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Relationship is the Context for Discipleship

Recently I’ve been disturbed by a trend I see in American church culture. Basically, we tend to relegate discipleship to the classroom, hoping that people who get the right kind of information will begin to live the right kind of lives. We’ve become very comfortable standing behind a podium to teach but we’re out of practice at sitting across a table to talk through life together.

Jesus’ ministry took a different shape. He walked side-by-side with His followers for three years before unleashing them for the ministry of multiplication. In fact, when He called the disciples in Mark 4, it says that He “appointed twelve…so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach.” Why would the author emphasize the fact that the disciples had the opportunity to be “with Him?”

Discipleship is a life-on-life endeavor. There are several things that happen when we spend time with people in informal settings:

  • Our passions begin to influence those we are leading.
  • Those we’re leading can observe the way we live our lives, which gives credibility to our teaching.
  • The best lessons are generally learned along the way in the context of real-life opportunities — both struggles and successes.

If you look back over your life and consider the people you would label as mentors, what was it that made their impact on your life so significant? I suspect that a common factor was their willingness to spend time with you and share their life with you. These people may have been ordinary in many ways, but they took the time to walk with you through life’s ups and downs and spoke God’s truth to you in those moments. What holds us back from doing the same for someone else?

I challenge you to consider finding one or two avenues and one or two people that will open doors for you to share life with people and begin influencing them for Christ in these relational settings. For me, college ministry has provided a number of these types of opportunities:

  • Game nights in our home
  • Sharing meals with students
  • Grabbing coffee with no real agenda
  • Going to our church service or other Christian gatherings with them, even when I’m not the teacher

Perhaps we need to change our focus from the classroom to the ordinary contexts of daily life. Perhaps we need to recognize that the greatest influence comes from those who invest relationally, not those who have the most public platform. Finding places to engage relationally is actually pretty easy once you begin to intentionally seek the opportunities. So…who will you connect with today?

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Dustin Speaks is Grace’s Mobilization & College Pastor. He and his wife, Lauren, arrived in Columbus in the fall of 2012, after several initial ministry experiences. Dustin previously served as an associate pastor in South Dakota and as a missionary to university students in Berlin, Germany. Dustin studied history at Ohio University, where he met Lauren, and was involved in campus ministry with Cru. After graduation, the Speaks went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Chicago) to complete a degree in Intercultural Studies. He enjoys playing nearly all ball sports: basketball, golf, and soccer are his favorites. Dustin and Lauren have three young children.


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