I have found that I can’t be a very good disciple on my own. The life Jesus is leading me to live is one that needs to be lived with other people. “The Jesus Way of Life” requires community.
Not too long after hearing the voice of the Father say “I love you and I’m proud of you,” Jesus went about gathering a group of people to practice life with. He didn’t go alone. Before He went out to perform miracles and help people and teach, He intentionally chose friends to do all those things with; people with whom He would share His very purposeful journey.
Community Is Intentional
In the 4th chapter of Matthew (v 18-22) Jesus approaches Simon, Andrew, James and John, saying “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This wasn’t a chance encounter. He went to these friends and intentionally chose them to go with Him and to live purposefully together.
Jesus didn’t wait for his community to come to Him or just appear. He went and made it clear that he wanted to live life together.
Like Jesus, let’s be intentional about and with our community. Sure, circumstances and random encounters might be how we first meet life-giving people, but we can’t count on those same serendipitous happenings to maintain our friendships. So, instead of waiting for chance to set you up for time with life-giving friends, help make it happen. For me, this has meant using a calendar. Consider doing the same. That might mean you buy one made of paper (if you are someone who hates trees and loves pictures of adorable kittens and sunsets). Or maybe you can use the calendar on your phone, laptop or tablet. Once you’ve chosen which calendar to use… start mapping out your communal life.
- When does Young Life club meet?
- When is Campaigners?
- If you attend a Bible study, when does that happen?
- Does your church have a retreat planned? Mark those dates.
When are the people who are following Jesus with you together? Get those things on the calendar so you can be there, too.
Then, make a list of folks who are following Jesus with you and contact them to make some plans. It can feel weird at first, I know. But I can tell you from experience that, as you get older, it only gets harder to make time with life-giving, loving and wise friends. Practice being intentional now. Be sure to keep a YL leader or pastor or spiritual mentor on that list and get regular time with her or him.
I’ve used the phrase “life-giving friend” or “life-giving people” a few times and should probably clarify what that means in my mind. A life-giving friend is someone whose concern isn’t what they can get from you. A life-giving friend wants to see you live a full life. A life-giving friend is someone who will give their time, energy and resources to help you live well and follow Jesus.
But perhaps the most consistent hallmark of a life-giving friend is someone who asks good questions. Anyone can talk about themselves and there’s nothing particularly wrong with doing that. But a life-giving friend asks questions that make help their friends think about their lives and live more like Jesus. Here are some questions life-giving friends can ask:
- What’s the best part of your life right now?
- What’s the hardest part of your life right now?
- What are you learning right now?
- What are you seeing God do or hearing from Him?
- What are you going to do about what you’re seeing, hearing and learning?
- How can I be praying for you?
I want to have people around me who ask me these questions. I also want to be someone who asks them. I’d bet the same is true for you.
Having asked these kinds of questions, a life-giving friend takes the next step and follows up. In my practice, that has meant keeping notes in a journal. Then, when I see my friends during one of the times we’ve calendared together (or when circumstances allow), I can ask them about the things I’ve been praying for. It can be a real gift to me when I hear that things have changed form them or that God showed up in a unique way.