All right. Imagine those in your life with whom you have an influence. This might be your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, cousins, cousins’ kids, neighbors, friends, co-workers, the list goes on. Now I want you to think for a moment about how invested you are in those people’s lives. Who are you the most invested in? If you’re married, hopefully you reply with your spouse. If you have children at home, they might be your next priority. But outside of those two fairly easy answers, who comes next? You might teach a Bible Study or a Sunday School class. How invested are you in the lives of those in your class? How invested are you in your extended family? How invested are you in your friends’ lives?
Ok, I get it. You’re tired of answering the same question over and over again. Let me ask it a little different way. How much time a week do you spend with those people? How much time each week do you devote to praying for those people individually? How much do you really go before the Lord with that person in mind asking, “God, how should I pray for them? What do you want me to do to help them grow spiritually?”
Think of it this way as well. Who in your life is invested in you? I’m not trying to evoke tears or feelings of inferiority. But your parents are probably invested in you—even if you’re grown and living on your own. Who in your life would you go to or call if you had an issue you were dealing with and needed someone’s advice? This might sound crazy, but I’ve been laboring over this decision to buy or make a tufted bench for our house. I’ve done all sorts of costs analysis and finally came to the conclusion that I could not buy the materials for cheaper than I could to just buy a new cushioned bench. I spoke with my husband about what to do and he was on board with buying a new bench. But I still felt an uneasiness in my spirit about it. Now, I think we only have about one piece of furniture in our whole house that we bought. Nearly everything else has been given to us. And when I thought about the cost of the new bench, I just thought of a zillion other things that would be more worth spending that money on.
So I phoned a friend. She didn’t really have a large opinion either way. But once she realized I was making the bench from scratch and not revamping one I already had, she agreed it’d be tough to do. Then I called my mom. My mom actually totally solved the problem by offering to give me a bench they had and didn’t want. Then I could still find the joy in making a cushion for a much cheaper price than buying the whole bench. Now, you might not care about tufted benches. But here’s why this was a big deal. Once I decided to make one, I set aside a time to do it by deciding to host a ladies’ craft night. I was actually looking forward to being crafty and learning how to make something. While buying it could have saved money, it still presented me with the problem of not knowing what I’d make when our craft night came. And if I wasn’t going to be getting crafty, then I could have just called it a game night! But people were already looking forward to bringing their crafts to work on—so I needed to stick with the craft idea! My mother’s advice solved all problems. I could still make a tufted cushion at craft night and save money by already having the bench given. Praise God!
That might not sound like a life or death decision, but that’s also the point. It was a seemingly silly decision that I would not have bothered anyone with unless I knew they were invested in me and cared to take the time to help me make a “simple” decision. While my friend might not have had any brilliant advice, she still listened and allowed me to talk through some of my thoughts. Now when I have had big issues going on, I also call that same friend. And last fall when I needed help cleaning out our “junk room” in order to make it a place for us to eat and host Thanksgiving, I called my mother. She agreed to help because she’s invested in me. She agreed to take an entire Saturday to help me because she’s invested in me.
Who’s invested in you? Who are you invested in? Who calls you for advice? On small or large matters? Who asks you for prayer. Who are you willing to drop everything and go be with when they are in need? Who do you know well enough and are in touch with enough to know that you’ll be notified by them or someone living with them when they are in need? Who do you take time to go before the Lord in prayer for? There’s no way around it: discipleship is an investment. Much of that investment is time!
How much time?
You can’t just meet for an hour and be done. The more invested you are, the more effective you’ll be. The more time you spend with them, the more effective you’ll be. The more time they spend with you, the more effective they’ll be. The only way to speed up discipleship is to have them move in with you and do everything with you and really see how you live.
So now you probably think you have to meet for longer than an hour. Well, not necessarily. You might only meet for an hour because that’s all the time you have. If you’re discipling someone at your workplace, you might meet for lunch on Fridays and only have an hour a week. No problem. But it’s what you do within that hour and outside of that hour that really counts. When I say you can’t just meet for an hour and be done, I mean just that. Discipleship isn’t something that happens one hour a week. You need to be praying for that person regularly. If they have a big project or life event coming up, you need to be checking in with them throughout the week on that particular day if possible. Or you need to tell them, “I’ll be praying for you tonight as you talk with your spouse about this.” Then you need to actually be praying for them during the time they’ve told you they’ll be having that difficult conversation.
That one hour a week or whenever you meet can’t be the only time you’ve set aside for this discipleship relationship. Some meet every other week for 1-2 hours. Some meet once a month. Some people go through a book or Bible study together. This means you’re studying something outside of that meeting preparing for your time together. My mentor and I have read a book together the last two summers. But during the year we’re both involved in different Bible studies. So we share with each other what we’re learning in our different Bible studies. We also obviously discuss our lives together and pray together. We also have dinner with our spouses in each other’s houses a couple times a year and see each other with our spouses regularly on Sundays.
She is invested in me outside of just our meetings. She prays for me outside of our meetings. She buys me gifts, sends me encouraging notes, and listens when I occasionally contact her to pray for me about something that’s outside of our normal meeting times. Yes, she sets aside time to meet with me regularly. But she’s invested in me not only during those times, but outside of those times as well. She’s not just invested in me during our meetings. She’s invested in my whole life.
So how long does it take to see fruit? Tune in next month for that discussion!