These past two Sundays Nick shared with us his desire for every follower of Jesus to be discipling someone and to be discipled by someone. As we enter into these relationships, it’s good for us to understand the benefits of these discipleship relationships.
One of the main purposes of our discipleship relationships is spiritual formation. We are in need of transformation, which comes by trusting the Spirit to take over more and more of our lives, our bodies, our impulses and desires. We do this through relationship, opening our hearts and practicing the Presence of God. The higher the degree of vulnerability in a given relationship, the deeper we go and the greater the opportunity for transformation to take place. This not only goes for our relationships with God, but our relationships with others as well. We should be in relationships with God and people in which we are fully known and accepted, and in which we can be affected in a profound way.
As we seek to disciple others, we cannot lose sight of our own personal spiritual formation. We do not just make a commitment to follow Jesus and then automatically become exactly who we are meant to be and fully equipped to disciple someone else! We must always be doing this work of becoming. Jesus says it very clearly this way: “A good tree bears good fruit…” Trees grow. That means as we become “good trees,” we will produce “good fruit.” It is an unmistakable and un-fake-able law of nature: if a tree is healthy, it will produce fruit that is healthy and that fruit should eventually reproduce itself.
You must do your work; you cannot fake it. This means seeking out someone to disciple you as you seek to disciple others. Who are you allowing into your life to help you experience transformation? As we open ourselves to others, we learn to open ourselves to God, and vice versa. These can happen at the same time. Who have you allowed to invest in you and have an impact on your formation spiritually? Hopefully you are watching to see the fruit others produce. Those who produce “good fruit” are the people to follow and invite to help you become who you are supposed to be.
As mentioned in a recent newsletter I wrote on discipleship, these types of discipleship relationships form in various ways, and grow over time. It takes time to develop openness and deeper intimacy in our relationships – with God and others. As we put down roots in good soil and identify and add elements that help us grow (such as we do in these discipleship relationships), we will become good trees. In our teaching about discipleship, we are going to continue to identify ways we can grow in these relationships. It is a lifelong process.