As Christians, we are “disciples”, meaning: “Follower of a teacher or teaching”. That should be self-explanatory. If we are Christ’s disciples, we are followers of Christ.
Jesus has given his disciples a command. In Matthew 25:19-20, Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
So then, not only do we have to teach them the Gospel, but also teach them to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, baptize them, and teach them His words? Isn’t that out of our comfort zone, and time-consuming? Yes, it’s beyond “time-consuming” – it’s investing in someone’s life for the purpose of encouraging them in their walk in the Lord. It requires lots of patience, energy, self-sacrifice, and genuine love to invest in someone else. So why should we invest in someone else?
The reason why we should want to invest in someone else has to come from a love of Christ. John 14:15 says “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” God commands us to “love one another” (Jn. 13:34-35, Jn. 15:12, 17); if we love Christ, will we not therefore truly love others? Not only will investing in another show love, but it will also strengthen you, as you seek ways to encourage another brother or sister. So we invest not only because Christ commands it, but because we love someone else enough to care if they’re struggling in their relationship with Him.
How do we invest in someone else? Show the other person they mean more to you than yourself. Show them a Christ-like love. Share with them the reason for your joy, and how they can share your joy.
Recently, I’ve been wondering how I can disciple my e-mail friends who really would rather talk about the newest movie they’ve seen, or the latest book they’ve read, than what they read in the Bible that morning. I know of only a couple friends who I would feel comfortable with sharing my troubles and asking for prayer, and who have done the same to me. So I, with my limited knowledge, came up with a few ideas:
- Encourage them to get in the Word. (“This stood out to me in my reading this morning; what stood out to you?”)
- Talk about what God’s doing in your life, and/or ask what He’s doing in theirs. (“I’ve really seen God step in and take over in this area” or “I’ve seen God working here, and it’s been a lot better than I could have imagined… what about you?”)
- Tie Him/His Word/His hand/intervention/provision into the conversation. (“That happened to me, too, a few years ago, but God stepped in and did this…isn’t it amazing how He never leaves us or forsakes us?…”)
- Talk about Sunday’s sermon. (“How was church? Our pastor preached on this topic. I really struggle in that area, it’s hard for me to do this…”)
- Check in with their problems. (“How’s your dad?” “How’s this situation?”)
- Send them an encouraging email with scripture and saying you are praying for them.
(Just as a note, you don’t want to sound like a theologian, or at all convey it as pride. Simply care. Also, some of my friends don’t like to have those kinds of conversations. Don’t act like a preacher; again, just care.)
Who do we invest in? Our brother. Our sister. The lonely girl who doesn’t fit in. The new kids at church. Your email buddies, blogger acquaintances, Facebook or Twitter pals, your neighbor, etc.
Investing in them doesn’t exactly mean knowing their favorite ice cream flavor or knowing their favorite color. Invest for the purpose of discipleship. Invest to know where they struggle so you can build them up and encourage them and help them to choose right over wrong.
Don’t just invest your time in fellow believers – invest in the non-believers. They need your love even more than the believers, because they don’t know of Christ’s love for them. Share the truth with them. With fellow Christians, you can rejoice together over His love. But don’t stop there. Teach His commands to all the nations, teach them to obey. Love them. Disciple them.