My favorite professor in college had a way of explaining complex ideas and simplifying them. Without a doubt he was a gifted teacher. Although educated at Harvard, his Ivy League pedigree never impeded him from relating well to his students.
One day in class he explained how business leaders in the railroad business of the 19th and 20th centuries made a critical error. Because of their excessive financial success, they believed railroads would forever remain lucrative. But soon airplanes and cars would replace railroads. And over time many of those enriched by the railroad industry lost everything. They failed to understand their fundamental business. They were not in the railroad business but in the transportation business.
As followers of Christ we must remember our central and foundational purpose: making disciples.
Every church must be in the disciple-making business. With newer trends and cultural fads, don’t forget to keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t allow anything to substitute your mission of making disciples.
The first part of the Baptist Churches of New England’s mission statement is “Multiplying Disciples.” The core business of our churches will always focus on making more and more disciples. Our job as a staff team is to encourage, equip and partner with churches.
Disciple making is relational. It’s life on life. You make disciples by being the kind of disciple others would imitate and emulate. Notice the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:
“Even if you had 10,000 guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:15–17).
Lead by example
Although Paul was not claiming perfection, he indeed had the confidence to say to others to follow his very way of life in Christ. He openly told others his example could be copied. The truth is we all need a functioning disciple in front of us so we know what a disciple looks like. Paul strengthens these ideas by saying:
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
Simply put, this is how we make disciples.
One day I was speaking to an outreach director who ministered to a troubled community. Daily he dealt with drug addiction, crime, alcoholism and many other maladies. So I asked, “What will it take to turn this community around?” Without hesitating, he said, “People like you moving into this neighborhood. You can model for them something they have never seen before. They only know dysfunction. Your family could be a model for those needing an example to live by.”
Living out the gospel
That was a sobering moment for me. There is no more powerful truth than living out the Gospel in front of others.
If you want to multiply disciples, live a life that honors Jesus. Let others see, not just in your church, but in your everyday life what it means to follow Christ. Press your life into the lives of others so they, too, can imitate your life. More things are caught than taught. Be a living, breathing example to others.
So today ask yourself, “Am I worthy of being imitated by others?”
Answering this question in the affirmative is the very DNA for multiplication.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Hal Haller and originally published by Baptist Churches of New England.