This past week I was part of a discussion between several men of varying ages and life experiences. We were talking about the idea of discipling other men, both in our church as well as the sphere’s of influence we have in our lives.
Men should be discipling men. Men should be helping each other grow as Followers of Christ in our faith, knowledge, and application. None of us have it all together, we all have struggles and make mistakes. But if we have other men with whom we can be honest, and who we can both learn from as well as encourage, that will go a very long way in helping men grow up and become godly men.
Everyone in the conversation I was apart of agreed that was important, and we need to make sure we are intentional in living that way as men. However, there were varying ideas on how to go about actually accomplishing that.
Many of the ideas shared were interesting to me. None of the ideas were necessarily wrong, but I felt like most were incomplete. The ideas being passed around focused on getting other men to come to different men’s ministry gatherings, or to be willing to sit and listen to us as we teach them in some formal setting. Again, not necessarily wrong. We’ve all experienced gatherings which included some formal teaching in our life.
Yet there seemed to be a relational aspect missing in these ideas. Men’s Ministry gatherings and formal teaching settings have their place, but the reality is that most often when men are willing to attend a gathering or be a part of some formal teaching setting, it’s because they first have a relationship with those who invited them.
The key is relationships. Discipleship needs to include relationship building. Effective discipleship is relational.
In my own life, those who have had the biggest impact on my life have been those who didn’t just seek to teach me something, but rather built relationships with me. They would spend time with me, invite me over for a meal, watch a game on TV, and do other relational activities. No agenda, no ‘we have to talk about this’ time. They were my friend.
And because of that, it was easy to have deep conversations with them about things in my life that I was questioning or struggling with. I trusted them because they had shown me that they really cared about me as a friend. I was not just someone they had to talk to in order to be able to check it off their list.
Effective discipleship is relational.
This is the Biblical model. Jesus spent 3 years with his Disciples, both teaching them as well as doing life with them. His Disciples grew to love him because they got to know him, and he spent time getting to know them. When you spend 3 years with someone, you get to know them well.
Paul built into the lives of young leaders; Timothy and Titus were two of them. Paul would begin and end his letters to them in a very personal way. He referred to Timothy as “my dear son” in the beginning of 2 Timothy. He called Titus “my true son in our common faith” at the beginning of his letter to him.
Yes, Paul taught them plenty, giving them many instructions in his letters. But he had first spent time with them, building a relationship with them. Then, when there was a need for instruction, he could give it and they’d receive it because they had a relationship.
As men, we often want to just get things done. We are work driven, seeking to accomplish a task. That’s not a bad thing…in fact it is how God wired men. However we must not see discipleship as a job or task we must accomplish. Rather, we need to understand that discipleship is a relational activity.
We all want to have friends. We all need someone who we can be honest with and talk with. But we won’t do it with just anyone, we have to trust them first. Trust takes time to build, and it is built best through relationships.
Who can you be a friend to? Who can you begin to do life with? Who is around you, looking for a solid and authentic relationship? Don’t just look for someone to teach, look for someone to befriend and get to know. Then as the relationship grows, discipleship will happen naturally.
Check out these other blogs on discipleship: