Imitate Me

“How do I make a disciple of Jesus, especially since I have never been discipled? What curriculum do you recommend?”

My answer is to allow people close enough that they will be able imitate your behavior and attitude. Your disciple needs access to your life for him to be able to pattern his life after yours. The weekly meetings at Starbucks or Bible study group are not enough. It is essential for your disciple to observe how you interact with your family, how you handle stressful situations, to witness your ministry to others, and to see how you spend your downtime. It is in these settings he will learn how to apply Biblical truth to everyday life.

Paul shows us this approach in his ministry in Thessalonica. He writes,

“You know how we lived among you for your sake.  You became imitators of us and of the Lord . . . And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6.

Paul asks his disciples to imitate his life as he imitates Jesus, and so to imitate Paul was to imitate Jesus. Paul’s disciples were then models for others to imitate and so a multiplication pattern was initiated.

The basis of this life access and bond between the discipler and disciple is love. Later is the same letter Paul writes, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9.

The disicipler is able to love others because of the love he has experienced from his discipler. He passes this love on to his disciples and they will pass it on to others.

If we could ask Jesus’s disciples about their time with Jesus, they would answer, “Love!” Those that had encountered the apostle Paul would exclaim, “Oh, how he loved!”

Disciple-making is not curriculum driven or a certification program. Disciple-making is a relationship as is a mother, father, and friend.

One can hide behind curriculum, programs, and classes but it is love that enables one to say to others, “Imitate me as I imitate the Lord.” Only love empowers the discipler to be able to open up his life so that his followers can emulate his behavior.

 

 

Making a Disciple of Jesus

A disciple is formed by imitating the life of his discipler. Jesus and the apostle Paul gave their disciples access to their lives so that their disciples could observe and then emulate their behavior and attitude. Both made disciples in the context of an intentional community in order to demonstrate for their disciples how to behave in a group with diverse personalities and also to use the misconducts of the members to correct and instruct them in the proper way to love one another.

One example of this was when a dispute broke out among Jesus’s disciples about which one of them was considered to be the greatest. Jesus corrected them saying, “The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. . . But I am among you as one who serves.”(Luke 22:27) Neither Jesus nor Paul ever asked of his disciples anything that he himself would not do.

Another example is from the life of Paul when the believers at Corinth were disunited and tolerating sexual immorality within their community. Paul sent his disciple Timothy to Corinth “to remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul had previously lived among them to show them the way to live as a disciple. Paul not only wrote a letter to the Corinthians but he sent Timothy so that they could once again observe the behavior of a follower of Jesus.

 

 

 

But I’m Not Good At Leading Small Groups

Churches do not make disciples of Jesus, disciples do. From the beginning kingdom multiplication came by disciples making disciples, not churches starting churches or small groups starting small groups.

(This is not to say that disciples cannot be made in churches or in small groups, but it is the disciples in those churches or small groups that are actually making the disciples.)

The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us four extensive accounts of Jesus training his disciples. Nowhere in that training do we find “how to start a church” or “multiplication through growing small groups.” Jesus sends his eleven men into the world to make disciples following the pattern they had experienced with Jesus the previous three years.

Jesus had used farming to teach the disciples how kingdom multiplication works. The evidence of a plant’s maturity is its ability to produce fruit. The mark of spiritual maturity is a disciple’s ability to produce another disciple. One tomato seed will produce hundreds of tomatoes and one apple seed will produce generations of apples. It is unnatural for any life form not to reproduce itself and so it is spiritually unnatural for a disciple of Jesus to not reproduce himself.

There are very few that can lead a small group and even fewer that can start a church, but everyone can make disciples of Jesus. On the most primary level, parents and grandparents making disciples of their own children and grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

How to Make a Disciple of Jesus

Recently a missionary asked me how to make a disciple of Jesus. He said, “I am trained in evangelism and church-planting but I do not know how to make a disciple.”

First, we must know what a disciple of Jesus is. A disciple of Jesus is someone that has decided to live his life like Jesus did.

Second, Jesus demonstrated for us how to make disciples as recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Following Jesus is an imitative process. Jesus lived among the twelve disciples for them to see how he lived so that they could emulate him.

Twenty years later the apostle Paul used this same pattern in making disciples of Jesus. Paul and his team would live among the people so that they could imitate him and his team. He writes:

“You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord . . . And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5&6

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:16-17

“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”   Philippians 3:17-18

Jesus is our model. Each disciple-maker configures his life after Jesus to demonstrate for his disciple how a disciple of Jesus should live. Paul imitated Jesus and was a role model for Timothy to follow and then Timothy in turn became an example for others to follow.

Author Panel: Discipleship

Today in our three-author panel, authors R. E. Clark, Paul Juby, and myself offer our thoughts on discipleship, practicing faith, and serving as missionaries. I’m excited to post the Missionary section below and hopefully begin a discussion among readers. Please leave comments below and visit the other two authors’ blogs to read through the rest of the panel.

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Companionship and Learning Builds the Church – Not the Other Way Around

My greatest desire currently is to see the Kingdom of God engage with Chicago – our hometown. This will only happen by way of the followers of Jesus loving one another.  Although loving one another may seem like an inward focus, it is in reality an outward connection point with society.

Jesus addresses this kingdom principle twice. First he tells his disciples that everyone will know that they are his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34-35). Then, later in the same evening, Jesus prayed for his disciples, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even you have loved me” John 17.23). In other words, our unity is a testimony to the culture that the Father sent Jesus into the world and that the Father loves his children.

Christianity has tried many approaches to engage society. We have retooled our church services to be more relevant, served the city through community projects; we have become involved in politics and launched media campaigns. Though I do not question the sincerity behind these efforts, I have wondered about their effectiveness.

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Hindrances to Making a Disciple of Jesus in Today’s World

An obstacle to making followers of Jesus in America is America’s aversion to deep friendship. Sociologists Stewart and Bennett have observed:

Although Americans have numerous relationships that are marked by friendliness and informality, they only rarely form the kinds of deep and lasting friendships in which friends become mutually dependent upon each other.[1]

God is relational. The insularly existence so natural to Americans is unnatural to God. Jesus came to earth and demonstrated the beauty of friendship in his relationships with men and women.  It was not only through his instruction that his followers learned how to love and to be loved but also through the experience of him laying down his life for them. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:12-13

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