Discipleship, by Pastor Paul
“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” Philemon 4-7
Lately there has been a lot of talk about discipleship here at New Life. Many have come to me and shared their desire to do this but don’t know how to begin. I want to share a few examples of those who have taken time with me over the years and the ways that I see myself in these relationships today in order to help equip those who want to share their faith but are unsure of where to start. The relationships that have had the biggest impact on my walk with Jesus as a man have and still do occur through very ordinary and relatively informal ways.
The first is an older woman at the first evangelical church I was invited to in my teens. This older woman (a spiritual grandma of sorts in the church family), on her own initiative, began a Bible study in her home with the young adults of the congregation as well as a few other adults. I was invited to this as an unbeliever. It was her love for Jesus, her love for me, and the way that she cared for us that pierced my heart. I got my first taste of the love of Christ through the love this woman displayed. The study was great, and I was hearing about the Gospel for the first time, and as I watched her open her home, listened to her pray for us, and saw her genuine concern for our knowing Jesus, I was being won over to Christ. The Lord graciously began to soften my heart to Him as the Gospel was spoken and lived out in front of me. I was involved in this study for less than a year and went off to college.
While in my first year of college (still an unbeliever) I was invited to join a Christian campus group. It was here that other men a few years older than me sought to teach me what they were learning in the Word through men’s Bible studies. The Lord took hold of my heart and saved me. I soon thereafter met Amy and quickly realized I wanted to marry her. There was a married couple on staff of the Christian campus group who spent time with us to talk about marriage and walking with Jesus in marriage. We were greatly helped. They shared a marriage book with us and just invited us into their life and experiences being married. They prayed for us often and helped us make godly goals for the future. They soon moved on to be missionaries and the close contact ended, but those moments still have shaped Amy and me today.
At this time I began looking for other men to invest into, being compelled by the Lord to so. I was a very new believer and knew very little about the Bible, but I knew the Gospel and I knew Jesus saved me, and that was enough for me to seek pouring into other men. Sometimes I would study the Bible with men one on one. Sometimes I would go for a hike and invite others to come, or I would play a game of ping pong in the dorm room basement, looking at each event as another way to talk with others about Jesus. The effects still have shaped me today, especially because these relationships caused me to dig deep into God’s Word and to learn to pray in all circumstances.
While in Kentucky for seminary, a man about 10 years older than me from our church family asked me to study Biblical theology with him. I felt so loved that he would take time to spend with me. We did this on a fairly regular basis, spending 2-3 hours a week really digging deep into Scripture as well as spending much time praying together. This was probably the most formal discipleship relationship I have had. This was valuable time that we both could have been doing other things with our busy schedules but I can’t tell you enough how valuable of an investment that time was for me and how much that time still shapes how I study God’s Word today.
As I was taking classes at seminary I began a small landscaping and handyman business. Beyond making an income to support my family God taught me to use the time to invite other young men to work with me for a day here or there or for months on end. Sometimes it cost me more time and money, but God was teaching me the eternal reward of using what I was already doing to invest spiritually in other men. With these many different men working alongside me, it provided opportunity to encourage and model self-control, hard work, diligence, excellence, and a trust in the Lord moment by moment and prayer for the little and the big things.
Even today these relationships look different but each carry the same purpose: making disciples and pursuing Jesus together. Currently, for some men I meet with, it’s studying the Bible over coffee; for others it’s visiting at their house and discussing a school assignment, for some it’s just being intentional to listen and pray. You might say, “Well you’re a pastor, so it’s natural for you.” Not so! All these relationships still require cultivation, prayer, and intentionality.
I also need other men in my life. There are many older men who have invited me into their lives to spend time with me by going for a run, going out for breakfast, inviting me to their homes, etc. They ask me how I’m doing, share what God is teaching them, or pray for me. They simply choose to take time out of their lives to love and encourage me in Christ and for that I’m exceedingly grateful.
Who can YOU be pouring into at New Life? Maybe you’re like that spiritual grandmother that reaches out to a few young adults to host Bible study in your home. Maybe you’re that married couple that spends time with a newlywed couple and pours into their marriage. Maybe you’re that Bible nerd who likes to get into the nitty gritty of theology and find another young man to study with, teaching him how to understand the depths and riches of God’s Word. Or maybe you’re a relatively new believer and though you don’t feel very equipped yourself, you seek meeting with others anyway and trust the Lord will teach you all along the way. It’s not complicated but it does require trust in God, love, prayer, and willingness to give of yourself. The eternal reward is immeasurable!