understand how he relates to people and any misconceptions he may have of God.  (Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Muslim, Catholic, Non-denominational, Baptist, etc.) Just recently I visited the home church of one of my disciples which gave me new understanding into his perspective.
  • Teach your disciple to love God and the Bible in such a way that he lets it mean what it says and not what he wants it to say or what others have told him it says.

Your Disciple, Your Friend

The concept of friendship begins in the essence of the Godhead. As the Trinity relates to one another in love, delight, and service, so should our friendships be. God relates to man as a friend with Adam, Eve, Abraham, and Moses, and later when Jesus comes to earth as God in human form, he is a friend with his disciples, Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and even sinners.

As children of God our friendships are never just between two people. As Jesus’ friends were drawn into relationship with his Father, because he and his Father were one, so our friends are drawn into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, because we are united with God.

The triad nature of our friendships (my friend, me, God) makes them fundamentally different than the world’s model of friendship. We are one with God and therefore he is in the midst of each of our friendships. This safeguards against dysfunction and selfishness and empowers us to extend love to our friends as an outflow of God’s love for us. We are able to absorb rejection and are immune from manipulation because our security is based on a relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and not in human relationships. In fact, we are simply adding our new friend to our already established relationship with God.

In closing:

  • Your relationship with your disciple is a friendship as demonstrated by Jesus and Paul with their disciples.
  • Building a friendship with your disciple is an important means of him becoming a follower of Jesus.
  • Your friendship with your disciple not only draws him into relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also with other disciples.
  • The courage needed to make disciples comes from God’s relationship with you. His love will both empower and protect as you develop the friendship with your disciple.

Hard Time Making Friends

The tragedy is that we may go our entire lives without true friends because we have limited ourselves to a Western ideal of friendship. Since friendship is inseparable from making disciples (Jesus called his disciples his friends) a proper understanding of friendship is vital. Western Christianity, I’m afraid, has forced onto the story of Jonathan and David a cultural perspective of friendship that strips their relationship of its beauty and breath. We see what we want to see in their friendship and overlook other truly important aspects.

For example, Jonathan was 15 to 20 years older than David. We know this because Jonathan’s youngest brother, Ish-Bosheth, (who was the youngest son among King Saul’s six children: Jonathan, Abinadab, Malchishua, Merab, and Michal) was ten years older than David based on Ish-Boseth being forty years old when he became king of Israel (2 Samuel 2:10) while David was thirty years old in that same year when he became king of Judah (2 Samuel 5:4).

The usual perspective of their friendship is two college fraternity brothers struggling together through their years of self-discovery, but in reality David was a 17-year-old shepherd while Jonathan was a married father in his mid-thirties busy leading armies and fulfilling his duties as crowned prince.  Jonathan knew nothing but a royal life whereas David knew nothing but shepherding. Jonathan was the oldest child, David the youngest. Jonathan was held in high regard by others (1 Samuel 14:45) whereas David was ridiculed by his own family (1 Samuel 17:28). It is also easy to overlook the fact that they had become brothers-in-law.

Another important aspect of their friendship was its duration. Their relationship lasted for 13 years even though it was not an easy friendship to maintain due to the constant interference of King Saul because of his insecurity and stubbornness that fueled a hatred for David.

Some closing observations:

  • Your friend maybe 20 years older than you are or 20 years younger!
  • Your friend’s background and experience may be different from yours. Initially it may not seem like a good match.
  • Difficulty and endurance are part of any friendship.
  • Difficult people cannot disrupt your relationship with a true friend; they will only strengthen it.

Meet the Parents 2

One way to get know your disciple is by getting to know his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents through family stories. Here you are looking for relational tendencies, values, character traits, and dysfunctions that have been passed down through the generations. Most people I disciple have given little consideration to their parent’s relationship to their grandparents, or their grandparent’s relationship to their great-grandparents, even though we are all products of preceding generations. Family stories are a mirror for your disciple to see himself.

Several years ago I wanted to get to know my dad and mom better so I set out to discover some of their childhood stories. My dad is from upstate New York so one summer I loaded him in the car and film in my camera and we toured the places of his youth. Later I did the same with my mom visiting her old stomping grounds in the Indiana Harbor. In both cases they were almost compelled to tell the stories of the past as memories were stirred by revisiting the houses, schools, neighborhoods, cemeteries, and churches of their childhood. I learned about people and events that I would have never known about apart from these trips down memory lane with my parents. Dad told me how as a boy on cold Sunday mornings he would build a fire in the woodstove at the Emory Chapel, which was built in 1833, so that the church would be warm when the congregation arrived since his family lived nearest to the country chapel. Mom told of her Yugoslavian neighbor, Mrs. Horvat, who taught my grandmother how to make stuff cabbage, which to this day is my favorite meal.

The best way to gather information about a person is through stories rather than asking direct questions. Story telling unlocks the memories of the heart. Often I have had a disciple say, “I just don’t remember much from my childhood”, but as you get him telling stories he will start remembering things and then say, “I haven’t thought of that in years!” or “I had totally forgotten about that.”

A couple points in closing:

  • Memories can be locked up by fear and shame. Story telling is a backdoor entrance to your disciple’s heart.
  • Telling his childhood stories can be emotional for your disciple. Just yesterday a guy got choked up as he was telling me about his childhood.
  • Together my disciple and I build a timeline of his life, which helps him remember the stories of his youth and helps me keep his story straight.
  • When possible visit the hometown of your disciple. I find it intriguing that most of Jesus’ disciples were from around the town of Capernaum, which was the base of operation for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would have known some of his disciples’ families.

How I View My Disciple #4

Each Tuesday evening our group of disciples has dinner together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This past week during our table discussion there was a frank honesty about our childhoods and how each of us had felt like we had not belonged anywhere while growing up. We had lived a detached existence.

Making followers of Jesus must be done in a group. A large part of the disciple making process is accomplished through my disciple learning how to interrelate with his brothers and sisters in the family of God.  I have wondered how much of Jesus’ training of the twelve was achieved through the disciples learning how to live together for three years vs. the “classroom” instruction of Jesus. I have also wondered how much of the teaching of Jesus flowed out of the conflicts between the disciples not too dissimilar from a parent using sibling discord as a teaching moment for his children.

The essence of our God is the familial interconnectedness of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Their identity is found in the eternal love bond to the other persons of the Godhead. Because we are created in the image of God a disciple can only come to understand his identity and purpose by integrating into a family context with his heavenly Father and his spiritual siblings. In contrast, our culture pushes him toward individualism and independence, which can only lead to confusion and ultimately self-destruction.

Just as a my disciple cannot know himself or understand his giftedness apart from being in this family context, so I cannot know my disciple apart from seeing him interact with his spiritual siblings.  His relationship with God is not visible to me which means he can deceive me into thinking he has a good relationship with God when in reality he may not.  One way I can get a glimpse into my disciple’s relationship with the heavenly Father is through seeing how he relates to others and how others relate to him.

Bitter at God #2

Your disciple has the potential to completely misinterpret the circumstances of his life, which could set him up to become bitter at the Lord. During the Exodus the Israelites surveyed their circumstances and concluded:

The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. (Deuteronomy 1:26)

Moses then gives a totally different perspective of the same situation:

The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.  (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)

The Israelites believed the Lord’s intent was hate while his true motivation was a fatherly love and they were convinced of their pending doom while in actuality the Lord was fighting for their good.

The first rule of waterskiing is, “Don’t look down at the water,” which of course is naturally what new skiers want to do. The skiers’ adage that instructors tell new skiers says, “If you look down you’ll fall down.” Israel focused on the wrong thing by looking at their circumstances and therefore concluded that God hated them while Caleb, in the midst of the same conditions, looked at the character of God and found courage.

Your friendship serves as a point of reference for your disciple as he is tossed back and forth between his despair that God is failing him and his belief in the goodness of God. Just as the instructor in the boat yells to the new water-skier, “Don’t look down at the water!” so your role is remind your disciple to focus on the character of God and not on the circumstances.

In Closing:

  • Although it is difficult to watch your disciple’s faith being tested it is an essential part of his maturing process.
  • Not only do threatening circumstances reveal to you your disciple’s perception of the Lord, it is also the only way he can know the degree of his trust in the Lord.
  • The Lord will not test your disciple one millisecond beyond what he can endure nor give him an ounce of trial more than he can bear.

Teaching Your Disciple How to Forgive #2

Digging up the roots of any tree is a labor-intensive task. (It is difficult enough pulling on the root of a stubborn weed.) As tedious as it may be to pick up the fruit from the ground day after day it is a seemingly better alternative than the daunting prospect of rooting up the tree. For many they would rather pick the fruit of their sinful behavior year after year than face the dread of getting at its root. Even for the discipler it is much easier and less intimidating to continue dealing with the fruit of his disciple’s life rather than having to struggle with the cause.

After 30 years of making disciples I have observed that if there is one consistent sin in the lives of people it would be bitterness. Most people have at least one person or organization that has deeply hurt or disappointed them. It could be a coach, parent, teacher, friend, pastor, youth pastor, girlfriend, boyfriend, boss, school, company, and even a church.  In Hebrews 12:15 the author describes bitterness as a root:

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with cancer. My surgeon said to me that the best way to deal with cancer is to get it out of there. I was willing to go through major surgery in order to rid myself of the cancer knowing that if I did not it would eventually kill me. The reason a discipler must relentlessly pursue the root cause in your disciple is because bitterness is a spiritual cancer and it will slowly eat away at him until it destroys him.

In closing:

  • Self-destructive behavior is the fruit of a deeper cause, which is usually bitterness.
  • The door leading to the root of bitterness in your disciple will be found in the stories of hurt and disappointment from his life.

Teaching Your Disciple How to Forgive #1

Sin generates tragedy. Gerald wept openly in the IHOP as he told me that he had gotten two women pregnant within a month, neither of whom he wanted to marry, and both mothers wanted to keep the baby. He said to me, “Do you know how scary it is to have your behavior out of control?”

It is easy to be preoccupied with your disciple’s destructive behavior and its consequences (How to pay child support for two babies for 18 years?) and miss its cause. The drama of his escapades can become a welcome diversion for both you and your disciple from the more difficult challenge of dealing with the root cause. I say a welcome diversion because to face the cause behind his injurious behavior will require trust, fortitude, perseverance, and courage for both of you.

For you there is the risk of your disciple pushing you away or rejecting you, as you edge closer to the shame that he has covered for years. For the disciple you are asking him to place himself in the vulnerable position of trusting you and the Lord as he faces his greatest fears and most painful memories. Many will choose to continue on the path of destructive behavior, no matter how grave the consequences, rather than to face the cause.   The root in most cases is bitterness that is tied to their hurt.

In closing:

  1. Expect your disciple to either lash out at you or to disappear as you begin to explore the hurt and fear in his life. This is normal.
  2. Although you have to deal with the consequences of his behavior, you must also keep a balanced approach of searching for the root cause.
  3. The process of discovering root causes will take months and years rather than days and weeks.