Intentional Imitation

We must address one of the most glaringly obvious omissions in our discipleship – the person doing the discipling. While that component seems apparent, it increasingly is not. Our commitment to fleshing out our personal walks with Christ overlooks our need to learn from one another. 

True discipleship prioritizes imitation over information.

Our shelves and devices are full of opportunities to increase our learning. We have more biblical information now than ever before, but we are desperately missing biblical transformation. I am not making a case that knowledge is irrelevant. We need to develop a biblical understanding more than ever, but how do we expect to learn the content to the fullest degree without some example in front of us?

Authentic disciples first possess the Word of God and the Spirit of God to direct them, but both of those point to our need to learn from others.

By our efforts, you would discern that we think the acquisition of quality content is the key to our growth. If we collect enough knowledge, we will reach the desired destination. That’s why we focus on leadership personalities over leadership proximities. We resort to learning from the expert from afar rather than watching a mentor up close. 

I believe our churches need to grow, but with any growth comes additional complexities that we must consider. The goal is not to halt numerical growth but to ensure spiritual growth along the way. With more people, the nature of connection grows ever more complicated.

  • The larger we fill our worship auditoriums with people continues to distance members from their pastors.
  • The more video-based our Bible study curriculum continues to be, the more we rely upon the unknown expert rather than learning from the untapped person pressing play in the room.
  • The more often we emphasize resources over relationships proves that we don’t think we need each other.

Each of us requires someone a little further ahead on the journey to point us in the right direction. 

We each have distinct needs, and we each need a distinct guide.

How would you answer this question – have you been discipled?

Most people give a complex answer to that simple question. Apparently, the answer is yes and no for many of us. You have been discipled to some extent, but few of us have ever experienced the level of intentionality that we see in Scripture. Discipleship is taking everything you know about Jesus and passing it on to another.

  • Has anyone ever done that for you?
  • Have you ever done that for someone?

In every new generation of Christians, we tend to criticize the failures of those before us. Faulting the discipleship efforts of previous generations is an unhelpful tactic when you simply point out their shortcomings without providing any solutions. The people in the past may be easy targets, but analyzing them doesn’t get us any closer to the goal. Just because you are a critic of yesterday’s church does not make you an expert of today’s church.

If we spent half the time that we have used denouncing how others haven’t discipled people and used it to disciple others, we would start fixing our problem.

It is an easy approach to grow a church by demeaning other churches. The problem in our discipleship isn’t as simple as an outdated worship style, formal type of classroom, or stuffy religious buildings. If we genuinely investigate the situation, the church of the past must have done something right to produce such knowledgeable critics as ourselves. I grew up in church and now serve as a pastor. My story is contingent upon yesterday’s church because they introduced me to Jesus, baptized me, discipled me, counseled me, equipped me in seminary, sent me on missions, and so much more. Anyone can point out holes in a system, but a grateful leader shouldn’t waste time masking insecurities by criticizing others. 

The church of the past may not have done everything right, but they got something right.

Most likely, I won’t get everything right either. Instead of focusing on what was broken in the past, why not look at what we can do better in the present? In recent decades, many churches have advanced in getting quality information out there. I see significant improvements along the way to update methods without abandoning the message. As I look at the current state of churches today, I think one way we can improve is by focusing on nurturing relationships within the church.

It is imperative that what we teach is reliable, but we are working to our disadvantage if we are not emphasizing those mature teachers among us.

The church of the recent past did a great job talking about the need for discipleship, but many struggled with setting up the environments needed for discipleship. While some level of discipleship does happen in the context of a full worship service with a biblical preacher and in the safety of a vibrant room of people committed to in-depth Bible study, it will never reach its full potential until it gets to a life-on-life model.

I think many churches have the content down pat but are neglecting the medium through which the material is best transferred.

Have you been discipled? If you have been a part of a local church, I would affirm that you have been to some degree. By receiving biblical instruction and experiencing opportunities for spiritual growth, I would venture to say you have been developed. Have you been thoroughly discipled?

Unless you have ever had a person say to you, “Come, follow me,” I am going to assume that a vital element in your story is missing.  

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