A self-proclaimed “farm boy from the sticks” of southeast Missouri, Nick Francis has a gift for leadership; and through God’s refining grace, a heart for others. He and his wife, Siobhan, met while attending nursing school, got married two years later, and then moved up to Washington, on what was supposed to be a temporary basis. Their initial intention was to move on to another state, to take part in a church plant. When those plans fell through, Nick states, “We asked God if we could stay [in Washington], and He said yes.”
Nick currently leads our Discipleship Team at Resurrection Church, the team that helped develop the training and devotional material for our current Disciple Maker series. The series is designed to help grow us as disciples and as disciple-makers. He and Siobhan have been involved since its earlier incarnation as a class.
What does discipleship mean to you and why is it important?
Nick: When I think of a disciple, I think of a follower of Christ. So if you look up the definition of disciple, it’s probably more like just a follower of any particular thing; and maybe even someone who wants to mimic someone else. But discipleship is the act, or rather state of being, in which you are following Christ; desiring to be more like him; growing in his image.
God created us to image him, and to live/be a certain way. Discipleship is the process of growing to be more like Christ, which is who we were originally intended to image in the first place.
Discipleship is actually about being more truly human, because that is how we were intended to be. Discipleship is about imaging God and doing that which we were called. But even more than that, it’s about enjoying God. It’s about fulfilling our purpose as human beings.
What do you love about getting to disciple others and help build up God’s people?
Nick: Well, that wasn’t always the case. I used to not like people at all. That’s something that God changed in me, and probably the most powerful portion of a testimony that I have of God’s work. He did change me, to love people and have a heart that wants them to grow to be like Him. And I think at this stage of my life, the thing that I enjoy most about being around God’s people is that they are all so different. When you really get to know somebody, you learn how different from you they are. At first, that can be hard. But it’s really a beautiful thing. God is so much bigger than we are, and we all image Him in different ways. From a leadership and personal standpoint, it’s wonderful to get to know different people and personalities, because they are all reflections of God.
What barriers to loving people has God broken down in your life?
Nick: The biggest one occurred about five years ago. I didn’t like people. I definitely didn’t love people. God had given me gifts to be able to organize things and put together events. But I wasn’t able to do those things in ways that were helpful, or glorifying to people. I would just use people for their skills, and not actually care about them when I was using them. When I came up here, I was told that if I wanted to be a pastor, I should be a small group leader. At first, I didn’t like the idea… But then, kind of relented.
I remember in one group meeting, I was an apprentice, and a girl started crying while we were praying. She got up and left the room, and I remember thinking ‘I’m glad she left the room. I don’t want to deal with that.’ That was incredibly unloving! I’ve struggled with it for a long time, and I still see it sometimes, in that I don’t want to go into the mess of life with people. I just want to stay where it’s clean, and where people have their stuff together. And that’s something that God has changed in me, and I think, is continuing to change in me; and that allows me to love people like He loves people.
How does God’s love for you inform your interactions with others?
Nick: It’s not something that I think about enough, the fact that God loved me. I just read last night, in John 4:10, the definition of love: ‘not that you loved God, but that God sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ That’s God’s definition of love. Sacrifice everything that you have for someone else, or for others; and that’s what it means to love. That’s a crazy high calling for us! But God reminds us later on in that same text that we are holy, because of Christ’s sacrifice. So on one hand, you don’t have to live up to the expectation to sacrifice everything you have; but on the other hand, that’s the calling. That’s what it means to love. And if I think about that every moment of the day, I’m going to live life differently. But I don’t think about it every moment of the day. And when I do think about it, it changes me. Because Christ loved me perfectly, I can love others. It seems trite to say that, but it really is the truth. When I live in the reality that God gave everything for me, and that’s all I care about or am focused on, then the only thing I have a desire to do is give it back to the Lord. And the way that he calls us to do that is actually by giving it back to others. To love God is to love others, because that’s what He did.
So now, when there’s a differing opinion between myself and another christian, it’s no longer a personal thing, or that I need to be right. It’s now, ‘Oh wow, this is something I should consider;’ even if I’m right, or even if I still think I’m right. It brings about a humility. It brings about all those fruits of the spirit. That we can have love; joy; peace; patience in the midst of difficulties; kindness toward others, when they are unkind with us; self-control when things are out of control; and the giving up self for the Lord; is what enables us to do all the things that God asks us to do; which ultimately provide us with an unstoppable joy, despite circumstances; and a different kind of love than the world has ever seen!