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Discipleship Requires Modeling

Ever wonder why Christians can sit through so many church services and yet not become better followers of Christ? Recent breakthroughs in science give us at least one answer. Geneticists have found that certain neurons called mirror neurons cause people to imitate the behavior of others. The H…
By Seth Barnes

Ever wonder why Christians can sit through so many church services and yet not become better followers of Christ?

Recent breakthroughs in science give us at least one answer. Geneticists have found that certain neurons called mirror neurons cause people to imitate the behavior of others. The Harvard Business Review outlines the implications:

“Perhaps the most stunning recent discovery in behavioral neuroscience is the identification of mirror neurons in widely dispersed areas of the brain. Italian neuroscientists found them by accident while monitoring a particular cell in a monkey’s brain that fired only when the monkey raised its arm.
 
One day a lab assistant lifted an ice cream cone to his own mouth and triggered a reaction in the monkey’s cell. It was the first evidence that the brain is peppered with neurons that mimic, or mirror, what another being does. This previously unknown class of brain cells operates as neural Wi-Fi, allowing us to navigate our social world.
 
When we consciously or unconsciously detect someone else’s emotions through their actions, our mirror neurons reproduce those emotions. Collectively, these neurons create an instant sense of shared experience.”

You can observe examples of this every day. When people laugh, cry, or yawn, we’re pulled to do the same thing ourselves.

So, what are the implications for those of us who want to heed Jesus’ call to make disciples? Perhaps the most important one is that we need to get out of the pews and into the lives of those we want to impact. They may not remember what you say, but they will inevitably do what you do.

Some of us have been a part of churches that weren’t going anywhere. The pastor would preach about praying more, but people didn’t. He’d preach about touching the poor, but people needed to see him show them how.

Jesus told his disciples he’d make them fishers of men and then he showed them what that means. I’ve devoted my life to taking young people on journeys where they get to see examples of people modeling faith. Then they get to try it out.

Science seems to support the conclusion that while Bible studies and church attendance are great, apart from modeling the behavior that Jesus originally modeled, we won’t make disciples.

What do you think? Do we need to change our methods and our expectations about how we follow Jesus? If he commanded us to go and make disciples, how do we do that?

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