Discipleship as Friendship

By Jody Sauder

“Rosaria was a tenured professor at Syracuse University, until God used her desire to write a book on the religious right, and the friendship of a biblically orthodox pastor, to draw her to Christ.” I absolutely love this God-glorifying story! It is a real life example and testimony of Discipleship as Friendship. A faithful pastor and his wife invited Ms. Butterfield to their home for a meal. They engaged in life-on-life conversation and truly cared for Rosaria. They cared for her in simple ways, things like taking her bread when they hadn’t heard from her in awhile, asking questions about her life and simply sharing their life with her. God ultimately used the practice of Christian hospitality, turned discipleship, turned friendship to draw Ms. Butterfield to Himself. (http://www.worldmag.com/2013/03/journey_of_grace.)  

It’s easy to want to dive into the methods of how we should disciple versus backing up and thinking about what discipleship means and what it is. Discipleship is simply growing as a student or a learner. One author states, “Christian discipleship is the process by which disciples grow in the Lord Jesus Christ and are equipped by the Holy Spirit, who resides in our hearts, to overcome the pressures and trials of this present life and become more and more Christlike.” 
We would do well to look first at our favorite Bible teacher and grow and learn from Him. We see discipleship happening all over scripture. In Matthew 10:24 Jesus teaches the disciples that they will be like their master. If the teacher suffers, so will the disciples. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus encourages His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. In Acts 11:26 we see the early church making disciples: “And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Discipleship is Christians learning and growing from other Christians who have learned from other Christians. Each person ultimately becomes more and more like Christ through life-on-life and friendship with one another.
So how do we do discipleship in our day-to-day life?  
We have opportunity to be discipled by so many things or people. However, as women in relationship with Christ, let’s allow Him to disciple our souls through His word, the Holy Spirit, and other Godly women. The following statement sums it up quite well, “The best counselor [or discipler in our case] is always first a great counselee.” Let’s be women who sit with Jesus and study His word every opportunity we get so that it comes out of us in every conversation we have. And then begin to pray for those whom God will bring across your path. 
In meeting with college gals, start by inviting them to coffee, or having them over for coffee.  This requires that you know when you have the time and capacity in your schedule to do this.  Think strategically: invite someone over for just an hour when your kids have screen time or during nap time. Try an early morning time or later in the evening. Meet them where they are and yet find a time that works best for your schedule.  
Once the initial meeting is scheduled like to think about discipleship using the following acronym. 
Simply put, share your LIFE. 
“L” stands for Love. “I” stands for Intentional. “F” is for Faithful and “E” for Encouraging and Example.
Love — Share the love of Jesus! Share the Gospel, share the word, and share your own care and love for your disciple through asking questions and listening well. 
Intentional — Be Intentional. Intentionality is to have purpose, to be deliberate. When you see a gal that intrigues you or someone you would like to get to know, be purposeful and intentional. Invite her over for coffee or go out for dessert.  
Faithful — Faithfully pray for one another. Share what God is teaching you or read scripture together. Teach her eyes to see Jesus.
Encourage and Be an Example — Open God’s word together, pray scripture over one another and read the conversation well. Don’t force the conversation if the conversational door isn’t open; rather, gently hold up the word and show them Jesus. Leave them encouraged and desiring to see Jesus!    

When Kevin and I first came to Bethany Baptist Church a dear lady invited me over for coffee. We had coffee and dessert and she simply chatted with me about my life, where I had been, our children, my fears and dreams for the future. She shared her life with me and what God was teaching her from His Word. I left feeling loved, encouraged, and cared for, desiring to know Jesus more by her example of Christ-like love to me. She modeled or discipled her love for Jesus to me, and that in turn made me want to know Jesus more and share my life with others. Her discipleship of me happened when she shared her life with me.  
And like Rosaria Butterfield and her pastor and his wife, don’t be surprised when you realize that in sharing your life and relationship with Jesus with someone else, you have gained a new friend. 

Jody is a wife to Kevin and a mom to Abby and Andrew. She loves a warm cup of coffee with lots of cream and sweet conversation sharing life's journey with old and new friends. 

This article was adapted from a talk Jody gave to women on God's purposes for discipleship to college women. 


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