I have been greatly influenced by Mike Breen and Steve Cockram’s book, Building a Discipling Culture over the past couple of years to look at a more transformative experience for Sunday School and Discipleship. I have been led through a discipling process and led several pastors through this process. There are two main concepts I want to mention from their work in this blog for teachers: Imitation and High Invitation/High Challenge.
Imitation: Jesus did not just talk about the Kingdom, he demonstrated it for the disciples. For example, though they lived in a time when prayer was a part of their culture and everyday life, they saw Jesus pray with such power and authority right in from of them daily. It didn’t take long for them to realize Jesus’ prayer life was the model to follow, and they asked him to teach them to pray. Thankfully they did, because now we have the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus demonstrated God’s provisions and resources every day in their midst. How are you imitating God’s provisions and resources so others in your class can see?
I have heard a true story of one who was living/modeling their spiritual life as he discipled a group of young men. One day they talked about the need to lead a time of prayer and devotion with their children every day. After the session, a young man came to talk further, and confessed that he didn’t know how to pray with his children. The disciple leader asked him to come to his house every night for a week and see how he prayed with his children. Wow! That is authentic discipleship. It is not just teaching valuable information about being a disciple. It is modeling it! We need to model the Christian life for others. The question from Mike Breen becomes a humbling thought: “If discipleship is imitation, is your life worth imitating?”
High Invitation/High Challenge: Many of our class members are encouraged by high invitation. Teachers do a good job in many churches about sharing love, care and enthusiasm for their class members. We need to follow it up with High Challenge and encourage them to grow. Let me share three examples from our Lord:
High Invitation: “Come, Follow me”- These disciples had been rejected by the rabbis at age twelve for not being good enough. Jesus invites them to join him as their rabbi (highly encouraged.)
High Challenge: “I will make you fishers of people.” Jesus invited them, but expected them to make disciples and not just be his disciples.
High Invitation: 17 “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”
High Challenge: 22 “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you! 23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
High Invitation: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
High Challenge: 29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Being “yoked” with Christ means following Christ and his teachings.
For us to be effective in discipleship through Sunday School and beyond, it is time to model the Christian life as we seek to follow high invitation and high challenge. Find ways to model the Christian life in and outside of class as you invite and challenge them to go further.
24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew 16:24-27 NIV)