This is Emily.
I knew I loved Emily the second I met her.
She first attended our church when it was a Sunday evening Bible study in our home. Not knowing anyone or what she was getting into, she told me later that before she came in, she stood at the door of our home for several minutes considering whether she should knock or run. As she debated, Kyle suddenly opened the door and invited her in, making the decision for her.
Now it's clear that God made the decision. He brought her to our church for me. And He brought her to our church for her. Because about six months after Emily came to our church, over coffee, I asked her if she would like to meet with me weekly for discipleship. Happily, she accepted. I was glad because the Lord had given me a special affection for her and had shown me how similar our stories were.
At first, however, Emily kept me from going below the surface of her heart. She was afraid I would see her weaknesses, doubts, and resentment. But I knew because I am just like her. She and I are good girls, exhausted from spinning plates and afraid that others will think less of us if we stop and receive God's grace.
Each week at 6:30 am at Bodo's Bagels, we studied Galatians, read Brennan Manning's Raggamuffin Gospel, and discussed our lives before she rushed off to work and I rushed home to my children. Gradually, the walls came down between us and we got to the nitty gritty of growth. She told me how much she desired to be married and how she struggled to trust God in her singleness. I told her about the pressures I felt to keep it all together and how I struggled to trust God instead of fear, worry, and control. We looked to Scripture for direction and hope. Somewhere and somehow in the midst of those mornings, God grew us. He also knit our hearts together.
After a time, we knew our discipleship relationship had come to an end. I commissioned her to take what she had learned and disciple a younger woman. I asked someone else to join me in a discipleship relationship. And we still rendevous at Bodo's every so often to catch up on life.
This summer, I will read Scripture in Emily's wedding. Oh how I rejoiced when she met her man! At her bridal shower, I sat next to a college student who was preparing to graduate and move into the adult world. She's ready. I know because she's been meeting with Emily in a discipleship relationship throughout her fourth year. I watched with joy as they interacted with each other, silently thanking God for how He has used discipleship in all three of our lives.
Hopefully, that story illustrates what discipleship is.
Greg Ogden defines discipleship as an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equip, and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ.
It is intentional: regularing meeting together, purposeful, committed.
It is a relationship, not something done in groups or in classes.
It is walking alongside another, not a teacher/student relationship, but a mutual process of encouragement.
Maturity in Christ is the goal, not instilling knowledge.
It's nature is not production, but reproduction. We disciple another and then that person goes and teaches others also.
Discipleship is essential to our growth, which we'll explore in the next post. Later, we will also get more practical about the how's and what's.
Now a few questions for you: Do you agree with this definition? What are essentials that you would add?
You can read the next post in the series here: Our Most Important Ministry and Why It is So.