When we tell people the title of our book, we sure do get some strong reactions! Our intention is certainly not to downplay friendships or even usurp the priority of the marital relationship. Rather, we want to show ladies that through the process of discipleship they can find a faithful friend. This is what happened to us.
We have observed more often than not, when women come to a new church, they seem to be on an endless search to “find a friend” so they can “feel” a part or “feel” connected. As Christian women, we often go about finding a friend in the wrong manner. Based on common interests or a similar “season of life,” we seek out that one special friend at church. We look for someone who will help us “feel a sense of belonging.” While that is not wrong, there is a better way to find that special “friend,” the friend who sticks closer to you than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
We think a better way—in fact, a more biblical way—would be for women to come into a church with the solid knowledge that they are a part of the body of Christ and, therefore, with the intention that they would do their part in serving the body of Christ. As a result, they will most assuredly “feel a part.” We often tell young women, “You are a part; so, do your part and then you will feel a part.” A part of your “part” within the church is developing discipleship relationships. A discipleship relationship between an older woman and a younger woman is vital for spiritual growth (Titus 2:3–5). It saddens us to see the lack of such relationships among women in the church, especially as we reflect on the rich blessings of God on our own discipleship journey.
We had talked about writing a book for a long time, but we became serious about writing as a result of two events. First, we were discipling two young women who had requested help with their relationship as it had recently undergone quite a change. As we talked with them, we suddenly realized that very few women enjoy a discipleship relationship like God has graciously granted to us. Helping these women to think biblically about what they were experiencing, presented us with some opportunities to reflect in practical ways on our own relationship. We realized that, while we didn’t take our relationship for granted, what we did assume was that other women both had and enjoyed the blessings of the kind of relationship we shared. How wrong we were!
One day while meeting with these two women, I (Barbara) distinctly remember Gina looking at me and saying, “I guess we are best friends!” We had never regarded our relationship in that way and had never articulated the obvious. We had always considered our relationship as one of discipleship since I am almost twenty years older than Gina. However, on that particular day, we finally realized our discipleship relationship had become a cherished friendship.
The second catalyst that got us started writing this book was cancer. Gina was diagnosed with a rare type of bone marrow cancer. By the time she got to the doctor for treatment, she was gravely ill, needing blood and platelet transfusions as well as chemotherapy. Cancer provided Gina an opportunity to consider what she really wanted to accomplish despite her illness. Writing this book was one of those goals. We decided the time had come to write this book when Gina stated that if she died, her one regret would be that we had not written our story. In fact, we wrote the thesis of this book and the chapter titles when Gina was hooked up to IVs, getting a blood transfusion! What else is there to do for six hours?
Gina went into remission through her treatment plan, but her cancer returned after four years. She underwent treatment a second time, followed by an autologous stem cell transplant in the hopes of securing a longer remission. Although we had written a rough draft of our book before her transplant, it was during her recovery period that we made our final edits. Gina did not get the longer remission her family and doctors were hoping for. In fact, what was supposed to have been about a five-year remission from the stem cell transplant turned into only sixteen months. We are thankful Gina is currently in remission again, taking a daily “chemo” pill.
Friendship or Discipleship?
Why should you listen to us, though? Gina has a BSE in Secondary Education in English and I graduated from The Master’s College (now University) with a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling. We both are certified through The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, ACBC (previously known as NANC). Also, we are actively involved in the counseling and discipleship ministry of our church, Providence Church in Duluth, Georgia.
However, our degrees and certifications don’t qualify us to write a book on discipleship. What qualifies us is the fact that God, in His providence, forged a deep friendship between us through the process of discipleship. Our relationship, built around His Word and sustained by His grace, has taught us much and strengthened us both as we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
One of the first things we discuss in this book is how we came to know Christ and what drew us together on our joint road of discipleship. In doing so, we define discipleship and point out what DID NOT draw us together—you may be surprised! Next, we highlight some practical “how tos” to help you implement biblical ways to practice and sustain discipleship with the women around you. Many of these “how tos” have their basis in various one-anothering passages. We have also interspersed biblical instruction throughout the chapters. This instruction has helped us to obey the Great Commission of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
In the process, you will be reminded that our Lord said to “make disciples”; but He never said “go and make friends!” If we are not careful, church can be reduced to a mere social club.
Ultimately, we long for our sisters in Christ to understand the importance of true biblical discipleship and to be equipped to put feet and hands to their understanding. This book is written to encourage women to stop looking for that special friend and to start discipling other women in order to find that faithful friend. Through sharing our personal story, it is our prayer that you’ll see the impact discipleship can have on your spiritual growth as it has had on ours. Moreover, we pray that you will gain a deeper understanding of the role that discipleship plays in our efforts to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24).
From Who Needs a Friend When You Can Make a Disciple? by Barbara Enter and Gina Weinmann