Recently we had a farewell cookout for Jeremy and Julia Quigley who have been part of our ministry in Chicago for seven years. The first time I remember Jeremy was the night Ryan Seibert had invited him to our apartment for dinner. Afterward I was cleaning up the kitchen and Jeremy said to me, “Lewie, I need to go home and study but what happened this evening is what I have been looking for my whole life and I am afraid if I leave now I will never find it again.” Well after seven years not only is Jeremy still hanging around but he and Julia have made many disciples and hosted countless meals in their home.
At the farewell we had a limited amount of time so I asked that only those who had been discipled by Jeremy or Julia to share their appreciation. There were tears as one after another men and women shared how their lives were forever changed because of the Quigley’s love. And then the unexpected happened-Peter spoke up and said, “Well I was not directly discipled by Jeremy but I am his spiritual grandson so I want to express my appreciation for him discipling Neal who discipled me.” Then Michael broke in and said “I was not discipled by Jeremy either but I have to say ‘thanks’ because Jeremy discipled my brother which made a huge impact on his life.” Then Derek spoke up and said, “I’m like Michael, though Jeremy did not disciple me he did disciple my brother which so changed his life that it impacted my family and my spiritual life.”
That evening we witnessed the multiplying nature of disciple-making. Jesus used agriculture to illustrate how the kingdom of God spreads and how only if the seed is placed in the ground with warmth and moisture does it germinate and produce a plant that will produce other seeds. Seeds sitting on the shelf do not multiply. Jesus said to his disciples:
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:23-26
Over the years Jeremy and Julie have consistently laid down their lives for others by pursuing them, by listening well, by giving groceries, by having people in their home for dinner, and by frequent hugs. As a result of their love for others there are now men and women throughout the country and around the world who are making followers of Jesus.
Beauty transforms lives. To follow Jesus is to pursue beauty because he is the embodiment of all that is beautiful. The story of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection is the most beautiful ever told.
Jesus demonstrates for us how to replace the odious with the beautiful through his interaction with his disciples. Beauty is cultivated in the life of a disciple by him experiencing the beautiful. Jesus taught his men the beauty of serving by washing their feet. Later they experienced the beauty of placing others ahead of themselves when Jesus laid down his life for them.
The cost of making a disciple is your willingness to sacrifice your life for your disciple in order for him to experience beauty. Just being taught about serving or being instructed about sacrifice does not change a life; rather it is by the laying down of your life for your disciple that he will come to understand spiritual truth. It is only in the experience of being served or in the experience of having another lay down his life for you does the life changing power of beauty take affect.
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.