A DISCIPLER’S GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL CONVERSATIONS (2/7): Being Present
As followers of Jesus, we are invited into the joyous calling to both love and disciple others. When you hear the word “discipleship” or the call to disciple others, it’s important to define some terms. What is meant by discipling others? A helpful way to view discipleship is to see it as a series of spiritual conversations within the context of an ongoing relationship. When we see discipleship through the lens of conversation, how to move forward comes clearly into focus.
Because spiritual conversations within the context of relationships take time, discipleship moves at the speed of relationship. This is good news for those of us who are often in a rush to “get to the Gospel.” It’s good to be reminded that we get to slow down with others in order to have these conversations with them. While the content of these spiritual conversations will largely be shaped by the stories of the people you are discipling, we (Table Network) believe there are five timeless and ancient functions that consistently and repeatedly occur. These five functions are: being present, listening, sharing, inviting, and teaching. Consider this a framework, rather than rules, as you disciple others.
This week, we will take a look at being present with others.
While it may seem redundant to say we should be present with the people we are discipling, I believe it is worth emphasizing and repeating. Intentionally showing up in people’s lives is often overlooked in the discipleship conversation. In our haste to see people converted, we rush to share Good News without having any knowledge or relationship with the person. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sharing the Gospel with folks. What I am concerned about is why we are sharing Good News.
I know that I have been guilty of seeing people as projects that I need to “get fixed” versus people to love and disciples. So, in my haste to see them “fixed”, I share Good News with them with the desire to change them but not as a product of loving them.
One of the most convicting and amazing things to me about Jesus is this: He was never in a hurry. He never rushed. Whether it was stopping with the bleeding woman on His way to heal the official’s daughter (Mark 5:21-ff) or traveling out of His way to meet the woman at the well, Jesus never rushed. He showed up and slowed down with people. He was present with people.
“The Word became flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1) is not merely a poetic turn of phrase, but rather a demonstration of the incarnational and intentional love of Jesus. Because we live in Him (Gal. 2:20), we are ambassadors of Jesus (2 Cor 5:20) who intentionally dwell among the people in our lives. We are present among people. We show up for their sake: ready, willing, and able to listen to them, serve them, and proclaim good news.
Discipleship begins with relationship, and relationships begin by being present in someone’s life. Sure, you may have “accidentally” met your future spouse on a “chance” meeting, but you didn’t get to know one another by accident. You intentionally made time to be around each other and be available for one another. Now I am not saying that discipleship is like dating, merely drawing the similarity between how relationships begin and how discipleship begins the same way.
What might this look like? I have experienced and hear about people intentionally being present in the lives of co-workers, baristas, classmates, bus drivers, neighbors, etc. About a year ago, I joined a running group that partners with recovery houses. By just showing up a few days a week, being present with the guys and the staff, some amazing opportunities have opened up. These people have grown in trust and respect for me simply because I show up.
The same is true with neighbors on our block. We live in South Philadelphia where sitting on your stoop is a common past time. My wife and I have seen two very incredible discipling relationships form from simply sitting outside and being with our neighbors. It begins with showing up and being present in people’s lives.
How might God be calling you into this? Who do you love and desire to see know Jesus? How might you be able to be present in their lives? What would it look like if you set aside your conversational agenda and met them where they are relationally?
The gospel frees us to intentionally seek others without needing others. Because we are fully loved, adopted, approved, and accepted in Jesus, we can be present in the lives of others without needing a “return on the investment.” By putting on Jesus and dwelling among others, we have a valuable and loving presence in the lives of those around us. Some will notice and grow in trust, giving us an opportunity to listen to them and get to know their story. No strings attached.