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Disciples are people who follow a leader’s teaching and example. As Christians, we are disciples of Christ. We study Scripture to learn who Jesus is and what He expects of us. Like the disciples who sat at His feet, we learn about Christ’s ministry to carry on His mission. Here are some examples to use when challenging Christians to live as disciples:

The Examples of Christian Leaders

Henrietta Mears’ Bible class at Hollywood Presbyterian drew as many as 500 college students. Dissatisfied with published curriculum, she wrote her own and eventually founded Gospel Light Publications. The title of her biography, “Dream Big,” illustrates her approach to life. Rather than let those involved in the entertainment industry intimidate her, she led many entertainers to the Lord. Bill Bright and Billy Graham were among those she nurtured in the faith.

And those men in turn dreamed big and became giants in the faith. Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU), an organization committed to fulfilling the great commission, and Billy Graham’s career as an evangelist has touched countless lives. The legacy of these three Christians illustrates discipleship at its finest. Just as Mears invested time and energy to bring people to Christ and grow in Christian maturity, Bright and Graham carried that ministry forward in their own lives. And they pass that ministry on to us.

The Example of Jesus

Charles Monroe Sheldon (1857 – 1946) was a minister in the Congregational church who preached a series challenging his congregation to consider what Jesus would do under certain circumstances. He then wrote the novel In His Steps based on those sermons. The story involved characters faced with moral choices who made decisions according to what Jesus would have done. In our day we have WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets that we wear as reminders to consider how Jesus would react to everyday circumstances. As disciples of Jesus, we want to make choices as Jesus would. Next time you’re faced with a moral choice, ask yourself: What would Jesus do? That is the response of any true disciple.

An Example from the Prophets

In 1 Kings 19:16 God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet, and succeeding verses tell how Elisha turned from the plow to follow the prophet. When Elijah was taken into heaven, Elisha carried on his ministry. We too can influence people to walk in our footsteps as Christians. Titus 2:3-4 encourages older women to train younger women.  And men too need role models, especially those without father figures in their lives. In our day, that’s called mentoring or discipling.

Elisha would not have known how a prophet lived if he had not spent time with Elijah. How are young men and women today to know how a Christian lives if they do not spend time with mature Christians? Some schools, churches and community organizations offer opportunities to serve as mentors. And associations may naturally spring up as you get to know neighbors and people in your congregation. A life well-lived at any age has much to offer. Don’t keep it to yourself. Our society needs men and women who have the courage to make moral choices based on Scripture and live out Christian principles in visible ways that touch the lives of others.

Examples of Every Day Discipleship

Parenting offers ideal opportunities to practice discipleship. In fact, scripture commands it. Read Deuteronomy 5:6-9 to learn how God challenged the Israelites to build the faith of their children. They were to talk about their faith, keep symbols of faith visible in their homes and even write commands on their doorframes. As parents, we make disciples around the dinner table as we discuss with children the events of the day and consider whether our reactions reflected biblical principles. We might even schedule a devotional time where we read scripture and discuss how it applies, according to the ages of our children. We make disciples as we carry on daily lives based on honesty and integrity. Our language, our decisions and our attitudes all show our children what it means to honor God. And we pray our children will be drawn to lead a similar lifestyle as they mature. That’s discipleship.

The Example of Paul for Christian Leaders

The apostle Paul studied under Gamaliel, a revered rabbi. The teaching about the law that Paul  received led him to become zealous for the law, so zealous that he persecuted Christians who preached salvation by Christ. Such is the influence of a teacher upon his students, the influence of one who disciples upon the disciple. Paul was a disciple of Gamaliel—until Christ showed Paul the better way. Pastors, Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders influence students (disciples) as they interpret Christian doctrine. This is why it’s imperative for leaders to prepare well. In fact, scripture warns us “Not many of you should become teachers . . . because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1 NIV 2011) If you are a leader, do you see your attitudes reflected in those you lead? If you are a learner, are you reflecting the attitudes of your Christian leaders?

Conclusion

Discipleship is costly. It requires the one leading to be well versed in scripture and to lead an exemplary life. None of us ever reach perfection, but all of us are called to move from learners to leaders. Are you ready to lead or do you need to spend more time as a disciple?

 

Shirley Brosius is a former director of Christian education who enjoys writing devotionals and newspaper articles. She also speaks as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages and skits at women’s retreats and events. Shirley coordinates the women’s ministry and the nurture committee at First United Methodist Church in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. She can also be found online at www.shirleybrosius.com.

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