For Jesus, discipleship was not a program or a Bible study course, it
was a relationship, not just a casual relationship, but the closest
relationship imaginable. When Jesus was told that his mother and
brothers were looking for him, he used that encounter to teach an
important truth about discipleship – that it should be relational, like
a family.

He
replied to him,  “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing
to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Matthew 12:48-50)

These
discipleship relationships were not to replace blood family, but they
were to function with the same type of love, respect and trust. Many
Bible writers also used family terms to describe discipleship and
church relationships.

Paul
In
his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul did not use intimidating
ecclesiastical terms to identify to himself, rather he refered to
himself as a brother several times. He reminds them that he dealt with them as a father deals with his own children. He even says that he and his team were gentle among you like a mother
caring for her little children. (1 Thess 2:7,9,11) Like Jesus, Paul saw
discipleship and church relationships as spiritual family.

James
Even
though he really was the brother of Jesus (same mother), he seems to
call just about everyone his brother. He writes to brothers who are
going through trials, brothers who are in humble circumstances,
brothers who talk too much, brothers who show favoritism, brothers who
have faith without works, brothers who want to be teachers, brothers
with untamed tongues, brothers who slander, brothers who are impatient,
brothers who grumble, brothers who swear, brothers  who wander away. To
James, discipleship was like a living room filled with brothers, not a
classroom filled with students.

Peter
Even
a tough aggressive leader like Peter saw discipleship relationships as
spiritual family. He referred to Silas as a faithful brother and to
Mark as a son.

John
Like
James and Peter, John often used the B-word. He said that one of his
great joys in life was to know that my children are walking in the
truth. These children he speaks of are not his flesh and blood sons and
daughters, but spiritual sons and daughters.

Unfortunately today
in the church, even the family terms of endearment like father and
brother have often become dead religious titles. Real discipleship,
patterned after the New Testament, will function like a family. This
does not mean we must call each other brother and sister, but we must
treat each other like brothers and sisters.

As my good friend, Joey B always says, DISCIPLESHIP IS RELATIONSHIP.