How to have a Life Worth Imitating (Disciple Making Essentials Series) – IMITATION OVER INFORMATION – Part 3 of 3

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God – even as I try to please everyone in every way.  For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of the many, so that they may be saved.  Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” ~ I Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will be qualified to teach others.” ~ 2 Timothy 2:1 – 2

OK, so what is the deal with the crazy fraction?  111/222?

Take it from someone who had to stop helping his children with their math homework after the 5th grade, this is not complicated!  Just a simple reference to two passages of scripture; 1 Corinthians 11:1 and 2 Timothy 2:22.

In the Corinthians passage Paul puts himself out there as an example to follow.  “That’s a bold move,” some may say.  “Sounds arrogant to me,” complains another.  Bold?  Yes.  Arrogant?  I don’t think so.  Paul says to follow his example AS he follows the example of Christ.  This isn’t about Paul really, it’s about Jesus.

Here is something God totally understands about people: the best way to communicate truth to a human being is through another human being.  This is why Jesus became a man and lived among us for 30 years before revealing the good news of the kingdom.  Theologians call this the incarnation – God literally took on human flesh so he could communicate divine truth to ordinary people and accomplish the work of redemption.  And, it WORKED!

This is not lost on Paul.  He knows the reality of God’s kingdom must be expressed through flesh and blood people.  People like him.  People like you.  People like me.  And so, he tells the church in Corinth to imitate his life as he imitates the life and leading of Jesus.

The 2 Timothy passage goes a step further.  This time Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy, who has been appointed as a leader in the church.  As a spiritual father Paul pours his heart out, both encouraging and challenging Timothy.  Here he gives the genius of discipleship multiplication: we don’t disciple one person at a time, we disciple 4 generations!  Yes, that’s right, 4 generations of disciples.  Count with me: Paul (first generation), Timothy (second generation), “reliable people” (third generation), and “others” (fourth generation).

Here’s another way to say it – We all need to be a Paul investing in a Timothy (who is passing it on to reliable people…) and we all need to be a Timothy following the example of a Paul (who is following the example of Jesus).

 Jesus –> Paul –> Timothy –> Reliable People –> Others

Looking through our “learner lens” and our “leadership lens” what do we see?

As a learner…

The example of Jesus is paramount
  • Jesus did not text us or send a message through Facebook – he showed up personally.  
  • Jesus did not avoid the blood and the mess and the pain of what it means to be human living among others humans who were fallen and broken.  He personally touched the very worst that is in humanity – and through his touch made clean those who would receive him.
  • Jesus chose the 12.  Among the 12, Jesus chose the 3.  Jesus invested disproportionately into a small group of people.  His strategy was multiplication (4 generations) not addition.  He won the billions by investing in the few.

I had to first see Christ in my grandmother and my uncle before I could believe him

  • As a Christian we live by faith, and not by sight.  But as an unbeliever I had to first see it before I could believe.  (And even Christians who are living by faith need to see the reality of Jesus in those leaders they follow and demonstrate that same reality to those following them.)
  • The gospel is transmitted best through relationships, not sermons or seminars
I began growing as a Christian when I had a Paul to follow…my growth exploded when I had a Timothy following me
  • As a 15 year old I began to lead other students by simply sharing with them the things others had shared with me
  • As my Paul-Timothy relationships began growing with peers looking to me as an example, it drove me to invest more heavily in my Timothy-Paul relationships and learn all I could from those leading me
As a leader…
Paul-Timothy discipling relationships must be both structured and spontaneous 
  • Paul was a systematic dude.  Arrive in a new town.  Go to the synagogue.  Preach Jesus to the Jews.  Get stoned and left for dead.  Turn to the Gentiles.  Live among them.  Work with them.  Meet with larger groups of believers on a regular basis, and small groups daily from house to house.  In this system we see both structured and spontaneous, both organized and organic.
  • Men like Mick Devins who discipled me as a college student met with me every week at an agreed upon time.  We studied God’s word together and talked about the questions I had.  But we also hung out together, went to camps together, and shared meals together.  Mick wasn’t just my teacher, Mick became my friend and brother.  Mick was my Paul and he helped me become a Paul for others.
With a little intentionality you can reproduce yourself indefinitely
  • The process?  I do – You watch —> I do – You help —> You do – I help —> You do – I watch
  • The key question for those you are discipling?  “Who has God called you to disciple and how can I help you get started?”
I can only invite people into the life I am actually experiencing, not the one I want
  • This brings us back full circle to a living relationship with the living Christ and an UP/IN/OUT life.  Remember, we only have a life worth imitating when these three realities integrate!
  • I can impress people from a distance, but I can only impact them up-close.  I must make a choice.
  • People don’t need a perfect example – they need a living example
So, when I have a living relationship with Jesus that spills over into the way I love God and people which prompts me to follow leaders who are following Christ and make that same investment in others I have a life worth imitating.  For me, on my best days, this has been two steps forward, one step backward.  And guess what they call that?  Progress.

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