Posted by: everynation | June 25, 2007

Discipleship is Friendship

Steve Murrell When we are in the Philippines, Monday is my day off. But not on this particular Monday, because I was the opening speaker at our Leader Summit ’07.

As soon as I stepped into the room and saw hundreds of Filipino students wholeheartedly worshiping God, my mind raced back to 1984 when we first came to Manila to start a church that would reach Manila’s University-Belt. God sure had bigger plans than I did. I am glad I stayed out of His way enough to get our church where it is today.

The 800 student leaders in that room that morning are all facilitating discipleship groups on their campuses. Our ENCM-Philippines staff has been doing a great job of equipping and empowering students to make disciples.

As I was driving to the meeting that morning, I thought back to my college days – a long time ago! Most of what I had then, I no longer have. My white Toyota Celica. My black Yamaha motorcycle. My Guild guitar. My hair. All gone. Never to be seen again.

About the only thing I still have from those days are my friends.

I reminded the 800 student leaders what Joey Bonifacio has preached and blogged a million times – that discipleship is relationship.

Joey is right about that. The best discipleship flows out of and produces the best relationships. Discipleship is not a class to take. It is not a program to make a church bigger. It is not a doctrine to learn.

Discipleship is relationship.

But, what kind of relationship? Some relationships are life-giving, others are life-draining. Some are healthy, others are dysfunctional. I think a healthy discipleship relationship should be a Christ-centered friendship.

Friendship discipleship may sound good, but is that how Jesus did discipleship? I think so.

Consider the following verses.

– In John 15:13-15, Jesus referred to his disciples as friends.
– In John 21:5, he called some struggling disciples (back-slidders?) his friends.
– In Luke 7:34, the religious leaders described him as a “friend of sinners”.

Solid disciples. Struggling disciples. Sinners. Jesus treated them like friends.

In fact, it seems like the only people who weren’t his friends were the self-righteous, judgmental hypocrites. The Pharisees and Sadducees. The religious critics who were professionals at tearing people down rather than building them up.

If Jesus treated his disciples – the ones who were following him and the ones who were running from him – like friends, then don’t you think we should do the same?

Discipleship should be Christ-centered friendship.

And, if we do friendship-based discipleship like Jesus did, 30 years later we may not have our college car, waste-line or hairline, but we will still have our friends.

Steve Murrell is a missionary, pastor, and the author of “The Reluctant Leader” and “The Accidental Missionary.”



  1. It is a really good thing to know that discipleship is relationship that in reality we dont have to force ourselves to make disciples just as we dont have to force ourselves to make friends. I’ve had the oppurtunity to disciple a person and is now a close friend. Iam lost for words, its just a great thing to know (Thank God) that discipleship is friendship.

  2. Pastor Steve I just have a question. I (just now) listened to your message at the APEC 2006 conference held in Manila last November 15 – 17, 2006. Its about resolving conflicts, and in your message you said that the one who invited you to Church,”Ron”,never tried to be your friend and that it doesnt matter if you become friends or not because we’re called to be spiritual leaders.

    My question is, shouldnt we aim to befriend the people who we disciple? Thank you for your time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: