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Adrian Ow• Timely Word •

Disciple-Making as Imitation

By 14 January 2023No Comments

What comes to your mind when you think of discipleship and disciple-making?

In last week’s sermon, it was made clear that disciple-making is not meant to be seen as a program or structure or even an SOP (standard operating procedure). It is meant to be life-begetting-life. Yet, I also suspect that if I were to ask a group of people to paint a picture of disciple-making, many might have similar elements of Bible-reading, open books, pens, journals, etc – and I’m not saying that those elements are wrong!

For many of us, disciple-making methods hover around instruction and rightly so as the Bible does call shepherds to instruct those under  their charge (Rom 15:14; Gal 6:6; 2 Tim 2:2). In addition, that’s the way many of us grew as disciples too: sitting under the teaching and pupillage of a select group of bible teachers through bible studies, classes, sermons, etc.

But we forget that disciple-making is as much about imitation as it is about instruction.

  • “Brothers, join in imitating me…” (Phil 3:17)
  • “I urge you then, be imitators of me.” (1 Cor 4:16; 1 Cor 11:1)
  • “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord…” (1 Thess 1:6)
  • “Remember your leaders… Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7)

And in a culture that highly regards innovation and novelty, the idea of imitating someone else can sound insulting. Fake and fraud are words that come to mind. But lest we forget, Jesus says that “a disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40)

Two factors that we need to consider when thinking about disciple-making as imitation:

Relational Frequency. We cannot imitate if we  do not meet regularly. And in our activity-filled calendars, regularity would mean intentionally pencilling in our meets ups to form a good routine. But if every meet-up must adhere to a strict schedule, it might feel heavy, forced even. We need a mix of the organised AND the organic. The organic meet-ups sometimes need not have an agenda – it can simply be for hanging out.

Rhythms of Life. If we only meet only in a classroom setting; what we end up producing are just good students. Imitation involves inviting people into our rhythms of life. Exercising with someone is just as impactful as worshiping with them at church. Go to the supermarket together, bring your kids to the playground – Everyday routines are the best opportunities to invite people to share in your rhythm of life.

Finally, we might be inclined to think that we want people to imitate Christ, not us. Yet, Scripture doesn’t seem to separate the two very much. Alternatively, we feel that our life is not worthy of imitation. Trust me, I understand. But the fact is that a vital element of disciple-making is for an individual to imitate the spiritual leaders in his/her life; to allow ourselves to see how leaders in their everyday rhythms, warts and all, grow in their dependency of God amidst the fragilities in their life. For in so doing, God gets all the glory.

Disciple-making doesn’t take Extraordinary-Innovation; It just takes Everyday-Imitation.

By Elder & Pastor Adrian Ow