With Passion And Zeal, Pass On The Walk Of Faith
Jesus never missed an opportunity to train his disciples. He told them stories of gospel living, taught them to live and pray. He showed them how to love and die. He debriefed his teachings and ministry with them. He immersed them in the art of living as citizens of the kingdom of God. Finally he left them in the care of the Holy Spirit. Now it was their turn to do likewise. They did not disappoint their Teacher.
Conventional wisdom says successful churches and leaders satisfy people’s needs. They run programs for the members and the community. People-needs drive the church today. It’s startling to realize that this measure of success is absent from the New Testament.
Biblical apprenticeship looked more like a gymnasium. Our word gym comes from gymnazo, to train). Our churches should be spiritual gyms, where people train to be godly in the world. We need programs yes, but the measure of success cannot be programs we offer, even if done well. We must train disciples who then train other disciples.
Dallas Willard encourages leaders to “Study the Gospels to see how Jesus did it, and then do it in the manner he did it. You don’t need a program, a budget, or any special qualifications to do this. Just understand it in the biblical form, and do it.” (Introduction: The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight).
Two biblical passages inspire me to train disciples. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul advised Timothy to train himself for the purpose of godliness. Paul trained Timothy in godliness. Now he expected Timothy to continue a regimen for himself, then to pass it on (see the rest of chapter 4).
In Luke 6:40 Jesus detailed the formation of disciples and the role of their teachers. “The disciple is not above his teacher but when the disciple is formed or trained he will be like his teacher.” The disciple took their Teacher at his word. The trained became the trainers. The example of Jesus and Paul for leaders in ministry is evident.
Training is the work of leaders. All other roles fade in significance.
To be effective in ministry we must train and train others. Members need training to live godly lives. They don’t wake up one day and suddenly love their enemies, seek mercy for all, and walk in humility before God. Rather, leaders must train them to immerse their minds in the Scriptures and yield to its authority. They need training in worship and to pray as beggars would for daily bread. They need to value solitude and silence as our Lord did. They need models to show them how to live in Christ’s community. They need on the job training to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God, call for repentance and trust in Jesus. Members ease into the life of the kingdom with training. Leaders set the pace in following Jesus. Members follow their leaders’ example (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Church leaders must wrestle with the idea of training until they’re mastered by it. The formation of leaders and disciples must travel the road less traveled. Paul had the audacity to say: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” That audacity comes from the confidence we have from our own training in Christlikeness.
Training others must be done hands-on. In the Bible training involves observing and doing. Train a child… He trains my hands… They will train the younger women… They trained to make music… (Pro 22:6; 2 Sa 22:35; Tit 2:4; 1 Ch 25:7). You get the idea. Jesus chose disciples to be with him so they could learn how he did life with God. It’s always on-the-job training.
Notice how Jesus trained his disciples to pray. He prayed often in their presence. He spoon-fed them how to pray. He encouraged them to pray. He challenged them when they didn’t. He prayed his way into submission to God’s will in front of them. He praised and thanked God with them. They saw him agonize with God tearfully and intimately. He enabled them to enter the world that God inhabits. With him in prayer they saw glory, transcended the world of sense and time, and glimpsed their lives from eternity’s perspective. Eventually they got it and did likewise. Our members need the same training. I can’t think of a more important pastoral or leadership task than this. Can you?
The best way to become godly is by training. Rare are the people who learn to fix leaky faucets while sitting in a classroom. Infants learn to walk by holding on to their parents’ guiding hands. It’s no different when it comes to discipleship training. It’s on the job, life on life, group by group training.
Moses (Deut 6) understood this practice. He reminded parents to use every opportunity to show their children how to live their faith in God. We can apply this truth to spiritual parents. Sons and daughters in the faith require as much training as children do. Every leader must wrestle with the art of passing on the faith in every encounter with members. This may happen while preaching, teaching, visiting in home or hospital, in committees, or serving others at home, serving the neighbors next door or abroad.
Leaders must eat and drink discipleship. With passion and zeal, they pass on the walk of faith. They don’t impose their walk on their disciples. Rather, they guide and train those in their care to become apprentices of Jesus and once trained to bless others by doing likewise.
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