So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV)
For many years now, I’ve been challenged by the imitation factor in Paul’s discipleship example. He charged the Corinthians twice in his first letter to them to imitate him. How bold do you have to be to encourage people to imitate you? What kind of life you need to live to make that sort of challenge? In his second challenge he added to it, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Cor 11:1 (ESV). So, there you have it. The heart of discipleship. It’s not so much having a good curriculum to teach or the best scripture memorization strategy. All of those things are good. But discipleship has to be much more. It’s sharing life together. It’s living a life seeking Christ and being able to say, “Imitate me as I follow the ways of Jesus.”
Many people shy away from discipling others because they don’t feel qualified. I know the feeling well. I’ve pondered the question many times wondering what I have to teach, what I have to share. But, if you are a seeker of Christ, the best thing to do is to be willing to open up your life to others. Be willing to let them see your successes and failures, your dirty laundry, you discipline your kids, and maybe even a marital spat. Be honest and real. Admit failure and demonstrate grace.
Seek Christ and share your life. Paul, Silas, and Timothy did this with the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12 Paul says that they shared not only the Gospel Christ with them, but also their very lives; living an example before them while sharing the gospel and encouraging them to live a life worthy of God. They lived the example and shared the truth of Christ at the same time.
Sure, there is heavy accountability with this. That’s part of the process as well. Sharing our lives with others challenges us to grow and be diligent as well but it’s not about being perfect. You think Paul was perfect? Far from it. In fact, Paul was open about his ongoing struggle with sin in Romans 7. Be real. Be open. It’s called community.
Live to be imitated as you imitate Christ.