Discipleship Begins with Relationship

By Junius B. Dotson

It’s not too late to develop your plan for intentional community engagement this Easter! Rev. Dotson shares about building relationships during the Lenten season.

Rev. Dotson LIVE - Discipleship Begins with RelationshipDiscipleship begins with relationship. Watch as Rev. Junius B. Dotson shares more about creating a plan for intentional community engagement during the Lenten season.

Posted by Discipleship Ministries on Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Discipleship Begins with Relationship

During this Lenten season, I want us to think about community engagement and about the idea that discipleship begins with relationship.

Lent is a 40-day season of spiritual preparation when, historically, new believers are prepared for Holy Baptism on Easter Sunday. There also is a focused effort on reconciliation in the local church as people work on forgiveness and reconciling with each other.

It stands to reason that we should also use this season to intentionally increase engagement with people who are outside the church, people who claim no religious preference or who consider the church to be irrelevant.

I use the word “engagement” in deliberate contrast to our traditional understanding of outreach.

Traditionally, outreach has taken two forms – missional and evangelistic. In concept, missional is like helping ministries, such as food and clothing drives and neighborhood cleanups. Evangelistic outreach is like attending a street festival and handing out invitations to church.

But I believe that any outreach effort whose goal is simply inviting people to church or providing ministry for people and not with people, without regard to building relationships, is shortsighted.

Engagement must be organic, authentic and consistent.

Engagement must be organic, authentic and consistent. When engagement has those key principles, we create the space necessary for people to share their faith. The more authentic and honest the encounter, the more effective we are in faith sharing.

Here is an example:

A young pastor shared with me that he and his wife turned off their cable because it was too expensive. That left him without a place to watch football after church on Sundays, so he started going to a bar to watch the game.

Over the course of several weeks, the pastor said something unexpected happened. He became friends and developed relationships with many of the people he would see at the bar.

Those encounters and conversations deepened over time, and suddenly they were talking about Jesus and faith. That led to a group of those people deciding to help his church with a project that they were interested in.

Engagement also must be authentic.

Engagement also must be authentic. When you enter into relationships with people, there can be no expectation of a quid pro quo. You enter into a relationship because you value human beings and you value the opportunity to get to know somebody.

We cannot program our way back to vitality.

Engagement is not a program, it is an ethos that is deeply rooted in a congregation’s understanding of intentional discipleship. We cannot program our way back to vitality. Everything begins with relationship.