Discipleship: Becoming a Spiritual Mother or Father
Discipleship isn’t just for church leaders; it is for Every. Single. Person. And it is not that complicated. We can all become a spiritual mother or father regardless of how old we are or how long we have walked with the Lord.
This was one of the key takeaways during my recent discussion with two of my dearest mentors, Danny Norris and Helen Lambert, which released a few weeks ago.
Danny Norris led the home Bible study group where I met my husband. Helen changed my world and became a dear friend after I first heard her speak at a church we were attending, spurring me to try to find a way into her life. I desperately wanted to learn from her and to have some of the spiritual anointing (for lack of a better word) in her life rub off on me.
I love these two beautiful people dearly, and I had the privilege of sitting down with them as we celebrated my new book, Jesus and Politics, speaking with them on the topic of spiritual mentorship and what it means to disciple others.
Discipleship is Not Just for Spiritual People
We tend to think that only the “spiritual people” facilitate discipleship with others, and we often think it requires a regimented, set-aside teaching time, casting off and ignoring the mundane. But the seemingly mundane moments of life are where discipleship is best fostered — driving together in a car, volunteering together at a church or local charity, or gathering around a break table at work. Discipleship is simply a relationship with another person. But we are committing to that relationship at a deeper level, where we open ourselves to give of what we have been given, and to receive of those from whom we want to glean.
We Must Walk With God
Key starting point: we must first walk with God before we can walk with others. This means allowing God to touch our lives through worship, prayer, and meditation on the Word of God. This means understanding that the gospel is the only thing that can save people, and that the Word of God transforms lives from the inside-out. This understanding comes through spending time with the Father daily in His Word and learning to worship Him wherever we go. Growing up in my faith, this was my discipleship story: a hunger that I couldn’t shake, which transformed my life a little at a time, and faithful people who planted seeds of transformation into that hungering soul.
I am so grateful that I was raised a pastor’s kid, because this helped lay a foundation for me to want to pursue the Lord deeper. After a dramatic encounter with Jesus at a Carman concert in 1988, where I heard the gospel clearly and knew I was a sinner and needed salvation, I pursued truth like never before. I searched for more and more places to learn the Bible, and this led me to an incredible youth group led by Mark and Sandy Jobe (I recently had a conversation with them as well), a Christian concert venue called Footloose, and a theatre group where I did show after show together with strong Christian adults who invested in my life. Eventually a friendship from that theatre group led me to a home Bible study group of young adults led by Danny Norris. Here we spent intentional time in worship and prayer and dove deep into the Word of God.
Dwelling and thriving in this setting of simple Christianity caused me to come alive even more. Being surrounded by God’s outpouring of love through other hungry people led me to want to pour out this love on others.
Luke 6:45 says, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” When we abide in the presence of God, we start to understand that God wants to use us in the lives of others.
Anyone Can Disciple Anybody
Secondly, anyone can disciple anybody. What does this look like day-to-day? It simply looks like making ourselves available to someone. We give up a little of our time, asking the other person how we can help them.
For example, to connect my life with Helen, I asked her if she could teach me how to make Mediterranean food. I wanted to make myself present and available, open to the wisdom she had to impart. The relationship with her over the years changed me as she pushed me forward, spoke into my life, and encouraged my gifts. She has helped make me into the leader that I am today.
In Helen’s story, discipleship looked like a woman from town coming with cleaning supplies in hand to the nursing home that Helen owned, ready to serve in any way she could, because she recognized in Helen a young single mom who needed assistance.
Discipleship requires finding out where that person is in life, what their relationship is with the Lord, and stepping in to make a difference. Asking questions, listening, and responding to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can help stir others to seek God, help encourage their gifts, and motivate them to put all their trust in Jesus. It is important for us to let that person know what God has done in our lives and how He can impact theirs as well.
“…Exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
Be Moved with Compassion
Discipleship requires compassion, which fosters an environment of love and self-sacrifice. During my many trips to Romania, my heart was stirred with compassion for those who did not know Christ, and for the young Bible School students who were learning more about Christ. Whether it was sacrificing sleep to sit with Bible students to talk about the Bible and answer questions, or going out and buying five young adults dinner so we could linger for another hour in conversation, compassion is demonstrated practically and is imperative for discipleship. Without it, our hearts are hardened, and so is our desire to serve.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Discipleship is Also Practical
Though discipleship is a deeply spiritual matter, it is also a practical matter. It touches every area of our lives, and we should look to speak into all parts of the lives of our disciple(s).
Danny Norris shared that he wanted to make sure his personal finances were aligned with the kingdom of God, so that he could demonstrate this stewardship to us young adults. He made sure he was setting aside money in savings — whether this was for his children’s future education, weddings, or other potential emergencies. He even set aside money in an envelope to give away as spontaneous gifts to people he encountered in his life.
Most importantly, he would not allow himself to buy things that he could not afford, staying in the boundaries of what God had provided. This meant, in his words, that he had “a governed heart.” This is an example of practical discipleship at its finest, and deeply impacted my life.
“Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” Proverbs 24:27
Live Out Your Faith with Others
Anyone could be a disciple. Every hug, handshake, or dollar bill invested into someone else’s life can make an eternal difference. You never know how God may use your obedient “Yes.”
The woman who served Helen, appearing on her front doorstep with cleaning supplies and a smile, didn’t know that she would inspire Helen to become a spiritual mother to another young woman years later. She didn’t know that her actions would equip Helen to share the gospel all over the world and then pour those experiences and discipleship into me, laying the foundation for the work I’d eventually be doing in my career and ministry.
Though we love our church programs, in reality, discipleship happens one person at a time. We think that big impact requires a big organizational movement, but it really requires us just being obedient to God and making ourselves available to other people; being sacrificial and serving with compassion, laying down our lives for one another.
This is how Jesus taught us to walk in discipleship, and fulfills the Matthew 28 lifestyle, which can change America:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:18-20)
Bunni Pounds is president and founder of Christians Engaged — a ministry activating the Body of Christ to pray, vote, and engage regularly. Her book — Jesus and Politics: One Woman’s Walk with God in a Mudslinging Profession comes out nationally on Feb. 6 and is available for pre-order. Watch Bunni on her podcast “Conversations With Christians Engaged,” here on The Stream each week and connect with her on Facebook @bunnipoundsTX, on X @bunnipounds, and on Instagram @bunnipounds.