By Stan Rodda: When it comes to making disciples, one of the areas that can be confusing is the relationship between people. Ultimately walking with others the way Jesus did is messy and personal. It’s all up in your time and business. There is a need for healthy boundaries at the same time, but a lot of questions come with a relationship that personal. Questions like…
How much time do I give?
How much do I let them in to the real me?
Do I have to talk to them everyday?
What do they ultimately look like?
Can a Patriots fan be discipled or are they too far gone?
Paul gives us a picture of what the disciple making relationship should look like in 1 Thessalonians 2. Take some time and read it. Don’t worry, the blog will still be here when you get back. Read it through a disciple making relationship lens. Look for all the phrases Paul uses like, “you, with you, among you, for you,” etc. Also highlight or mark in some way the characteristics of what that relationship looks like. It truly is a beautiful picture.
Go ahead and read that chapter now. We promise we won’t go anywhere.
Now that you’ve read it, here are a few things that stand out to me in a disciple making relationship (DMR).
DMR’s are Rooted in Purity
Every disciple maker must have their own hearts tested by God in this. I will speak for myself; many times in sharing the Gospel I have not trusted the power of God to change lives. So I have tried to convince people with my own words and flattery. I have made promises that God doesn’t make in an effort to win people over. In v. 3 Paul says his appeal for the Gospel does not come from impurity or attempt to deceive. I have had to check my heart on this many times and I would encourage you to do the same.
DMR’s Become Shared Lives
Like a gentle, nursing mother who cares for her children, Paul had a strong affection for the people in the church at Thessalonica. His affection for them was so strong he says he didn’t just want to share the Gospel, but he wanted to share his life with them as well. They were so dear to him he wanted to share his own self with the church. Like a mother who cares that deeply for her children and is that involved in daily life with her kids. There are a lot of practical questions that come along with this.
How much time do I give?
How do I share my life with them?
What does that look like?
Are they in my house everyday?
Will I never be an empty-nester?
Those are questions for another blog post, but for now some of you may need to pause and wrestle with Paul’s words here. What does it look like for you to be so affectionate toward those you are discipling that you aren’t just giving them a meal to sustain them for the next few days, but you are sharing your life with them?
DMR’s Come With Direction
Paul had to charge those he was discipling by telling them the direction to go or the manner in which they should go. He writes in v. 11, 12 about treating the relationship like a father to his children, exhorting and encouraging. The DMR doesn’t just need a motherly touch (previous point), but sometimes it needs a charge. It needs a mission. It needs guidance. It needs to be pointed in the right direction. Like a father directing his children, so a disciple maker must direct those they are discipling.
What do my kids need from me today?
Where am I noticing they might be a little off?
How can I support them?
How can I encourage and charge them to walk in a manner worth of God today?
These types of questions become practical and helpful in the DMR. There is a balance between the previous two points about being nurturing and encouraging in a certain direction. If both elements are not present, you don’t have a complete DMR. Are you leaning in to one because it’s who you are naturally to the exclusion of the other side of the relationship? In other words – are you too harsh on those you are leading and forgetting to be gentle and share your life? Or are you sharing life so well that no one is on mission because they are enjoying food at your table? Balance the two.
DMR’s Produce Great Joy
Paul couldn’t wait to see them face to face. He was so eager to get back to his people. They brought him so much joy. He does write that Satan hindered them from being face to face sooner. I think this is a prophetic text about COVID and ZOOM. Pretty sure that’s in the original somewhere.
Not only did the relationship result in great joy for Paul, but it was also his boast before Christ. When Christ returns, what would Paul boast about? He would boast about these people. His hope and joy and crown of boasting before Jesus was the disciples.
The more I disciple, the more joy I get out of seeing what my disciples do than what God is doing through me individually. It’s a lot like this in life. I loved sports and got a lot of joy out of being the fastest person in my high school and college. I got a lot of joy out of my accomplishments. But I get even more joy out of my children’s accomplishments. When they do something great I stick my chest out a little bit more, I stand a bit taller, I smile a bit bigger. They are my hope, crown and joy.
And in disciple making, my disciples are the same. Wow! Did you see what God did with them. I’m so proud. Do your disciple making relationships results in that kind of joy?
There is much more to be written on disciple making relationships and I am sure I will write on that in the future. For now, a simple read through 1 Thessalonians 2 gives a strong picture of what a DMR should look like.
As you read, what do you see?
What other characteristics jump out at you?
What do you think God wants you to do differently as a result?