The sweetest and most memorable moments in my life all have one common theme that runs through them all. They’re people oriented. Whether that be by having conversations over coffee with a friend, weekly meetings with a mentor, or having a home cooked meal with a loved one. Being intertwined in the lives of others as they venture through their day is a simple act of kindness that both opens the heart and mends the soul. This is one of the reasons why discipleship matters.
During the summer of 2019, I had the privilege of interning at the church I had grown up in from middle school all the way through college. One word that can summarize the pastors I worked for was the word “servant”. Their heart’s cry was to reach any and every student at any cost, even if it looked like an inconvenience on the surface. I’ll share a story of what true servant-hood looked like from them in just a moment.
What is True Servanthood?
For some odd reason I’d imagined that working in ministry meant that we would all be reading our bibles all the time, talking about God, writing sermons, and being “deep” all the time (whatever that meant). Now many of these things had been a part of it, “ministry” was much more normal and routine then I could have ever imagined. We picked up supplies from the store, we set-up rooms for the students, and we prayed for the hearts and souls of every student that would walk through the door of our church. When the students came we listened to their stories, shared our lives, had fun, and proclaimed the good news of Jesus. This is why discipleship matters.
It was a holy and joyful moment every single time. But my favorite part of the night was always picking up students who needed a ride to church. This whole process was quite a time and was multi-layered because of the amount of planning and driving it required. Over thirty minutes of time was spent picking up the vans we needed, another hour picking up kids from different cities, thirty minutes back to the church, and then the whole process again at the end of the night. Needless to say, it was a lot.
Servanthood is True Joy
But it never felt like “work” or a chore to do. We knew we wanted these students at our church and we were willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they could come because we loved and cherished them. I was never given a class or a seminar on what ministry was or meant, but I knew that this was exactly what it was. It was the giving of myself for the benefit of others through humble service, a joyful heart, and for the glory of God through it all. I didn’t know it at the time, but this kind of environment was the perfect breeding ground for learning what it meant to be a disciple of Christ in both word and deed. A confirmation of why discipleship matters.
In August of 2021, I had two major changes in my life come at once. I had begun Bible college and an internship at a new church. It was quite the whirlwind. I was getting to apply the class work from school into my internship in real time. This season of my life had become much more of an intellectual playground and I was having an absolute blast. My heart leaps at the thought of reading a good theology book and writing papers/devotionals over God and the Bible (I know, what a nerd). With all this mental exercise, I had forgotten that a love of God was meant to be fleshed out through a love for his people. My mentor had also taken notice of this and given me two simple tasks every week. Learn five new peoples names and invite someone out to lunch. Simple enough, right? You would think, but this was hard for me. I was awkward, younger than most people I talked to (and felt like I had nothing to offer), and scared of messing up.
I had made making genuine connections with people a task to be accomplished rather than a people to be loved. Once I had my first lunch, it clicked. I heard my new friend’s story and saw how God’s hand had played a part in every moment of his life to weave a beautiful story of redemption. It was as if my heart’s eyes had finally been opened and made the realization that every time I talked to a new person, I was talking to a person who bore the very image of God and with whom I shared a connection with because of our shared love for Christ.
My personal Pastor/Boss is one of the most diligent, detailed, and intelligent workers I’ve had the privilege to work with. Every week we have a meeting to discuss the week ahead of us, as well as develop my character/talents. I’d never had this, so this was quite a change of pace. I was asked hard questions, taught how to improve, and given the opportunity to grow in my giftings. I was simultaneously scared out of my mind and thrilled at the same time. I was given the opportunity to make mistakes while it was still okay to do. While I was told how I could improve and grow, I was also celebrated. I was told how I was making an impact at our church, what my contributions meant, and how I was loved and cherished by the members and staff. My heart was full. I was shown that love was a double edged sword that involved gentle rebukes of a friend out of a care for my well being and growth in Christ. Encouraging others to all God intends is why discipleship matters.
But the most important lesson of all was completely separate from me. I got to see my pastor love his kids so well. At any given moment, one of his daughters would come running to him in our lobby and he would immediately draw his attention to them and say these words to them, “isn’t she the sweetest and absolute prettiest girl in the whole wide world?” To whoever he was talking to. There was never a doubt in mine or anyone else’s mind that our pastor loved his family with every fiber of his being. The most important role of a pastor (or anyone for that matter), is to love your family before and above anything else.
About once a week for a few months on end, I would meet with a friend to catch up and talk about our faith. It was a weekly ritual of both of our lives. It would often start with what we’ve been up to in school, followed by how our families were, and how we’ve been. Sometimes there wouldn’t be much to talk about, and other times we would share tons of stories and things to unpack and discuss. We were in the trenches of each other’s lives. We would then move on and ask the question of “what has God been teaching you in his word this week?” Spiritual growth is why discipleship matters.
Not that profound of a question, but a healthy one nonetheless. So much wisdom and life giving conversations came from this question. We would talk about how the character of God was displayed in the text and how it related to our life and where we’ve seen similar things at play. The conversations we had were often the highlight of my week because of just how rich they were. We were two friends who were striving to grow in our relationship with God through the reading of scripture and unity in our friendship.
Love God and Love Others
All of these events helped shape my heart, mind, and soul to be tethered to the reality that all of my thoughts and actions can be used to love God and love others well. But none of these would’ve been possible if others weren’t intentionally invested in discipling me well. These people were doing exactly what Jesus had said in the book of Matthew “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:16-20). All of the people mentioned in these stories were first disciples of Christ, which allowed them to be people who also make disciples. They were people who became the change that they had sought and longed after.
So here’s my challenge to you after reading all of these stories:
- Are you a disciple of Christ and his word? Find out how to know Jesus here. Before you can help anyone else, you must make this your first priority.
- Are you using your gifts and talents to bring glory to God or yourself? Examine your heart, seek counsel from others, and see whether your actions and words have been centered in the right places.
- Are you investing your time in others? Being a holistic disciple of Jesus means loving others through the investment of time, effort, and energy because of a joyful motivation that stems from the heart.
I hope this article has helped you understand more about why discipleship matters.