A lot of ink has been spilled in the church world around this idea of discipleship, and for good reason too. After all this was our Lord’s final admonition to his disciples, that they should make disciples. If fact in Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “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.” I want underline that word “Teaching.” We are to make disciples by teaching. As someone focused on discipleship and especially as a pastor, it’s easy to consider Sunday school, Youth Group, Sunday morning church, and numerous other Bible study venues as the place we do that teaching. All of those things are great tools for teaching what Jesus commanded us to teach, but some of the most effective opportunities come in the most surprising of forms.
Every Thursday our church’s secretary/custodian comes to do her assigned work. Along with her she brings her four children with ages varying from 10-17. This provides me with the unique opportunity to spend time with these young people on an extra day each week that I would not normally get to do. Now I’m sure that most pastors have certain days that they get interrupted more than most. These interruptions can be frustrating when you have a long list of work that needs to be done. But as our lead pastor will frequently say, “interruptions are the ministry.” I would whole-heartedly agree with him. As stated above, its easy to consider your regular teaching times on Sundays and Wednesdays to be the appropriate time for discipleship. If we think though that this is the case we will miss out on some of the choicest times that can be presented to us. Take today for instance. I have a long list of things I needed to accomplish today. As I was retrieving an item from the printer, I noticed the secretary’s 10 year old son working on multiplication tables near the printer. I could have continued on with my task as I would most days, but today I stopped to comment on what he was doing. He said “my mom is making me do this because I didn’t finish this at home.” I proceeded to ask him if he had any tricks for these multiplying numbers like this. He then showed me the unique method he used for multiplying by eleven. I was then sucked down a rabbit hole and began exploring with him new ways to multiply by eleven. His demeanor quickly changed from annoyance and frustration at his school and he became excited and interested in this activity. I was excited for a very different reason. See unlike his 3 older siblings, I have struggled to connect with him and therefore he was never really interested in the things I try to share with him. This very random and simple connect over math problems was the very thing that allowed me to connect with him on a personal level that I believe God will use for him to be able to hear wisdom from me in the future.
You see often times its not about the content of your message but about the relationships with the person you are trying to reach. So many of us truly desire to disciple and be discipled but we struggle to find others who have the time or desire to carry out that mission. Many of us will make time for that on Sundays, but how many of us are intentionally doing this throughout the week. I could easily have ignored this kid and gone on about my day completing my “important” tasks, but this time for whatever reason, God caused me to stop and enter into his world for just a few moments. I wish you could see the excitement of this young man as we worked together to figure out his math problems. In fact, later on that day his dad stopped by to bring him home, he had to be pulled away from my desk. I was thankful that I could get back to work but more thankful that God had given me this connection point.
Two real quick application thoughts. Number one, make time to have those basic every day connections with the people God has brought around you. I get it, you are busy. You have a million things to get done and cannot get distracted by everyone along the way. However, you may be struggling to connect with the people you want to connect with or that God wants you to connect with because you are so busy with the other things. People are usually not lining up to “be discipled or disciple you.” You have to be opportunistic with these moments. Secondly, if you are a parent, try to set your children up to be discipled by you and others in the church who will play a vital role in building up their faith. Most parents want the most for their kids and therefore try to put them in so many things so they have all kinds of opportunities. More often than not, these activities are the very things that prevent them from receiving what God would have for them. You have to teach them how to say no to good things for the sake of great things. God does not care how good an athlete, musician, or student your child is. He desires their heart. And if all of those good things are drawing their heart away from God, than its time to lay them down for the sake of the greatest thing, God himself.