Discipleship: Friendly Persuasion.
When Jesus gave His Great Commission to His disciples, the command was to make disciples:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19, NIV.
Tonight I wish to share some of my experiences with discipling others - not to bring attention to myself but to share and to bring into focus some Biblical principles regarding discipling.
I Need to Be Aware of My Ambassadorship.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:20, 21, NIV.
Our Lord has put us in a very special role as His ambassadors and in this role we should behave as though we were representing Him. No one that we meet, whether on the road or in the home or at the workplace deserves anything else except the dignity of His ambassadorship.
Every Man Is the Object of God's Plan of Redemption.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior,  who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Tim 2:1, NIV
The other motivation for our ambassadorship should be that every one who we meet is the object of God's redemptive plan - we have no right to pick and choose who receives the gracefulness, prayerfulness and dignity of Christ's ambassadorship. So it is not our right to pick and choose the attractive or pleasant people as recipients of our discipling.
Be Careful Not to Allow Discipleship Efforts to Become an Agenda.
I'm not quoting any scripture for this, but it has been my experience that most people can spot a would-be discipler who only goal is to "learn" them how to behave in the church a mile off. New believers need folks who care for them - it almost comes under the category of "scalp hunting" to try to train someone just out of a sense of - it's gotta be done (so they'll "fit" in the church).
Make Love's Fruit Available for the Plucking.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV).
I have to explain this one. Paul is using the fruit bearing tree as an image to teach a very important principle - maybe even an additional one. Most of us are aware that this image is teaching that it is only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that any believer can evidence the Love of God. As the result of this indwelling we are to be recognized as children of God ("by their fruit ye shall know them"). Dr. Strong, of Strongs Concordance fame made this observation: "The fruit of the Spirit is meant to be plucked and enjoyed by everyone around us. It is not supposed to ripen and fall to the ground only to rot." Now, I admit that is a liberal paraphrase but this attitude could revolutionize our approach to everyone around us if we were to apply it to our lives. Do we dare ask the question "How many people have plucked and enjoyed the fruit of the God's Spirit from my tree today?"
What we have here is the evidence of graciousness, thoughtfulness, compassion, patience - the very person of Jesus Christ being observed by those around us. Paul's desire was to be "found out" in the condition of being in Christ (Phil 3:9). He put it another way in Galatians 5:25: if we are going to be alive in the Spirit then we should also keep in step with the Spirit (NIV).
It's been a long time ago now but I can remember, while being the pastor of a local church - Ken. Ken and I had become friends. Every Sunday I would present the Word - the gospel in the church and every Saturday I would go to the town dump with Ken. Ken used to smoke but I never fussed about it - we used to talk about the Lord and spiritual matters - we just enjoyed each other's company. One Saturday I noticed the cigarette pack was missing from its usual spot on the dash of the van. So I asked - hadn't he forgotten his cigarettes? It was then that he told me that he had accepted Christ as Savior and felt this was one habit that he could do without. It was so natural, almost matter-of-fact. But to me I was thrilled that the Lord had touched his life. Of course I did have the unique opportunity to present Christ to him as his pastor, but never had I "preached" at him that smoking was a nasty habit and that he should give it up. I would like to think that just being with him and presenting Christ to him in my walk and my sharing the Word with him made the difference - it certainly wasn't any badgering him about his nasty habit that made him stop.
Look up Your Friends - Be Available as a Friend.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.  As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; Luke 24:13-15, NIV
I think it is significant that Jesus went out of His way to join up with these discouraged believers. He looked them up. I think we are familiar with the story - I wish to make the point that He did the looking up - He did the "catching up" with them. What transpired was a classic lesson on discipleship. After He left, His graciousness and fervor for God's Word lingered with them so much so that they remarked that their hearts were warmed as He shared God's Word with them. That, my friends is discipleship in action!
I had a young man in my youth group - this is another church and I was serving as youth pastor there - David. David along with other young men in the church really looked like they had great potential for serving the Lord. Well, after a while I left to pastor another church but never forgot him and the others in that youth group. I had a passion for southern style quartet singing - still do for that matter, and was in the process of getting some guys together - and David came to my mind. Where was David these days? I did some digging around and found out that he was living in Portsmouth and had a job as a draftsman there - so I called him up and asked if I could come over for a visit. I'm not sure what he thought of the call but I invited him to come over and join in the "Crusaders" quartet - but the result of that visit was a renewing of discipleship with him. He became the lead in the quartet and moved into the Manchester area - the final result of that relationship was the David is now pastor of a church and is serving the Lord. We need to be mindful of those whom we have had contact with and perhaps look them up - another opportunity of discipleship. Look them up - show genuine interest in their relationship with the Lord and be available!
Be Willing to Go to Uncomfortable Places.
Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Eph 6:19, 20, NIV
Now, I'm not suggesting that we seek to go to jail as a criminal in order to be a discipler! That is certainly not the point of this passage. However, think about places where you would rather not practice discipleship. Paul was in jail - but no matter - he was prepared to present the gospel and to disciple whenever and wherever the Lord wished to have him.
I'm thinking of another man that I crossed paths with at the Brentwood jail. Carlos was a young, cocky, handsome man. At the time I was teaching the Bible there on Monday nights. I would go at the appointed time to cell block C. Knock on the steel door - the guards would let me in and several young men would follow me out to a small room to hear from the Word of God. As time passed, I learned that Carlos was married but was actually separated from his wife and had been living with a girlfriend before he was arrested and put there to await his trial. I remember I was teaching about the impact that Jesus Christ had on different lives as recorded in the gospel of John. Carlos was genuinely interested and after a time, I confronted him with the claims of Christ, how that He had died for Carlos' sins and that Jesus wanted to forgive him and have a personal relationship with him. He said he wanted to wait a week to think about it so I graciously retreated and said that I would be praying for him. Well, next Monday he excitedly announced that he had thought about it and wanted to receive Christ as personal Savior. I had the thrill of leading him right there before all the other men in the class, behind all that steel and concrete to the Lord. What a thrill goes through me right now as I am typing this - well, that's not the "rest of the story" (as Paul Harvey would say).
Time passed and I continued to teach from John. Never once did I "preach" at him about his unfaithfulness to his wife and irresponsibility to his children. I did continue to teach the difference Christ made in each character we met in the gospel of John. As far as I could have known then, the minute he got out, he was planning to move right back in with his girlfriend. Well, one night he said, "I have something to say." "Ok" - I said - He proceeded (and I am trying my best to remember just what he said). "All my life I have been thinking only of myself. Jesus Christ has saved me and I've been thinking of how my life has been changed. I am going to break up with my girlfriend - I'm going to ask my wife to forgive me - I want to get a job, be a good husband to my wife and a good father to my kids!" Oh! I had all I could do to keep from hugging him (that would have absolutely the wrong thing to do there). I don't know whatever happened to Carlos - our lives have parted but I do believe in the power of Christ working through discipling in His Love. I do think that it is when men see Christ in us that we can be tools in His hands. We just never know the potential of Christ's influence through us through showing His Love especially when God places us in a place where we do not want to be but are willing to be used by Him. We are ambassadors everywhere, all the time and under every possible circumstance.
Finally, Still Care about the Person You Have Discipled after You've Parted.
If there is anything else I have learned in my experience in discipling others for Him - it is this: please don't forget anyone after you have parted with them.
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:  So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. 1 Thes. 2:7-8
The KJV has it right on the money with the choice "nurse." Actually, this is referring to the circumstance where the biological mother was not nursing her baby - this happened especially among the aristocrats. They would pick a young slave woman who was lactating and assign her to nurse the aristocratic baby. During that time she would feed the baby, care for it and become quite attached to the baby only to be separated from it. Love still lingered - it would have been impossible for that young girl to forget the baby. Paul was speaking of that very same experience with the Thessalonians. He had only been with them for just a few weeks and was run out of town - but he longed for them and when he heard that they were prospering and growing in the Lord he rejoiced.
There Is No Such Thing as a Part-time Discipler.
Fulfilling the great commission is not just preaching salvation - it goes way beyond that. We should all be looking for a way to "be discovered" as a Christian - get this - even in our home. It is my prayer that I have challenged you and myself to never forget that we have a responsibility to make disciples everywhere we go.