(This is a guest post by Abby Perry, whose husband Jared is the Assistant Youth Pastor at Grace. You can find Abby’s blog at joywovendeep.com). 

What do you think about when you hear the word “discipleship”? For me, there were seasons of my life (college for example) when the word “discipleship” meant three hour coffee sessions at Sweet Eugene’s, “official” mentorship through a student organization and formal accountability that I could easily schedule, since my life was constrained only by 12 hours per week in classes. During those years, I learned about unity, struggle, growth and the character of God in a new, accelerated way. I was excited to be a part of the body of Christ. I loved my ability to arrange my hours around spiritual growth, and I was determined to mirror my college experiences throughout the rest of my life.

And then, the rest of my life started to happen.

I got married at 20, moved to Dallas for my husband to attend seminary at 21, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 22, scrambled to regroup my life at 23, gave birth to our first child at 24 and moved to College Station for Jared’s new position at Grace at 25. Suddenly, three hours of coffee and 2am prayer sessions with 10 of my closest friends just weren’t reality. For a while I struggled with what this meant. Was I not making God a priority? Was I letting the world’s agenda creep into my plans? Was being a wife/having a career/becoming a mother just too distracting to continue growing in the faith? While all of these things have been true at times, the fact was this – as my everyday life filled to overflowing, my life in Christ became more integrated than ever before.

As I joined a small group of seminary wives for Bible study each week, we dug into the Word and shared honest, difficult prayer requests, and I saw the Spirit bearing fruit in my life. As Jared and I began serving together in our community and giving of our finances collaboratively, I saw God exercise a hint of what “great faith” looks like in me. As I became sick for a semester and received care from friends who spoke Scripture and provided meals and poured out affection, I realized that discipleship was happening. Centered on Christ, built on the Word, acted out in community, exercised in service, we were growing and shaping one another into women of God.  Those who were a few years further down the road from me held my hand, encouraged my heart, and challenged my selfishness. I was refined and made better. As a new mother, those with more experience poured out wisdom and grace and I was sharpened to look more like Christ.  Those ahead of me and those alongside me looked forward toward a common goal and together we sought the face of Jesus, determined to see Him before us in every mundane, “unspiritual” moment of our lives. And, as He always is, Christ was there. Just like He was with His original disciples, leading, guiding, walking alongside.

To clarify, I don’t mean to say that simply having friends is discipleship. It’s not. Discipleship does require effort. It does require intention. It does require humility and honesty. Ladies, I think we struggle here sometimes. We are too quick to think that others are too busy for us, that our issues are too much to ask someone to sort through, or that our simple desire for growth in Christ isn’t exciting enough to ask someone else to engage in. Lies, my friends, those are big, ugly lies.

The truth is that discipleship is both a gift and command to those in Christ. The truth is that it may require you asking someone walking alongside you or a bit ahead of you for some of their time, as you seek to grow in the faith. The truth is that the moment may be awkward.  The truth is also that, by God’s grace, the outcome may have eternal impact.

Discipleship is not an isolated event.  Perhaps I can put it more positively:  Discipleship is a fundamental, organic quality of an active life in Christ, and while our pursuit of it may take various forms in changing seasons, God will be faithful to use it to foster great joy, growth and unity in the members of the body, honoring our obedience of Him and blessing our acknowledgement of His plan for us.

Look at your life. Take a moment and look around and see who is there. Who encourages you? Who has insight into the Word of God? Who prays with great faith and deep truth? Who does justice and loves mercy with conviction? If you see those people, walk beside them. If no one comes to mind, I encourage you to find a church that is centered on Christ, rooted in the Word and committed to loving one another. Discipleship will happen when we immerse ourselves in the people of God. And where God’s people are grown and shaped and refined, greatness will be done in His name.  Be filled with the Spirit and walk in the truth, hands held by those who desire the same.

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