Discipleship Requires Relationship


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

You probably know the verses above as the “Great Commission.” Jesus spoke these words to His disciples after His resurrection and before ascending back into Heaven, and they are still our marching orders as Christians today. It’s an action-packed passage, wouldn’t you say? Go. Make. Baptize. Teach. We are to be about the Lord’s business, not sitting around doing nothing or busying ourselves with other things to the exclusion or neglect of the task to which Christ has called us: sharing the gospel with the lost and training the saved to follow Christ.

But how do we put shoes on the Great Commission? What does it look like to “Go ye therefore” and carry out this action plan of making and teaching disciples of Christ in our day to day lives? Like so many other aspects of working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, there is no one size fits all checklist of specific, “do it this way” tasks to choose from. Why? Because God created you as a unique individual with a particular background and placed you in a certain life venue. Yours doesn’t look like mine, and mine doesn’t look like yours. And that’s a good thing. God has woven all of those elements together in our lives to place us in the exact spot He wants us in to glorify Him, grow in our own faith, and make the disciples He has specifically assigned us to reach in the way He wants us to reach them.

But while you may be counseling a fellow church member about her marriage and I might be teaching my children the book of Colossians and another sister might be praying with a hospitalized co-worker, there’s one thing that’s foundational to all these divergent discipling situations: relationship. You can’t disciple someone unless you have a relationship with her.

Now let me stop and clarify something here. I’m not saying you have to have a relationship with someone before you can evangelize her. We should absolutely be sharing the gospel with lost friends, family, and others we already have relationships with, but we can (and should) share the gospel with complete strangers we’ll never see again as well. When Jesus first called His disciples and said, “Come follow Me,” He didn’t, humanly speaking, know any of them, as far as we know.

But Jesus didn’t stop with the call, just like we’re not to stop with the conversion. He gathered those twelve guys to Himself and they literally did life together for the next three years. They lived together, ate together, traveled together, went to the temple together. Everything. Together. For three years. That’s what turned them into disciples- true followers: time spent together with Christ, learning from Him.

There were three main ways Christ discipled the Twelve: formal teaching (as with the Sermon on the Mount), situational teaching and correction (as when James and John wanted to sit on His right and left in the Kingdom), and setting an example (as when the disciples watched Jesus minister to Zacchaeus), and all of those methods required Jesus to spend time with and bond with the disciples. These weren’t mere acquaintances of His, they were brothers.

Is that what God is calling us to do today? Should we quit our jobs, gather up a dozen ladies, move in together, and disciple them? (Goodness, it almost sounds like a reality TV show, doesn’t it?) Probably not (Especially if you’re married and have children. In that case, your family members are your live in disciples.). But we do need to make sure we’re clearing time in our busy schedules to bond with women or children who need a “big sister” in Christ. Time to disciple them in the same ways Jesus did: formal teaching, situational teaching and correction, and setting an example. Work through a book of the Bible together, be a shoulder to cry on, pray with her when she’s had a bad day, go to the movies together, let her watch while you share the gospel with someone, have a cup of coffee. Develop that close, trusting relationship that creates a safe haven for confession of sin, sharing fears and inadequacies, instruction, rebuke, encouragement, grief, and rejoicing.

And it’s important that we do this, not only at the individual level, but at the church level as well. My church is somewhat large, with a few hundred or so in attendance each week. A few months ago, I hosted a fellowship for the ladies of my class, just so we could have some fun and get to know each other better. During the evening, I asked if anyone would be interested in a weekly women’s Bible study. Most indicated that it wouldn’t work out with their schedules, and we went on with the evening, sharing various things that were going on in our lives, and even stopping to pray for a few of the ladies who were struggling. Later, one of the ladies pulled me aside, told me how much she had enjoyed the evening, and said something so wise I’ll never forget it: “A weekly Bible study would be nice, but this evening is the kind of thing we need. We get good teaching in church and in Sunday School, but we never get to just sit around and talk and share our joys and struggles- our lives.” And she was right.

Yes, sometimes churches can go overboard on fellowship, but we’ve got to be careful not to swing too far the other direction to the point that we’re a group of isolated individuals who happen to be in the same place at the same time each week to receive good teaching and all go our separate ways when it’s over. Good, biblical, corporate teaching and worship are only one aspect of discipleship- the “theory” aspect of discipleship, if you will.

But what about the “applied” aspect of discipleship, where the rubber of the sermon meets the road of life’s circumstances? That’s where relationship comes in. There are women and children in your church who are fairly starving for someone to reach out to them, listen to them, help bear their burdens, explain how the Scriptures apply to what they’re going through today, give them a hug and an encouraging word. Is your church creating space for this to happen between individuals and in small groups? Are you encouraged to get involved in one another’s lives and walk through joys and sorrows together on a personal level?

Making disciples. Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes intentionality. It takes relationship. Jesus was willing to invest those precious resources into the lives of His disciples. Are we?



Throwback Thursday ~ Homemade Catechism: 11 Scriptures for Real Life Parenting Situations

Originally published September 24, 2015



Catechism isn’t as widely used as it once was, which I think is a real shame. It’s a way of teaching doctrine and Scripture to children in a brief question and answer format. The child memorizes the answers and repeats them back to the teacher or parent when asked. Perhaps you’ve heard this question and answer before:

What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

That’s from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which you might enjoy working on with your children. But even if a formal catechism isn’t a fit for your family, God still requires us to train our children in the Scriptures. God tells the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7:


The Bible isn’t to be relegated to family worship time or church. We’re to saturate our homes and our lives with it. Ephesians 6:4 reinforces this thought in the New Testament, exhorting fathers to bring children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Scripture is to inform every aspect of our parenting.

Teaching your children the Bible might sound like a big task, and it is, but, if you think about it, we already catechize our children in so many ways we’re not even aware of. How many times have you asked your child, “What’s the magic word?” or “What do you say to Aunt Margaret for the nice present?” It usually doesn’t take long for them to get the hang of coming up with the right answer.

So don’t be scared. If you’ll take things moment by moment, intentionally bring Scripture into the circumstances that come up in every day life, and explain how it relates to those circumstances, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your children will grasp and apply the verses you’re teaching them. And they’ll be learning the most important lesson of all: God’s word is authoritative, and we are to obey it in every situation in life.

Here’s the informal “Lesley Family Catechism” that we have formulated and implemented over the years. Maybe with a few tweaks here and there, it would work for your family.


Q: You’ve done ________ to disobey me. What does the Bible say about obeying Mommy?

A. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1

It’s hard for little kids to remember all the do’s and don’t’s in the Bible, so God made it easy on them. One commandment that covers all the others: obey your parents. (Colossians 3:20 is very similar.)


Q: Hitting your brother is not right. What does Jesus say about how we’re to treat each other?

A. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12


Q: I know your friend was ugly to you, and that hurts, but what does God say about  forgiveness?

A. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32


Q. God takes lying seriously. You cannot tell a lie and then when you’re caught, say, “I was just joking.” What does the Bible tell us about doing that?

A. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:18-19


Q. You are a thirteen year old, not a three year old. What does the Bible tell us about acting childish?

A. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11

This verse has been very beneficial with our teenage children, especially the boys. We have always emphasized to them that we are trying to raise them to be godly men.


Q. You may have done the right (or wrong) thing, but what was the attitude of your heart? How does God see you when He looks at you?

A. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b

It’s important for our children to understand that God doesn’t judge them merely by their external behaviors, whether they’ve tried hard out of love for Him and failed, or gritted their teeth and done what was right with a rotten attitude. This can lead to the incorrect understanding of the gospel that many people have today: “If my good deeds outweigh my bad deeds, I’ll go to Heaven,”  or “Being a Christian is just being a good person.” God looks at our hearts, sees sinners in need of forgiveness, and offers us grace and mercy through repentance and faith in the shed blood of Christ for our sin.


Q. What do you mean, you hate your sister? You have confessed Christ as Savior. What does the Bible tell us about Christians loving their brothers and sisters?

A. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

In the context of this verse, and the book of 1 John, “brother” doesn’t mean “sibling,” it normally means “brother in Christ.” Still, in addition to fellow Christians, we are called to love our enemies and love our neighbors as ourselves, so we’re to show brotherly love to all.


Q. You’re doing an awful lot of complaining and arguing right now. What does God’s word say about that?

A. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, Philippians 2:14


Q. I know that what you’re telling me isn’t true. What does the Bible say about lying?

A. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. Proverbs 12:22


Q. You seem to be acting selfishly, pridefully, always wanting the first and best, and insisting on getting your own way. What does Scripture say about that?

A. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4


Q. It seems like you flew off the handle in anger. What does the Bible say about that?

A. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20


Working on memorizing these or other Scriptures with your children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them what God’s word means and to begin sharing the gospel with them at a very young age. And you’ll know it’s sinking in when you start hearing them say, “Mom, you’re doing ________. What does the Bible say about that?”


Colossians Bible Study

Colossians: Lesson 4

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Questions to Consider:

1. A great little heremeneutical rule of thumb is that when you see the word “therefore” in the text, you look at the previous verses to find out what it’s “there for”. The same could be said of the word “for” at the beginning of verse 1. Paul is continuing a thought here that started in the last verses of chapter 1. Read back a few verses and summarize his entire thought in your own words. What else do we know about the church at Laodicea? (1)

2. What are some things Paul hopes to accomplish, via this epistle, in the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and others? (2-7) What is the main goal of Paul’s teaching in this epistle? (4) What is the “therefore” in verse 6 “there for”?

3. Recall that the Colossian church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles, and that the Colossian Heresy Paul was combating with this epistle contained both Jewish and Gentile false doctrine. Examine the terms “philosophy” and “human tradition” (8) Do these seem to describe Jewish or Gentile teachings? What about “circumcision” (11-13), “food and drink,” “festivals,” and “Sabbath”? (16) How can Christians and the church avoid being deceived by false doctrine regardless of its source? (6-7, 19)

4. The Judaizers taught that Christians had to follow the Old Testament Mosaic law. What were some of those laws? (11, 16, 21-22) What did Paul tell the Colossians about the Old Testament law and why Christians are not bound by it? (17, see these verses also) How does Paul describe the “circumcision” Christians now receive? Who performs this new “circumcision” and what is “cut away”? (11) On which “body part” of a Christian is it performed? Compare these verses to Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6. How do all of these passages show that physical circumcision was only to be an outward sign of circumcision of the heart? What is the New Testament outward sign of circumcision of the heart? (12) How does Paul tell the Colossians to respond to the Judaizers’ pressure? (16)

5. Examine verses 20-22. What do believers die to in Christ? Are we to go back to worldly teachings and beliefs, as though we have not died to them, and continue to follow their unbiblical rules and regulations? If we are to be dead to these things, what are we to live to? Compare this passage to Galatians 3:1-9. How would these passages have demonstrated to Jewish believers that keeping Old Testament law was not required of them or of Gentile believers? Does your own church have any rules or teachings that Scripture does not require of Christians? What does following man made rules accomplish? (23)


Do you see the similarities between the Judaizers’ teachings and the modern day teaching of the Hebrew Roots Movement? Has anyone ever asked you why you don’t keep Old Testament law? List three teachings from the first two chapters of Colossians that you could use to persuade a friend not to follow the Hebrew Roots Movement or to explain why you’re free to eat lobster and wear poly-cotton blends.

Poetry, Sanctification

How a Little Acorn Helped Reassure a Nut Like Me


There are two kinds of people in this world, throwers and savers (or hoarders, if your saving has breached the clinical level). I’m a thrower married to a saver, which means I have thrown out some stuff I later wished I’d kept, and my husband has saved a lot of stuff we haven’t used in ages and probably never will. But, recently, I came across something I’m really glad I kept all these years.

I was going through a box of old papers, happily doing my “thrower” thing, when I discovered a manilla folder marked, in my handwriting, “Michelle’s Misc. Creative Writing.” Whatever it was, I didn’t remember saving the folder, nor what it might contain. I opened it up to find a two inch thick sheaf of, well…my miscellaneous writings from years gone by. Sermon notes, creative writing assignments and essays for English classes, poems, song lyrics, short stories, even what looked like the manuscript to a devotional I’d started on.

Fortunately, I had dated most of the papers, so I could see that the bulk of them were written when I was between the ages of about 14 to 21. As I leafed through pages of adolescent script alternating with dot matrix printing, I started noticing a common thread. Nearly all of this writing was about God, faith, the Bible, worship, wanting to know Him more. To be sure, the faith was childlike (if not downright childish), and the theology was often immature and somewhat unbiblical.

But it was there. And all these years I’d wondered whether or not that faith had existed back then at all.

You see, I was raised in a Christian home, and, although I was most definitely a depraved little wretch, my outward behavior was fairly decent compared with some of the other kids my age. I got good grades, never had behavior problems in school, was at church every time the doors were open, never tried sex, drugs, cigarettes, crime, or anything else teens sometimes get into. Overall, I was your basic goodie two shoes. So, when I prayed a prayer for salvation at age 12, there was no great big radical lightning bolt change in my life. Things continued pretty much as usual. Had my heart changed? Looking back all those years later as an adult with terrible recollective abilities, I couldn’t really remember.

But as I skimmed through page after page of longing for God, love for God, wanting to please God, something I told a reader not long ago -who was concerned she might not be saved – hit me like a ton of bricks:

Lost people don’t have that kind of “want to.”

I didn’t have all my doctrine straight or walk in Christian maturity, and I wouldn’t have known an apologetic from an apostate, but I wanted God. I loved Him as best I knew how at the time. I had that “want to.” I was saved. God had used a dusty box of old papers to reassure me and put those doubts to rest. It was one of those precious moments alone with the Lord that you never forget.

So to sort of celebrate that little moment in my walk with the Lord, I wanted to share with you one of the poems I found in that folder. It was undated, but I think I wrote it when I was in high school or college. Now, I’m just going to warn you up front, it’s long and it’s lame and it’s (a)corny, and some of the cadence is off and so is the doctrine, and it just plain needs a lot of editing. But I had a good laugh over it, and I thought you might, too. (Hint- it’s funnier if you read it out loud.)

I Am a Little Acorn

I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the might oak
Was once a nut like me.

When I was a baby bud,
I burst forth from a limb,
I grew a little every day,
Out from my little stem.

As I grew older day by day,
An identity crisis hit me.
I searched my heart and searched my soul
To find out just what I should be.

I did not want to be a nut.
I cried, “I cant! I won’t!”
Because sometimes you feel like a nut,
Sometimes you don’t.

I tried to be a button,
And a rolling tumbleweed.
I tried to be a jelly bean,
But still did not succeed.

Oprah, Geraldo, Sally, and Phil*
All let me spill my guts.
“Something other than an acorn?” they asked,
“You can’t! You must be nuts!”

My fame and fortune quickly spread,
I was known both far and wide.
But no one knew my secret dark,
I was lost and scared inside.

Then finally, one day, I turned to the Lord,
And cried out with all my might,
“Why, oh why, do I continue to fail?
Why won’t something go right?”

“Remember to whom you are speaking,” said He,
“I am the Great I Am,
But I’m also the root of David,
And the seed of Abraham.”

“From small beginnings come great things,
This fact is tried and true,
The mighty oak could never be,
Without an acorn like you.”

“All are given different gifts,
And must do as best they can,
To find a way to channel them
According to God’s plan.”

“So cheer up little acorn,
And learn the secret known by few:
Be content with what you’re given,
And let God work through you.”

“I’ll be the best acorn ever!” said he.
“I’ll do as God has led.”
Then standing bold and brave and tall,
The acorn proudly said:

“I am a little acorn,
A fact that’s plain to see,
But remember that the mighty oak
Was once a nut like me.”

(*You’ve probably heard of Oprah. Geraldo Rivera, Sally Jessie Raphael, and Phil Donohue all used to host talk shows, too.)

Don’t despair if you’re still a little acorn in your faith. You keep pursuing that “want to” for God, and He’ll grow you into a mighty oak in Christ.

How do I know? Because He’s doing just that for a nut like me. 🌰



The Mailbag: Is it OK for Christian men to read Christian women’s blogs?


As a man, am I not to read or seek to understand anything from your blog because a woman wrote it? (1 Timothy 2:12)

While other female bloggers might answer differently, as far as my personal position goes, the short answer to your question is no. Generally speaking, it’s not biblically problematic for a Christian man to read my blog because the blogosphere is not the gathering of the church body, and I’m not in any position of spiritual or practical authority over male readers (or even female readers for that matter). Additionally, when I write, I’m writing to instruct and edify women, not men. Male readers are sort of “eavesdropping” or “listening at the door.”

But I would encourage male readers to examine their motives for reading my blog. I have a number of godly male readers, including several pastors, who read my blog for a variety of reasons: they’re interested in a female perspective on various church and biblical issues, they want to use my perspective to better understand and help their wives or female church members, their wives or female church members read my blog and they’re keeping tabs on me to make sure those ladies are taught properly, they don’t have time to vet a certain Christian teacher, so they use my information on false and sound teachers as a resource, and there are those who are friends, whom I’ve asked to keep up with my blog so they can offer me correction as needed.

My thought is that any of those (or similar) reasons are fine and don’t even fall under the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:12, much less the letter. What I do feel would fall under the spirit of that passage would be a man seeking biblical instruction from me for his own personal walk with the Lord. For example- I run a Bible study for women every Wednesday on the blog, and the archives of my previous studies are under the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page. On my part, I’d feel scripturally uncomfortable if a man were using that as the basis for his quiet time rather than using something written by a man, or just studying his Bible. (By the way, if you’re looking for some godly male preachers and teachers, check the “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab at the top of this page.)

I guess the questions I would ask myself if I were a male reader are: What are my reasons for reading this? Is my motivation to receive instruction in Scripture that should really be coming from a male teacher or straight from God’s word? Is my conscience clear, based on God’s word, to go ahead and read this? How can I best honor God and His word in this situation?

I’ve written more extensively on this topic (and related topics) in these articles:

Adam 3.0: Meanwhile, Back in the Garden, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

Rock Your Role FAQs (#2)

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.