I just finished writing a book (unpublished) about caring for Bible study group members and friends. That effort clarified again for me the essential nature of care and relationships to discipling. In the book, I define care as love in action, love expressed. We care because God does. And because He cares, we care for others.
When care is missing, discipling becomes empty words. Without care, it changes to generic teaching. It has no focus or application. Discipling requires practicing care. Care is the river which flows from God to those we are discipling. Without that flow, the message never fully arrives at its destination.
Discipling and Trust
The less I trust you, the less distance I am willing to travel with you (physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually). Trust does not increase simply by spending time together. Instead, it is dependability over time. Trust grows through caring responses to risks taken. I share a fear, and you listen and take me seriously. When I take a risk, I communicate that I care and trust you. Trust is also a two-way street with care flowing both directions. Without care flowing in response to my risk, I become hesitant to share. This creates dependability for trust.
Think about Jesus. Why did He leave heaven? Why was it necessary to become Immanuel, God with Us? Consider these answers:
- “For God so loved…” (John 3:16)
- “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, CSB
- “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35, CSB
Jesus left heaven because of love, demonstrated that love all the way to the cross, and commands us to love one another His way. Every step, He was practicing care. When we practice care (agape love in action), that care is so attractive that everyone will know we are His disciples.
Our discipling groups (whether one-on-one, D-groups, or small groups) are practice fields for care. We practice caring for each other. We pray for, listen to, and encourage one another. And we laugh and cry together while learning how to respond with care to fears, concerns, and needs.
The Results of Practicing Care
When our discipling efforts are practiced with care, that care and trust spills over into lives beyond the discipling group. That practiced care touches family, workmates, schoolmates, neighbors, friends, and people in the marketplace. Each moment on the journey becomes an opportunity to care, to show His love. Practice care will show everyone that we are His disciples and give us opportunity to share Jesus. That is the ultimate expression of discipling and care. Practice care. Make disciples!