Theory: If people are to have a deep relationship with Christ it must be modeled for them. If they are to be able to give a testimony about what Christ has done in their lives, testimonies must also be modeled for them.
I remember learning a very important lesson as a young pastor: When preaching, you sound like the sermons you’ve heard, until you develop your own style. I believe that the biggest single human influence on my preaching is that I grew up and then worked in churches with great preaching. You preach like what you've heard.
The first coverts were (Acts 2) “devoted to the teaching of the Apostles.” What did the Apostles preach? They preached essentially two things: 1.) how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and, 2.) their own personal experiences of Jesus - what they “witnessed.” This is where the gospels come from. They are the testimonies of the men who followed Jesus. If people are to be able to give a testimony, it helps immeasurably if they hear the testimony of others.
We see it with people learning to pray. Few can start out and “know what to do” and pray well out loud right out of the gate. It helps if someone models it for you. You grow in hearing the syntax of prayer, the language of prayer, the imagery of prayer. That doesn’t in any way mean that God isn’t pleased with our early prayers, it’s just that the most comfortable in prayer are frequently the ones who pray the most and so have achieved an intimacy with God, a way of speaking with God that eventually influences others.
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he modeled for them a prayer - what we call the Lord’s prayer.
Ultimately, everything we do ought to be modeled on Jesus and a reflection of him. It’s best that Jesus is the model we always defer to. Sometimes that just isn’t possible (i.e., Jesus wasn’t married, didn’t own a house, and didn’t pastor a church that a met in the same place every week with the same people). For those cases where we can’t directly model Jesus, we rely on the imitation of other followers of Jesus who have done what we consider to be an admirable job. “I want my marriage to be like so and so’s.” “Such and such a church gives visitors these....” And so on.
Modeling was the method that Jesus used to teach the disciples as well. He asked the disciples to follow him. To listen. To watch. And then he sent them out to do.
Discipleship is a type of modeling. The disciple models the behavior, attitude, speech, attitude of the heart, actions, that he learns from Jesus. At the same time, if he/she is a disciple, they are also in relationships with others and are themselves serving as examples for others. Be disciples. Make disciples. Jesus is the model. Paul said it this way, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
Thanks for reading. God bless. PJ