I'm reading Leonard Sweet's book The Gospel According to Starbucks. Something he wrote really struck a cord with me.
Jesus didn't christen us servants. He chose to call us friends. Usually there is a halo effect over anyone's last words, so you'd think the church would listen especially hard to Jesus' final instructions. He had to choose his concluding words carefully. And he chose to say this: God wants a relationship with you, not as servants, but as friends. "I no longer call you servants...instead I have called you friends." John Wesley's Aldersgate experience was his transformation from being God's servant to being God's friend.
Jesus' final directive is not a work assignment: "Serve." Jesus' final directive is a renaming embrace: "Friends." Think of it; the Savior of the world wants me not to be his servant but to be his friend, even his child.
The motto for New Sharon UMC is "Love God. Love others. Make disciples." These are based on the great commandments of Jesus and his great commission. Maybe it would be better if it read, "Love God. Love others. Make friends." I believe that Jesus expects us to make disciples. But who are the disciples of Jesus, is it not anyone other than his friends?
What would happen if instead of talking about evangelism in terms of making disciples, if we talked about it in terms of making friends? Years ago I heard while attending a Cursillo (the predecessor to Walk to Emmaus),someone say something like, "Evangelism is becoming a friend, being a friend, introducing your friend to your friend Jesus." Evangelism starts with us being friendly to someone who isn't already a friend. Once a friendship is established then continuing to act as a friend. Finally, pointing out your friend Jesus to your other friend.
Webster defines a disciples as, one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: a convinced adherent of a school or individual. In other words, discipleship has to do with beliefs. While beliefs are crucial, what Jesus is looking for is a relationship, a friend.
In our 21st century post-Christian culture where what a person believes is very much an individual choice and where seeking to persuade someone to believe what the persuader believes is viewed as immoral proselytizing; maybe we need a new way of talking about evangelism. There is something a whole lot less threatening about introducing someone to a friend, Jesus, in comparison to trying to convince someone that Jesus is the answer to all their problems.
Many Christians say that don't know how to evangelize, thus the church spends a lot of time and energy in trying to teach them how to make disciples. All of them, however, already know how to make friends and have introduced their friends to other friends.
Think of it this way; when I help out a friend I don't do it because I feel obligated to serve my friend, but because I enjoy spending time with him and it makes me feel good when I can do something kind for him. Working together strengthens the bonds of our friendship. Thus we need to re-frame Christian service not in terms of something we must go in order to call ourselves Christians, but in terms of strengthening the bonds of friendship with Jesus. As we deepen our friendship with Jesus, the natural outcome is that we want our other friends to know this friend.
So what do you think, which is a better motto, "Make discples" or "Make friends"?