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Relationships Are At the Heart of Discipleship

By April 27, 2016 Discipleship

Often times as we try to make disciples we find our efforts fall flat. It’s important to remember that it’s not necessarily due to a lack of desire or effort, but misplaced effort won’t produce that type of fruit we hope and long for in discipleship. Last week, I offered four primary reasons why we aren’t making disciples.

The first reason I offered, and what we’ll focus on today, was that we aren’t building relationships in our discipleship efforts. Several years ago I was reflecting on my own ministry and discipleship work. While there were great things happening in the church, I couldn’t point to anyone in particular with whom I was in a discipling relationship. I had relationships with others in the church. We might hang out or chat every now and again, but that’s different than having a real relationship that is growing and building. It was a striking moment for me and maybe, as you reflect on your own ministry, it’s striking for you as well.

Three senior men laughing, close-up (focus on man wearing glasses)

Building relationships that have the potential for bearing the fruit of discipleship have always included active and regular involvement in each other’s lives. Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma defines discipleship as “leading others to increasingly submit all of life to the lordship and empowering presence of Jesus Christ”. He uses the term “all of life” because you can’t disciple someone in how to live their life if you don’t see them live it. You can’t disciple someone in their finances if you don’t see them handle their money. You can’t disciple someone in their marriage if you don’t see them interact with their spouse in their ever day patterns. You can’t disciple someone in their health if you never see them eat or exercise. Relationships that bear fruit take significant and regular life encounters.

So how do you move to active and regular involvement in other people’s lives? Think “together”. Eat dinner together. Go on vacation together. Grocery shop together. Play games together. The more you are together, the more your relationship will grow. The more your relationship grows, the more fruit that can occur. It’s a shared life that leads someone to look more and more like Christ.

There’s a warning though. The more together you are with someone, the more the perfectionist masks of Christianity will come off and the messier things get. Expect there to be moments of anger, sadness, and frustration. It won’t be perfect, but then it shouldn’t be. It’s in the imperfection that growth is able to occur. And it’s only in togetherness that imperfection will come out. It’ll be difficult, but it will be worth it.

Are you actively and regular involved in someone else’s life?

What are you doing to build relationships with others?

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