If you have never been discipled or if you are desiring to disciple someone for the first time, you might ask what it looks like to build a healthy discipleship relationship. To answer that question might take several blog posts but let us first start with building conviction to rid yourself of the myth that commitment/intentionality and rigidity are synonyms. We must take a stand against our culture which models that to have a plan means that you have structured the love out of a relationship.
Here is a brief excerpt from “Discipleship Defined” where it begins the discussion on the importance of intentionality in discipleship.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INTENTIONALITY
Have you ever heard Christians describe how they were “like Jesus” by not having an agenda when interacting with others? They are implying that Jesus was unintentional in what He did, that He interacted without purpose, particularly in his discipleship. This is false. In fact, there has never been a more intentional, calculated plan in history than the discipleship ministry of Jesus.
The danger in this ‘no agenda’ remark is that many Christians actually believe it – that to truly love someone you should have no agenda. Although Jesus loved unconditionally, He didn’t love without an agenda. To love someone with an agenda is to love someone with a plan of things to be done. It would be hard to disagree that Jesus had a temporally-organized plan for matters to be attended to before His crucifixion.
Everything Jesus did was calculated in order to maximize glory for the Father. We witness Jesus clearly expressing his agenda in Matthew 16:23-28, revealing that He knew what His goal was and that nothing was going to deter Him. Was the one who defines love not loving, simply because He had a plan?
Jesus was no less strategic when it came to how He treated His disciples. His love was always unconditional, while at the same time, He always had a goal: for His disciples to be servants of God that would eventually reproduce their lives in others. Jesus wanted them to be developed in order to develop others, on how to walk by faith, communicate their faith, and multiply their faith.
The intentionality of how He ministered to the disciples is further proof of His strategic focus. He chose them out of a crowd in order for them to realize they were part of His inner circle. He wanted to be closer to them than He was to the masses. He taught them things that He had not taught others. He was especially vulnerable with them. He trusted them with information to which nobody else was privy.
Jesus made building relationships with the disciples a priority, rather than merely connecting with them when He had the opportunity. The former shows commitment; the latter communicates indifference.
In every situation, Jesus’ deeds were done for specific reasons: He did only what the Father commanded. Although there is no direct exhortation for the laymen to commit to such a level when speaking about relationships, it seems convincing that Jesus shows us how important the developing of the relationship is to growing a disciple in Christ. Christ’s model, coupled with His exhortation to obey, shows that those who follow Christ will be developing relationships with others for the purpose of spiritual multiplication.