One of the lessons Jesus lived in front of–and with–his disciples was the importance of relationships. Inside the band of disciples, the relationships were deeper. There was John, then Peter and James, and finally the other nine. Outside the band of disciples was a wide assortment of people Jesus was in relationship with, ranging from religious to non-religious people, many far from God. The lesson Jesus taught his disciples was to live in both worlds.
A couple of weeks ago I shared about understanding your personal Missional Values. Here’s what I mean by missional values:
- Missional = disciples making disciples into the 3rd & 4th generation
- Values = principles that drive missional behaviors
Simply put, Missional Values guide people who are making disciples into the 3rd & 4th generation.
This may seem so basic, but if followers of Jesus focused on Active Prayer (Habit #1) and Missional Values (Habit #2), we might see an upward tick in the caliber of disciples being made.
Now let’s take a look at two areas of focus in RELATIONAL CONNECTIONS:
- Relationships with non-Christians
- Relationships with Christians
It is challenging to live in the tension of developing relationships with people near to God (insiders) and with others who are far from God (outsiders). But this is the way Jesus lived and the way he trained his disciples to live. In my life, it’s easy to make excuses and end up not doing either one very well.
Research tells us that after a relatively short period of time (the most conservative estimate is 2 years, but some say 3-6 months is more accurate) new Christians lose contact with their non-Christian friends. My earliest memories of connecting with outsiders goes back to when I was in elementary school and I felt the compulsion to invite my neighbor to church. I did eventually give an invitation and I thought that was a major accomplishment. I also remember my mom hosting a VBS in our backyard (to my introverted self it felt like an intrusion on my privacy) forcing me to put my faith “out there”. My dad took a bold step and invited all 300+ employees from his plant to a holiday outreach event at our church called the Living Christmas Tree. Together, they led a vibrant ministry to singles and singles-again through our home church. There were fits and starts through my college years as I attempted to connect with outsiders.
In my estimation, the lineage of disciple making is more of a squiggly line than an upward trajectory. And, perhaps that is a good insight to capture here – disciple making is hard work, with little reward (at least in the here and now).
I honestly believe people like my mom and dad have an amazing lineage of people who are now celebrating with their Lord and Savior in heaven. You may be that kind of person. In this habit of relational connection, I want to encourage you to take an honest, inward look and see yourself as God created you. From there, take on the challenge of developing relationships with both insiders and outsiders, leading from your missional values and responding in active prayer. I’ve had the privilege of coaching many amazing leaders over 30+ years. So many of them have soul-crushing stories of how God has used them to empower others to connect with insiders and outsiders through starting and reproducing healthy churches.
You might be wired more like an introvert than an extrovert–I certainly am. That does not give us a pass on relationships. It does suggest that you will build different kinds of relationships than your extroverted friends. You may be an extrovert with an amazing ability to connect with people. But developing connections in and of itself is not the mission; making disciples is. Therefore, be certain that you have a path to help others follow you, as you follow Jesus.
Next week, I’ll be sharing about the Disciple-Making Cycle–the journey of making a disciple!
Find out what is keeping you from flourishing as a disciple maker using a coach approach and what is missing in the kind of support those you are coaching need on their discipleship journey.