Exponential Shifts Toward Discipleship – From Teaching To Modeling

If you set out to learn how to sculpt marble statues, you could get a few books, take some classes, listen to lectures from well known art teachers, & probably even find some good instructional videos on youtube… But at some point, wouldn’t it be more productive to sit down with a block of marble, a few tools, and a sculptor who could walk you through the process? To transform a nondescript chunk of rock into a work of art, you’d learn better by being mentored by someone who already knows how it’s done, right?

In the church, we aim for a transformation that is much more important than rock to statue, but sometimes we’re missing this apprenticeship aspect to discipleship. The problem with that is that it’s so central to the way Jesus actually did discipleship. In His mission to rescue humanity from our sin and our selves, knowing His time was limited, He didn’t establish a school or write a book or make sure all his lectures were accurately preserved… He chose a handful of normal people and spent 3 solid years living with them.

The way Jesus did discipleship wasn’t to try to funnel everyone through a well thought out and well executed curriculum. He apprenticed them. In the third session at Exponential, Chris Hodges asserted that the “rabbi culture” was about relationship, not just information. So He lived with his disciples.

They spent meals with each other and learned how Jesus ate…

They slept in the same places and learned how Jesus rested…

They traveled together and learned how Jesus treated people…

They talked together and learned what Jesus really valued and how He lived to show His love for His Father and for His neighbor…

It was messy. It was painful. It was probably a lot less efficient than other time management methods could have been. But the maker of time didn’t aim to manage it efficiently with His disciples – He aimed to make them like Him. The way Jesus made disciples was to model. He showed His disciples how life could be done and outfitted them with everything they needed to live that way. Then, as He’d been sent by His Father, so He sent His followers.

There is certainly value in the large group sharing of information that goes on in the church today. Hopefully, people are learning something of value in all those sermons and lessons and studies they’re taking in. But as Wayne Cordeiro shared, “you can transfer information at a distance, but you can only reproduce up close.” We aren’t just called to pass along the answers to the next quiz, we’re called to make disciples.

Are we paying enough attention to developing the up close and personal modeling/mentoring relationships?

What if each member of your church could name 3 or 4 people that they were regularly spending time with, for whom they served as a model of Jesus’ way of living?


I’ve outlined each of the shifts presented at Exponential 2013 in the following posts, but if you want to get a firsthand look for yourself, check out the very first Exponential West in October in southern CA or look into some of the free ebooks available on Exponential’s site.

“Exponential Shifts Toward Discipleship” Series

  1. Exponential Recap – Discipleshift
  2. From Reaching to Making
  3. From Leading to Being Led
  4. From Teaching to Modeling
  5. From Assimilating to Creating Community
  6. From Attracting to Deploying
  7. Exponential Recap – Drift Happens, Shift is On Purpose

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