Busy. We’re all busy. You won’t find many people who deny this. With so much going on, in and around us, it’s a wonder we find time to even be with our families, let alone make time to make disciples!
We Americans are the busiest people I know. We get up early, work hard, come home and recreate even harder, until we literally fall into bed, exhausted, at the end of each night. As we drift off to sleep, we dream of waking up and doing it all over again.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you get the weekend off to rest from all the races. If not, you probably live for vacation days, holidays or, maybe even sick days.
Not created for busyness
What if I told you we weren’t created to rest from our work, but actually to work from our rest? That the best life is unhurried and unrushed. That discipleship isn’t one more thing we have to do, it is everything we get to do. That making time to fulfill the Great Commission is actually one of the most life-giving things we get to do.
I’m certain Jesus didn’t leave us with this great mission so we could feel guilty every time we think of discipleship. Jesus never speaks to us to condemn us; he speaks to set us free.
His challenge in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go 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 I have commanded you,” is for our benefit as disciple-makers, not just the benefit of the disciple.
So what if discipleship weren’t so hard? What if we didn’t have to spend much time going and looking for the right people? What if we didn’t have to pour over a curriculum for hours on end so we know what to say?
Jesus made it simple, so we ought to keep things simple, too! Here are 3 things to keep in mind to help you practice discipleship in our busy culture.
1. Jesus is everywhere and so are your opportunities for discipleship
One of the best parts about the Christian life is how Jesus is integrated into everything. If He really is a part of everything we do, then discipleship is all the time and everywhere.
You know what I needed to know as a young 20-something believer? I needed to know how to go to college as a Christian. How to date as a Christian. How to make huge life choices about my future while hearing the voice of God.
I had barely begun my relationship with Jesus. It felt like there was no way I was going to be able to discern any of this stuff on my own.
Discipleship became the tool God used to grow and develop my ability to live life with him. Through relationship, with other believers ahead of me, I watched, I listened, I learned and I implemented what I saw working in their lives.
I benefitted from seeing the realness of their actual lives; the good, the bad and the ugly.
A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone, when fully trained, will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40).
I’m so thankful they invited me in. So thankful they didn’t make it a program, but just gave me access to their life, their family, their arguments, their parenting, their dinners, their recreational activities and even their failures.
I am different today because of the simple investment they made.
2. Discipleship always takes place in the context of relationship
You know why the above scenario worked? Because I wasn’t just a project, I was a person. The person who discipled me didn’t invite me into her life so she could “save” me, she invited me into her life so she could know me.
God’s heart is always for covenantal relationship. He isn’t just trying trying to get something done through us, He wants to be with us.
I wasn’t a task for her, I was a friend. It was a relationship. It wasn’t about accomplishing or achieving, it was about living and being.
Life is always better together. It’s remarkable to think that Jesus didn’t change the world all by himself. Instead he found a group of men and women to join him on his mission, and he discipled them into it along the way.
Some of our greatest opportunities for discipleship are with the people living in our homes and working in our workspaces. People we encounter every single day who could benefit from a relationship.
‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!’ (Matt 12:48-50).
3. The best thing we have to offer is the life we live
One of our axioms for discipleship is that God is so real, he only meets us where we “really are.”
If this is true, the best thing you have to offer those around you is the authenticity of simply being you. The good you and the struggling you.
Think about some of the times in your life when you have learned the most. These sacred times are often times of struggle and failure. They are times we’ve had to seek out help, push trough trials, and overcome great temptation. They are times of rawness and realness, where we cried out to God and wrestled through His answers.
These moments are what discipleship is made of. Real life. We are often too quick to sit down and prescribe a workbook, a teaching series or a blog post. And even though I’ve written all those things, and I support the effort they make to advance people in their spiritual formation, information alone is never enough.
The best thing we have to offer people is our lives. Our actual lives.
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly (Matt 11:28-30).
Jesus could have “fixed” his disciples in an instant, but he didn’t. Instead, he spent his time walking and talking with them, teaching them as they went. They watched and then they implemented and it changed the future of the church.
In the end, when we refuse to buy into the lie of being too busy and submit to the call of making disciples, we are often the ones who walk away blessed. Because that’s the gospel: “It is always more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
Discipleship benefits both the giver and the receiver because Jesus is in it and when he is present, we all walk away blessed. Jesus put discipleship on the table and said, “this is how we will change the world.”
That’s something we don’t have time not to participate in, no matter how busy we are!
Ben Sternke says
Thanks for the encouragement, Philipp, and I’m glad you found the post helpful! Just a thought, too: if you want to get our content each week in your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter. Peace!
Dorren Rodriguez says
Great thoughts! I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been trying this out myself. However it seems like most people I’d like to disciple or who’d like to be discipled by me, or, dropping the discipleship idea, those whom I’d like to be friends with or would like to be friends with me, simply don’t have the time to come into my everyday life or for me to come into their everyday life. Is there a way to navigate this, or is this just a sign that they’re not my person of peace? It’s happened with so many people I’ve started to give up on trying to give/receive access ??♂️.
Ben Sternke says
I hear you Dorren! It’s been a frustration of mine, too. One thing I did recently was simply to tell my church that it was a longing for me, and a frustration that it seemed so difficult to do in our day and age. Didn’t try to convince them to behave differently or give them a guilt trip, just revealed my heart. It didn’t really produce any short-term “results” but I think that kind of move is typically the way forward in situations like that. Godspeed!
‘The best thing we have to offer is the life we live.’ I love this. Reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 2:8 “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”
While the Gospel remains a message to be proclaimed – it’s Paul’s statement about ‘sharing lives’ that is medium for meaningful Gospel proclamation. Shared lives is the medium of love.
In my experience helping people (myself included) move from information based discipleship to real, shared & involved lives is where the challenge lies. Great and encouraging article.