I’m writing this at the end of a great weekend. God is doing cool stuff in people’s lives and I get to see it up close. Mostly I mentor/disciple young folks. I love what I do. It’s my passion. I would still do it if I couldn’t get paid to do it and at various times in my life that’s been the case. I end up doing this no matter what my “official” job is. I’d say it’s who I am even more than merely what I do. I’d also say I’m a fortunate, blessed individual to get to do what I love.
At this point, I wish I could share the crazy great stuff I’ve seen and heard in just the past 72 hours. But that’s not an option, since the most critical ingredient of my work is trust. As in, people open up and tell me secrets and those stay secret. In the long term I can change names and details and tell great stories, but in the immediate I can’t. And that’s fair. But I still want to tell you how ridiculously amazing God is, working in people’s lives.
Actually, I’d like to do one better than that for you: I’d like for you to get to see for yourself. I’ve already written about discipling (and rereading it just now, it’s pretty decent, if I say so myself) and I’m not aiming to repeat myself. If you care about this stuff but you’re not sure what “discipling” someone means, maybe read that one first. If you’re already discipling others, awesome! If not, or if you need a little encouragement, here’s a list of reasons why you might invest your life in someone else’s life to mentor or disciple.
1) You basically don’t have anything better to do with your time.
Now who the heck am I to say that? Your time is full and you are doing important stuff.
I know. That’s my point. Already you’re doing really important stuff and this is that big of a deal. It’s not more important than raising your children* or loving your spouse; it’s arguably more important than anything else.
If that feels like too big a claim, it actually might be too small. Jesus spent his entire time in ministry teaching, training, loving, modeling and sending out his disciples–that would be “discipling”–and chose not to marry or have children.** Go ahead, work out the theological implications of why he couldn’t do either of those, but that’s still all speculation and this is simple fact: Jesus made discipling his highest priority. So that’s pretty persuasive to me.
2)Jesus said to.
I know, this is starting to sound kind of Jesus-centric. I’ll take that accusation.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Those were Jesus’ closing words as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel. They’ve been quoted often, maybe so often that we stop listening. That’s a danger.
Discipling is one-on-one, relational, and a profound investment of your life in someone else’s. To make disciples of nations we’re still going one by one. Starting with us.
3)You change the world when you love someone this way.
I’ll start with the obvious supporting argument that Jesus thought so. Jesus changed the world through having a dozen lives he invested in so deeply that they would spread his teaching to others who would teach others and so on, literally to the ends of the earth. I’m not minimizing that Jesus atoned for sins or rose from the dead, I’m saying this was his means of conveying those miracles to the world. You know those stories because he discipled a small group of people. This was his way of transforming lives, face to face, day by day.
I, personally, think the world sucks in a lot of ways and desperately needs changing. If you don’t think so, um…you might be watching too much Netflix. Not trying to bring you down, but just tell you the truth. I would love to change the world in big ways. I would love to get everyone access to clean water. That’s beyond my scope. I pray for that. But within my ability is investing in a bunch of young people’s lives. Folks in the 17-25 range (or maybe -35) are making life choices, the formative ones that set their direction. Being the person they can trust, who walks by them through these years and lets them learn from your mistakes instead of their own, who helps them back up when they crash and burn–that’s the pebble in the lake that causes the ripple effect.
Love a young adult through recognizing that he is in the wrong relationship and this is not the person to marry,** see him happily married to a true partner and equal, watch them start a family together, become nurturing parents, and get to see him pursue his own true calling–the one where his passion meets the world’s needs–because he’s married to this woman. That describes one of my favorite discipling relationships, and our mentoring started from before he was following Jesus with his life. You will see the world change.
You will know grace more deeply in your life when you become the person who shows the most grace in someone else’s life.
4)YOU change when you love someone this way.
I saved the best one for last, in a sense. So why did Jesus command us to make disciples of all nations? Because he wanted his message of God’s transformative love and grace to get around? Yup. Because he knew this was the way to get that message around? Yup again.
AND because he knew that the most impactful way for us to experience God’s love is through discipling someone else. You will know God most deeply when you love someone else. Discipleship is a concentrated form of love. (Okay, repeated myself there; I think that’s worth repeating.) Jesus commanded this, like Jesus commanded everything else, because it’s good for us.
Discipling someone won’t solve all your problems, but you will know God, you will see God at work and experience his reality in your life when you choose to give your life–your time, your money, your heart–to someone else for the purpose of their spiritual growth.
You’ll also get your heart broken. You might feel betrayed. I don’t have a risk-free suggestion here. Jesus didn’t manage that with discipleship, either.
You will know grace more deeply in your life when you become the person who shows the most grace in someone else’s life. You will learn to live by God’s truth more fully when you help someone else face and survive the consequences of not living by God’s truth (we are punished by our sins, not for our sins) and when you see them experience the joy of being set free by the truth.
And you’ll fail a bunch and let people down. You won’t be perfect. You won’t be wise enough. You’ll be wise and they won’t listen and you’ll have to watch. Through those very failures and shortcomings, you will deepen both in your dependence on God and in your love for the person in whom you’ve invested.
I’m sure at this point there are a bunch of objections, most of which begin with “But Mike…” ‘
“But Mike, I’m not a relational person,”
“But Mike, I don’t really like people,”
“But Mike, I enjoy Netflix A LOT.”
I’ll bet there were days when Jesus didn’t like people though he always faithfully loved them (if you don’t know the difference, I’m guessing you’re not currently a parent). Before you call that heresy, check this quote:
“You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” (Mark 9:19, if you want the story–it’s a great one.)
I believe one of the most amazing things about our relationship with God is that he not only loves us but likes us. But we’re not always likable. Sorry, I’ll speak for myself–I’m not always likable. I’m a lot more lovable than I used to be because God’s love makes me lovable, and I’ve experienced God’s love through trying to express it to young folks who aren’t always likable themselves (though the vast majority of the time they’re pretty great).
“But Mike, you didn’t answer my objection.”
Oh, sorry, I thought I did. God likes you and loves you. That’s the argument for going and doing likewise.
The form in which you disciple someone, the way you spend time with them, depends on your personality and your strengths and how you find to connect with the person. God made you the way you are in part to be able to have an impact on others. Don’t try to do this as someone else or using a model that doesn’t fit you. Rather, how can you disciple from your strengths?
I hope this is inspiration, not guilt. I recommend this to you as one of the best things in my life. Having said all this, relationship with God is individual, and it’s between you and God what is faithful for your life
May you experience God’s love through loving others. May you know God’s strength in your weakness. May you see God work through you and in you as you give of your life to someone else.
May you be God’s grace in someone’s life.
Amen and amen.
*Raising children is also a form of discipling.
**Yuck, don’t mention that badly written book about how they covered it all up–I really prefer my heresy to come in respectable prose at the very least
***Cuz she’s psycho, mostly.