Little things can make for big lessons. When I was a teenager, I went riding one day with Troy in his 1968 Barracuda. I noticed a strange looking miniature wallet of sorts by his gear shift. Curious, I held it up and asked Troy, “What is this?” He told me it was his verse pack, which he explained helped him memorize and review Bible verses.
“Are you serious man?” I said. “You actually memorize Bible verses?” “Yep,” he said. Then he explained to me why a disciple ought to memorize scripture. The next day I went to our local Christian bookstore, bought a verse pack and started memorizing Psalm 15.
That story is a picture of one of the central truths of fruitful disciple making: More is caught than is taught.
That day I learned about memorizing scripture and I started doing it. Why? Not because I went to a class, nor read a book. Not was it because it was the next session of my 12 week discipleship program. I did it because the man who was discipling me did it.
I was with him. I observed him. I imitated him. The result? A practice I started at 18 that still serves me at 53.
The heart of disciple-making is a relationship between a discipler and a disciple. Why? The main way a disciple is trained is through imitation. I often tell people that the Apostle Paul’s disciple-making program is summarized in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” That’s the heart of disciple making.
When I was a boy in the late 1960s, there was a popular T.V. commercial that involved a dad and his toddler son. Everything dad did, the son immediately imitated. If dad was painting, son painted. If dad was driving, son pretended to drive. After each instance the narrator repeated the phrase, “Like father, like son.” Finally the dad and son sit down at a tree and dad pulls out a pack of cigarettes, lights one, starts smoking and then sets the pack on the ground between he and the boy. The boy sees the cigarettes and picks them up. As he is doing so the narrator says, “Like father like son, think about it.”
The principle applies to good actions and to bad actions. But no matter what the setting, more is caught than is taught.
Revd Canon Peter Matthews is a NAMS Companion, and Rector of St Patrick’s Church in Lexington, Kentucky.