Originally posted at the Young Life Leader Blog, This is part of of a series written after my summer assignment as a speaker at Young Life Adventures. During that assignment, I was offered the gift of helping teenagers at the front end of their faith process work out language they found helpful.
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 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 are the people who are following Jesus with you together? Get those things on the calendar so you can be there, too.
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.
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 life 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 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.
Community Is Purposeful
When Jesus invites his friends to go with Him, notice the language He uses:
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)
This isn’t just an invitation to hang out. It is an invitation to join Jesus in his whole life, including the part the involves serving and loving others. That’s not to say there is something wrong with just hanging out. But the richest relationships you will have will be with sisters and brothers who are about more than just hanging out. They do that, too. But your deepest friendships will be with folks who help you follow Jesus and join you in serving the world.
In an account retold in Matthew 14, Jesus and His disciples are joined by a crowd of thousands. Having been with Him all day, those thousands of people were hungry and started telling the disciples about it. “Send them away” the tell Jesus, “so they can get something to eat.”
But Jesus says “You feed them.”
Um… WHAT?! How is this small group of folks supposed to feed thousands of people?! He’s the miracle-worker, so why doesn’t He just do it?
What happens next is remarkable.
Jesus takes a five loaves of bread and two fish and, dividing them up, begins to feed those thousands of people. Of course, He doesn’t hand out the bread and fish by Himself. Instead, He hands the pieces to His disciples and lets them do it.
Can you imagine how it might feel to be part of a miracle like that and feed a few thousand hungry people with only five loaves of bread and two fish? I’d bet the disciples didn’t think they could do something like. But a life-giving friend will be someone who helps draw out the best in you. A life-giving friend helps to draw out more of you than you thought was there.
What a gift it is that Jesus invites His community into the work He does. That’s part of what makes community good; that Jesus shares His adventures with His friends and family. Now, you may not go out and feed thousands of people with a Snickers bar and bag of chips, but you will definitely have your fair share of adventures. You will do woodwork in the world. Plan on inviting people to share in those works and adventures with you.