For I have given you an example, you should do just as I have done for you.
Different seasons in life have brought about opportunities to grow in my friendships with others. In my years as a youth pastor, it was always clear as to whom I was to invest my life in… our middle school and high school students. However in latter years, it has not been as clear-cut to me. In many cases, I’ve had to look outside the walls of the church, to connect and invest into others. Relationships have been struck naturally and unintentionally through parents of school friends, employees and random ways like when we sold a fridge on Craigslist, no joke!
Mentoring and discipling these days is not as formal as generations before. It speaks to the differences of a younger mindset, that mentoring, if we even call it that, is way more organic and less structured but rather a processing of life together, sitting over a cup of coffee, naturally just sharing our lives together.
CS Lewis referred to mentoring in this way, “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital, who having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice.”
This quote highlights a relationship between two individuals as they face the same world and influence one another, one just maybe has a little more experience. It also beautifully highlights that we are far from perfect, if we had it all together we wouldn’t be a patient in the hospital to begin with… rather both of us, in our brokenness, are figuring out how to wholeheartedly seek God and fully grow up in Him. And this is what the younger generation is looking for… a mutual relationship where both benefit and learn.
This organic, do-life-together model is also Jesus’ model. In John 1:14 it says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (his home) among us.” Jesus came to do life with us.
Initially, Jesus invites a small group of people to “come and see” (John 1:38-39). It was not an immediate call to drop their nets and follow Him. Jesus simply invites two ordinary people to come and be with him. Jesus was using his energy and resources to build an atmosphere of love, trust and acceptance with a few. He spent eighteen months of his ministry to build relationships and shape the heart values of his future disciples.
Jesus was relational.
This is such a beautiful picture of disciple-making that we often miss. We may feel more comfortable with curriculum and structures yet Jesus modeled an organic process of sharing life together. It’s the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-7, in action.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Walking along the way, when you lie down, when you get up… Jesus lived this Old Testament way of discipling with his followers. And what was he instilling in them? What was Jesus’ purpose as he walked along the way? He was showing them in word and action to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor.
Each one of us young, mid-life or seasoned, all long for a community, a place where we are loved for who we are, good and bad and where we may also extend love. A few years ago I read a book, The Cure by Trueface, that wrecked my life. It expressed a divide I had felt for many years, of this desire to please God and which would lead me to live with good intentions. However, the book explains a different path… a path of trusting Him which leads to the room of grace. The room of grace may be messier than the room of good intentions. However, the room of grace is real, honest and full of love. The room of good intentions is filled with masks and shame from when we fail. Jesus was modeling to his disciples the path of trusting God that would lead them to God’s grace and as they experience God’s grace, they could offer grace to one another. “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
Jesus was intentional.
After a year and a half shaping their hearts, came his second call to “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men”(Matt. 4:18-20). It’s after the second call that Jesus begins teaching his followers directly. Due to the time Jesus’ invested, their hearts were prepared for the seeds to take root. He teaches them through the sermon on the mount, through parables through experiences.
I think of the same for us, following Jesus’ model, we are to guide and lead others to the reality of following Jesus and to fully grow up in him. Jesus intentionally built a community of love and trust so that as the disciples learned and failed, learned and succeeded, they had the room of grace to return to. That’s what is beautiful about a trusting space where you are offered grace to learn how to follow Jesus in the messiness of this world.
Jesus invested in a few.
We all might think if Jesus reached the masses for three years, how many more people could he have reached? It might seem backwards to the culture of today that’s all about productivity and mass impact. Even though Jesus was capable of reaching the masses, he didn’t spend most of his time with them. I wonder if part of his strategy was to give us an example we could follow. Only a few people in this world have the platform to disciple and mentor the masses- Jennie Allen, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, Billy Graham. We, the ordinary people, have a smaller platform, the few around us, the community God has placed us in. However, a smaller platform does not mean less impact. The advantage of Jesus’ strategy of relationally investing in a few? It resulted in deep, real impactful relationships that multiplied through the generations. His disciples lives were utterly transformed all of which prepared them to carry the mission on after Jesus left.
Who is the Holy Spirit challenging you to make the bold move and invest your life in? Who is the one person to make an honest, transformative, discipling relationship with?