Home Equipping Leaders Adults 3 Invitations to Make More Time to Be a Disciple

3 Invitations to Make More Time to Be a Disciple

By Angie and Curtis Olsen

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“Where is God?” “What is my purpose?” “How can I serve when I am already overwhelmed and tired?” “How do we find more leaders and volunteers?” These questions from people in our churches invite us church leaders into their deep struggles and illuminate their hopes. Upon reflection, we find ourselves in these questions too. As we listen to our own yearnings for closeness with God and a faithful, sustainable pace for serving, we understand that the people in our churches are crying out for the same. The answers to these places of longing are cultivated and unleashed through the gift of intentional quality time with God and others. The ongoing struggle is determining how to orient our lives to make time for this powerful work. All of us deserve time and a safe space to explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We find renewed vitality in life and ministry by paying attention to how we calendar our time. Our inspiration comes from Jesus’ example with his first disciples. Jesus invited people to open themselves to the love and grace of God, which brings wholeness. He spent time with his disciples in prayer, making space for them to ask questions and understand their purpose. As we schedule our time, we give ourselves permission to say yes to these priorities and no to things that draw us away from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. As the emphasis on discipleship takes root in ourselves and other church members, we ask the questions above less often, and we see more disciples excited for ministry in our church. Here are some ways to help prioritize discipleship as you schedule your days.

1. Time with God.

Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. (John 15:4a, The Voice). It seems obvious, yet our devotion time is often the first thing sacrificed on the altar of busyness. The pandemic forced a slowdown, and many of us reassessed our priorities. This reorienting, sadly, seems to be slipping away post-pandemic. Anytime we begin to grow weary or lack vision, we find it typically means we are not spending enough time with God, the source of our life, love, and purpose. Prayer walks, gratitude journals, and centering prayer are musts. If you are thinking, “How can I add another thing?” consider designating twenty minutes a day on your calendar to help strengthen your closeness with God and protect time from being swallowed up by other tasks. Even five minutes of silence listening to God reduces stress and keeps people focused. “Be still, be calm, and understand I am the True God” (Psalm 46:10a, The Voice). Think of a time when you felt close to God and consider how you can weave some of that time into your daily and weekly calendar. When we are filled up with God’s love and grace, we have more grace and love to offer ourselves and a world of people desperately hungry for the same. If you are tired and lacking vision, it is likely time to sit a while at the feet of Jesus Christ.

Angie and Curtis pic august 2023
Revs. Angie and Curtis Olsen

2. Time with a Trusted Disciple.

Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you” (Philippians 4:9, The Voice). Inviting a spiritual friend, pastor, mentor, or discipleship coach into your monthly routine can be a powerful way to discern how God is moving and working in your life.

In the past, inspiration would strike us, and we would start something new only to see it flounder; or we realized we had committed to something beyond our capacity. Also, in our personal journeys with God, we would sometimes start spiritual practices and falter before those practices became a habit. With a trusted disciple who asks great questions, encourages us, and offers accountability, we overcome common stumbling blocks that derail ministry and personal practices. Spiritual friends help us stay awake to what God has taught us and how we are being called to use our spiritual gifts.

Whom can you invite to nurture your faithfulness as a disciple of Jesus Christ? If you are struggling to accomplish your ministry and personal devotion goals, it is likely time to enlist a faithful disciple to help.

3. Time with Others.

So support one another. Keep building each other up as you have been doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, The Voice). Jesus spent time with his people to help them understand what wholeness in his grace encompasses daily life and beyond. This challenges us to pare down our ministry to-do lists and focus on the main calling of the church, discipling. During the pandemic, we were inspired to start a discipleship coaching ministry at the church, and it gives us such hope and joy. Spending time with people for an hour and a half every other week has made space for people to delve into scripture, talk about their experiences of God, explore and find tools for emotional and spiritual health, identify their passions and spiritual gifts, and set a vision for living out their callings. This one-on-one discipling is expanding, and people who were coached are now coaching others. We continue to celebrate the fruits of these efforts and are seeing so many people step up in leadership and service. A second-generation coaching disciple says this about the experience, “There’s been a shift in my spirit! And in my mind, will, and emotions. I had put limits on what I could do. I see that now, but God has not. I’m free to go and do. To say ‘Yes.’ To walk ahead in the assurance of God’s love and help.”

It may seem that finding an extra hour or so in your week is not possible, but we cannot overemphasize the joy and blessing of encouraging people as disciples of Jesus Christ. If you long to love your neighbor well and revitalize your church, it is likely time to make a safe space for one-on-one faith conversations.

Changing your schedule and finding time for anything new can feel daunting. With creativity and intention, we are experiencing how these three priorities foster closeness to God and energy to serve and love. We hope and pray you experience these same blessings as you give discipleship priority in your calendar.

­­Verses marked The Voice are from The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

Revs. Angie and Curtis Olsen are married elders and parents of two wonderful teen sons. They enjoy ministering together and currently serve as pastors at Community UMC in Columbia, MO. The Olsens are passionate about helping people grow in their love of God and others while helping to deepen people’s understanding of themselves. They are discipleship coaches and may be reached at [email protected].

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