She loves to laugh. Deep belly laughs or secret giggles, it doesn’t matter; she’s a joy bringer, and when you teach Sunday School to middle schoolers, you need to bring the joy and the laughs. She did that just by being herself, and in the process, she made Jesus approachable—not a distance deity who willing sacrificed himself on the cross and then resurrected because of my mess but Someone who loved life and loved me. Her name is Diane, and she was the very first person outside of my close-knit family that took an interest in me. She loved me through those difficult and most awkward middle school moments, and I looked forward to seeing her every week. She did just two things, and she did them really well—she showed up every Sunday morning ready to hear about our week and ready to teach us about God’s lavish love for us. She became the first of many other women who would come in and out of my life over the years, generously sharing their lives, their stories, and their wisdom with me.
Probably one of the best known disciplers in the New Testament would be Paul. He worked with many early church leaders and church planters, including a young man named Timothy. The two were very close, so close that we have two books in the New Testament that were letters from Paul to Timothy (I and II Timothy). What I love about Paul and Timothy’s relationship is that Paul wasn’t the only person of faith in his life, and Paul recognized this. II Timothy 1:3 says, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you.” Timothy had the benefit of being discipled first by the women of his family and then by other leaders in the church, each one offering Timothy something different.
We never disciple people in a vacuum. Undoubtedly, the people we disciple have had others help them grow in their faith. Even if we disciple someone long term, there will be others after us. This is both valuable and compelling. No one has all the answers, but we can do our part to help someone along. Paul puts it like this in I Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it…” We don’t have to be intimated by this charge of discipleship because the second half of that verse says, “God has been making it grow.” It doesn’t matter who does what or when because God is ultimately the one making faith grow; we get the honor of being “co-workers in God’s service” (I Corinthians 3:9) What a relief! The pressure is off because I can plant or water and then have front row seats to witness God do the rest.
Diane planted her part in my life, and she did so beautifully. Recently my sister and a friend threw a baby shower for me in my hometown, and Diane, twenty years later, did what she has always done—she showed up. And brought her contagious laughter. When you combine consistency with love powerful things can happen within the context of discipleship. Time and distance doesn't have to mean the end of relationship when it is based on common faith; we can pick up where we left off and continue our faith journey together.
Movement Step: Reflect on and journal about people who have discipled you. What have you learned from each person? What have you passed on to others? How are people becoming more like Christ as a result? If you are currently discipling someone, this would be a great activity to do together. It can give you a bird’s eye view of God’s movement in your life and how your faith has been developed over the years. You may even see overlap and connections with the person you are discipling.