When we are in the Philippines, Monday is my day off. But not today, because I was the opening speaker at our Leader Summit '07, this morning.
As soon as I stepped into the room and saw hundreds of Filipino students wholeheartedly worshiping God, my mind raced back to 1984 when we first came to Manila to start a church that would reach Manila's University-Belt. God sure had bigger plans than I did. I am glad I stayed out of His way enough to get our church where it is today.
The 800 student leaders in that room this morning will all be facilitating discipleship groups on their campuses when school starts in 2 weeks. Our ENCM-Philippines staff is doing a great job of equipping and empowering students to make disciples.
As I was driving to the meeting this morning, I though back to my college days - a long time ago! Most of what I had then, I no longer have. My white Toyota Celica. My black Yamaha motorcycle. My Guild guitar. My hair. All gone. Never to be seen again.
About the only thing I still have from those days are my friends.
Joey is right about that. The best discipleship flows out of and produces the best relationships. Discipleship is not a class to take. It is not a program to make a church bigger. It is not a doctrine to learn.
Discipleship is relationship.
But, what kind of relationship? Some relationships are life-giving, others are life-draining. Some are healthy, others are dysfunctional. I think a healthy discipleship relationship should be a Christ-centered friendship.
Friendship discipleship may sound good, but is that how Jesus did discipleship? I think so.
- In John 15:13-15, Jesus referred to his disciples as friends.
- In John 21:5, he called some struggling disciples (back-slidders?) his friends.
- In Luke 7:34, the religious leaders described him as a "friend of sinners".
Solid disciples. Struggling disciples. Sinners. Jesus treated them like friends.
In fact, it seems like the only people who weren't his friends were the self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites. The Pharisees and Sadducees. The religious critics who were professionals at tearing people down rather than building them up.
If Jesus treated his disciples - the ones who were following him and the ones who were running from him - like friends, then don't you think we should do the same?
Discipleship should be Christ-centered friendship.
And, if we do friendship-based discipleship like Jesus did, 30 years later we may not have our college car, waste-line or hairline, but we will still have our friends.