Last week I taught through 1 Corinthians 4 in our Missio Dei Bible study at Mizzou. I want to focus in on the closing portion of that lesson with this post.
When looking at true discipleship, Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 4:14-16 that discipleship is not a program, it is a way of life to be modeled. "Therefore I urge you to imitate me...Timothy...will remind you of my way of life in Christ, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church."
This has been humbling to me on two levels. Is my walk with Christ true enough that I can tell others to follow me? We are not talking about going through a book study or meeting once a week. I need to invite someone to step in to my life and observe how I follow Christ in all situations. I've posted this before, but look at Paul's method of discipleship:
He encourages his congregations to be imitators of him in all respects, even as he himself is an imitator of Christ (1 Cor. 4.16; 11.1; 1 Thess. 1.6; 2 Thess. 3.7).
Paul thinks of the life of imitation which comes into being when obedient disciples receive (and pattern their lives according to) the instruction of their teacher. After his admonishment to “Be imitators of me,” he follows with the statement: “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy…He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4.17).
When Paul speaks of “my ways” he is referring to patterns of his life and teachings. Imitating Paul means the same as to receive and live according to the teaching which Paul proclaimed in all of his congregations. Thus Paul is not only passing down tradition as oral or written teaching but also how he lives. We see this fleshed out even more in Phil. 4.9: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.” The Philippians were even told to look in their own community for imitators of Paul, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3.17).
Wow, do I do that with the people that I am mentoring? I know I need to, but I fear I'm just too lazy to invite someone into my life like that to share.
In the realm of college ministry, one of the challenges that I made to our students was that they could provide that type of discipleship to other students much more effectively than I could. They can model it in their lives, where they live and bring people along side and say - what you see me doing, you do. That doesn't excuse me and I hope that I can give a few of them a glimpse of that so that they can go to their dorms, apartments, fraternities, work places, cafeterias and imitate Christ in front of others.