We think of an imitation as a fake, a fraud. But in the world of disciple making, its meaning is exactly the opposite. Paul encourages us to be copies of the original, to bear the imprint of God. Disciple making is not about making abstract studies practical. It's about the process of "do what I do."
Life is hard enough – God doesn't ask us to innovate, but to imitate. Periodically, the church loses its sense of directions and needs to be brought back to biblical Christianity. It happened with Martin Luther, and it needs to happen now. We need to rediscover biblical discipleship, beginning with a proper understanding of how we grow in Christ – it's not by listening to another sermon or going to church more, it's by watching and imitating another person.
Check out what scripture says on the subject:
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seem in me – put it into practice." Phil 4:9
"Join with others in following my example." Phil 3:17
"Take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." Phil 3:17
"You are going thru the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." Phil 1:30
"Therefore I urge you to imitate me." 1 Cor 4:16
"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Cor. 11:1
"Be imitators of God." Eph 5:14
"You became imitators of us and the Lord." 1 Thess 1:6
"You became imitators of God's churches." 1 Thess 2:14
" Imitate those who thru faith and patience inherit what has been promised." Hebr 6:12
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life (judge their fruit) and imitate their faith." Heb 13:7
Why are there so few of these kind of imitators around anymore? A big reason is that we no longer live in proximity to one another, so we don't get a chance to really observe a brother or sister worth imitating. To model the walk, you've got to expose yourself. Isolation isn't an option.
Another problem is the intrusion of entertainment where lives used to rub up against one another. Often when my children get back together with old friends, the first thing they want to do together is watch a movie. What is that about?
Creativity and spontaneity are great, but what we really need are those bold enough to follow in the footsteps of older, wiser men and women of faith. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it is also the most effective means of disciple making.
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