“I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-17
Jesus’ life was one of discipleship by allowing people to have access to his life to be able to model it and become disciples themselves. Jesus’ Great Commission to us at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, vs. 28:19, is “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” Discipleship, becoming and making disciples is at the heart of out Christian faith. The word “disciple” is contained throughout the four Gospels and all through The Book of Acts of the Apostles up until chapter 21:16, then the word “disciple” never appears again in the Bible. Paul never uses the word once in his letters. Neither does the word “disciple” appear in John, Peter, Jude or James’s letters, or Hebrews or Revelations. Did making disciples cease to be important to Paul and others? Absolutely not!! His whole ministry and journey in life was creating disciples!
Paul however, was focusing and sent to converting gentiles, non-Jews, to faith in Christ. These non-Jews did not know the word “disciple” in the way the Jews and we do. The Jews then, and we in the church today have heard this word most of our lives. The gentiles did not. They did not know of the Rabbi-student process of modeling and imitation. So Paul used words, terms and action familiar to them. I posted above 1 Corinthians 4:14-17. Read it again. Paul does not use the word “disciple”, but it oozes of discipleship. “be imitators, remind you, my ways, teach them, guides in Christ, father, beloved children” all these speak and model discipleship in ways those listening could understand. Paul urged them to “imitate me.” For him to urge this of people means he had to have given them access to his life where they could walk with him and observe his life, his daily rhythm, to be able to imitate it.
When I meet someone out in the community at the Waffle house of somewhere and someone asks me what I do for a living, I rarely answer I am a “Church Planter, Elder in the UMC, or Pastor. They of loaded words that only have meaning in a church gathering. I usually reply I am in “Community Development.” And then through sharing and giving them access to my life I bring the conversation around to their story and the Gospel story in a way that is relevant and they can understand. I firmly believe that Christians failing to allow non-Christians and those in the church access to their lives in real tangible ways is why creating disciples in the church is such a struggle.
Church leaders and others in Sunday services and Bible studies use the word “disciple” and give listeners massive information, definitions and theologies on “Disciple” but never allow people real access to their daily lives, their daily rhythms and walk as a model and allow them to imitate it. So people leave those church gatherings full of information and knowing where in the Bible to find the verse on “Love your neighbor” without ever seeing or experiencing what it is like to actually “love your neighbor.” The church gives people vast information on Sunday, and expects them to be disciples and innovators on Monday. The church lives on the tread mill of new information. If people can just get enough information, hear the word “disciple” enough times in sermons, power points, mission statements and various other ways, it will promote transformation and create disciples.
Discipleship requires imitation. Moving from downloading of information to imitation of a person, mentor, teacher, or parent who gives them access to their lives; their morning, day and evening routines, rhythms, characters, and competencies. Timothy was a disciple of Paul, an imitator of Paul, because Paul gave Timothy access to him, and Timothy went on to greater things than him. We in the church have to give people access to out lives.
Read I Cor. 4:114-17; Acts 17:16-23, heck read the Gospel stories of the life if Jesus.
Then reflect on this in the presence of the Holy Spirit, “Who am I giving access to my life?” To where and to whom am I intentionally stepping outside of my home (and going to church does not count) to allow others to be exposed to my life, see it, and have discipleship modeled to them so they can imitate it? Who are your Timothys? Also, who is your Paul? Who are you intentionally spending time with to help module your life after Christ? Jesus’ great commission began with the word “go.” He knew for the people to make disciples, they had to go and give people assess to their lives.
Please share your thoughts and comments below. Also share and encourage us with examples and ways you intentionally create margins in your life to allow others to have access to your life.