If you’ve been at NIC for any time, you’ll probably know that discipleship is a fundamental part of our mission, and, if you’re like me, you might have wondered exactly how it works. What does it look like? How do you ‘do’ discipleship?
Well, the people at 10ofthose.com released a charming video about six months ago that shows us a great starting point. In it, theologian Don Carson, explains very clearly how we can ‘do’ some simple discipleship, by watching mature Christians and making ourselves available for younger Christians to learn from. It’s not the only way we can disciple others, but it’s a great starting point.
It’s not about prying into other people’s lives, or making them feel uncomfortable, and it isn’t saying that mature Christians never make mistakes, or that inexperienced Christians have nothing to offer. What the video points out is that we can learn what it is to be like Jesus in the same way we learn about the rest of life.
When we were growing up, our parents taught us how we should live, and the best lessons were the ones where they taught us using more than just what they said:
- As wise as their words were, the teachings that really stuck with us were the ones that they lived!
- Sometimes, words didn’t tell us enough; sometimes we needed to watch, to be shown how it works.
The Christian life is complicated, and we often have many questions:
- The Bible says to run the race (our lives) with endurance. What does that mean? What does it look like?
- How can I bring the light of Jesus into my friends’ lives without sounding awkward and judgmental?
- How does being a Christian change my friendships? What do they look like? How about my marriage?
The Bible is the most important (and most reliable) source to find out what we need to know, and good Bible-based teaching helps a lot, but that’s not all: God has given us community.
As Christians, we are surrounded with people who have gone on ahead of us, and have the wisdom that comes from walking with Jesus over many years. They’ve struggled with sin, they’ve learned a thousand unexpected lessons through marriage and parenthood, and they have known the life-changing pain of losing people they love. They have witnessed to neighbours, bosses, rulers and leaders. They’ve carried orphan children, stood up to racism, provided for those in need, and put themselves in harm’s way. They have taken the Gospel to hostile lands, spoken about Jesus when it would have been easier to stay silent, and brought up children to know and believe what God says in the Bible. They have an enormous wealth of experience, some spectacular and some ordinary, but the Lord has been with them in it all, and they have lived what it is to be like Jesus.
Spend some time looking for a mentor who can really show you what it is to follow Jesus. Don’t just go for the pastor, or the person who seems to have it all together. Don’t choose like the world does, either; the most impressive, wealthy, intelligent, or attractive people are not necessarily the best mentors (not that God’s blessings in these areas should disqualify them either). Age isn’t important. Choose somebody who knows the Bible well, and does what it says out of love for God.
If they’re available, spend time with them. Watch how they treat others, and how they react to difficult situations. You won’t see Jesus in every decision and every moment, because they still sin, but they will still be a good example; God has spent many years making them more like Him. Don’t turn it into some sort of academic study; build a relationship! Those who teach us best are often those who know us best.
God gave us community and fellowship for us to help each other to grow in Him, not just for tea and biscuits after church. How would our lives be changed if each of us resolved to learn from a more experienced Christian? How would we change (and what sins would God show us in our own lives) if we invited a younger Christian to watch us? God doesn’t just give you your experiences for yourself! Share them.
When you find a mentor, make sure you pray that God would keep your eyes on Him, and ask others to pray for you in this as well; the devil would love for us to turn people into idols, watching them so closely that we stop looking at Jesus. Also be praying for your mentor; pride is a very strong and deceptive sin, and your attention will make them more vulnerable. Finally, pray that God would keep you both from legalism, because mentoring can make us focus on our works, rather than on Christ’s finished work on the cross.
I hope that you will join me in tapping into the untold wealth of blessings that God has given to the Christians around us over the course of an entire life lived for Him. Let’s watch and learn, and let’s live for Jesus so that others can learn to do the same.
Here’s the video: