The Power of Example in Disciple-Making
I remembered a friend who once had a conversation with my discipler. While he was talking to my discipler, he suddenly remembered me. He can’t help but remember me. Why? Because when he was talking to my discipler, he felt it was like talking to me! His way of talking had become my way of talking as well. I guess I have become a reflection of my discipler.
Let’s go to my disciples. I can’t help but see myself in some of them. One of them is fond of studying the Bible and learning theology, and so do I. Another possesses a strong personality, and so do I. And just as I am a reflection of my discipler, my disciples are a reflection of me.
It’s comforting to know some of my disciples reflect my strengths. But it’s humbling, even convicting, that they also reflect my weaknesses. I finally realized the power of my example in disciple-making.
Bold Words from the Apostle Paul
I am always amazed whenever I read these words of the apostle Paul:
1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV1984)
It seems lofty or arrogant of Paul to say this. Was he sinless or morally perfect? Of course not! But let’s consider the background. By the time Paul wrote this to the Corinthians, the Gospels hasn’t yet been written. So the believers have no means to know the life of Christ, except through the examples of Christians they trust, of which the apostle is one.
Let’s reflect deeper on the verse. Paul only had the guts to say “follow my example” because of no other reason than that of he was truly following the example of Christ. Oh, the boldness of the apostle Paul! If he wasn’t following Jesus’ example, then screw him! He is puffed up.
In his other letters, Paul writes:
12Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am , for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. (Galatians 4:12, emphasis added)
17Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:17, emphasis added)
7For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us…9It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (2 Thessalonians 3:7,9, emphases added)
What Can Disciple-Makers Do?
I’m wondering. Can I say the same words to my disciples? Can I say to them, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”? Furthermore, am I really following the example of Christ? Humbly, admittedly, I still have a long way to go.
So what can we, disciple-makers, do? We can read the Gospels and learn from the life of Christ, and read the epistles of Paul, for he himself followed the example of Christ. With this, we can make a humble assessment of ourselves, continue developing our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and finally set our disciples an example of Christ-like living.
Truly, “more is caught than taught” as the cliche says. We realize the power of example in disciple-making. We’ve seen that from my experience. And if we fall short in setting our disciples an example, then we must make the words and the very life of the apostle Paul our inspiration. It’s my prayer that disciple-makers would eventually find courage to say to their disciples, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”