by Jim Putman
Many know me as one who cares very much about discipleship and they would be right. But after several years of training churches and speaking about discipleship, I realized that I have somehow missed emphasizing a point. Jesus’ method was based upon relationships. But Jesus did not use relationship to make disciples because it is the best way to teach information. Jesus was in relationship to make disciples because it is in relationship that you experience and learn the most important thing – the importance of relationships and how God wants relationships to work (love).
Jesus made it clear that all the law and the prophets can be summed up in relationship (to love God and to love others). The work of the Holy Spirit in your life is to make you one who loves, and is kind, and gentle, and so on (we call these the fruit of the Spirit). All of the fruit of the Spirit is relational – and as we walk in the Light we develop the ability to have fellowship with one another. You see I believe that God created us in the garden to have perfect relationship with Himself and others, and because of sin we lost the ability to have what we were created to have. Since then God has been seeking to restore to us to the relationships He knows He created us to enjoy (to need and have). In Christ we can be reconciled to God and to others. When this happens it is a beautiful thing.
The church brings glory to God when we live out God’s intended design. This happens when we are relational people who prove to the world that you can actually have the relationships you know down deep that you need. So many Christians are lonely and that is not God’s intention. As Paul writes true spiritual maturity is more than knowing all the mysteries of God. Its more than following the rules, and even being committed enough to die a martyr’s death. It’s more than being gifted as 1 Corinthians 13 reveals; it is about love. Real maturity is to love and be loved – it’s to become relational and have deep abiding spiritual friendships within the body of Christ. You see I believe that the ability to love as God intended fills our hearts and gives us strength. It also will draw a lonely world to the one who can restore to us what we have always been designed to need – relationship. So what I truly believe is that we make disciples rather than converts. We do this in relationship. And in relationship we learn to be the world’s best lovers of God and others.