Thursday, January 22, 2015

4L Model of Discipleship

Many models for discipleship exist. Many books have been written on the subject. And many are very good. So why do I add another model? Well, some are easier to remember than others. And this model, I believe, is built to be able to remember the terms, which is a first (though largely unimportant) step. Yet, by remembering a set of terms, it may prompt us to remember to apply these principles (a very important step) to our lives.

If you have followed this blog for awhile, you may recognize these terms from the past. Yet, until now, I have not expounded on them publicly. Perhaps, I will do even more with them when my current academic pursuits are completed, but for now, as I am in the midst of this preaching, and blog series regarding the Spiritual Disciplines (see the Becoming Like God titles on the blog site), it is important to bring further definition to these terms as I am using them in the application points for the series.

So, without further delay, the four L's of discipleship, as I define them, are Learn, Live, Love, Lead. These four L's are applicable to every Christian who desires to follow Christ. After briefly discussing these below, I will introduce a fifth L that applies to various Christians in differing ways.

LEARN - To be a disciple is to be a learner. It is the very definition of the term. As a disciple of Jesus, we face a lifetime of learning. When it comes to the Bible, the more we know, the more we realize we do not know. When it comes to applying the principles of the Bible, we must learn this process as well. From whom do we learn? Other disciples who have gone before us. Of course, Jesus' original disciples learned from Him, but they were then told to make disciples (Mt 28.19-20). One significant aspect to Learn being the first step coincides with Jesus' call to His first disciples. He simply said, "Follow Me." Learn from Me. He didn't worry about whether or not they went to the synagogue or the temple. He didn't ask if they believed in God. He simply invited them to Learn from Him.

LIVE - What did the early disciples learn? A new way of thinking (Kingdom-oriented thinking), which meant a new way of living. As the early disciples followed Jesus (literally and figuratively), they learned what living could be. They learned how to live as man was meant to live - free from the bondage of sin, and with perfect love. Of course, these first disciples, like us, were entangled in their own sins and, like Jesus, had to live amid others whose lives were full of sin. But, over time, these early disciples began to Live as Jesus called them to Live. We can do the same thing. In fact, Jesus' statement in Matthew 28.20 says a part of the teaching from one disciple to another must include how to OBSERVE what is being taught. To observe in this instance is not to play the role of a spectator, but a participant. It is to Live out what one has been taught.

LOVE - The next step then, is a little more difficult, yet as one's faith matures becomes possible. The first aspect of love might be considered that we are to love others. And we are. We are to love God first, then to love our neighbor (Mk 12.30-31). The New Commandment given by Jesus in John 13:35 is to "love one another." But the love here is also to Love what we are doing. Again, in Mark 12.30, we are commanded to Love your God with all your heart...mind...soul and...strength. This means in everything we do with all that we are. And this Love is a progression from the previous step of Live. For instance, many may give an offering out of obedience, but later LOVE being able to give in order to help others (Love others). So, Love here is multifaceted, and ultimately leads to the final L.

LEAD - The Christian is commanded by Christ to make disciples (Mt 28.19). These new disciples are need to be taught (LEARN) all that Jesus has commanded us. But, as we have seen above, a part of what must be taught, is not just the concept of the command, but the observance of the command (LIVE) as well. We, as maturing Christians, do this out of Love, and, in turn, help others to Love God and others as well in order that they may then Lead a new generation of believers who will then lead another generation of believers and so on (2 Tim 2.2).

Much more could be said about each of the steps of this model, and will be at a later point. As mentioned above, each of the previous steps in this model is applicable to every Christian. The few Scripture references above make this point, but many other references exist. Yet, before this post ends, one other L exists. This last L is applicable in different ways for different Christians. The final L is Leave.

LEAVE - The first, and most obvious way this step is applicable to anyone is that each person's life on this earth will come to an end. We will all "leave" the earth whether one believes in an after-life, or whether death is preceded by the return of Christ, etc. But for the Christian, what will they do before they Leave? Will their life make an impact for the glory of Christ? The question should not be whether a Christian should Learn, Live, Love, and Lead. Rather the question should be how many disciples with the Christian make by Leading others to Learn, Live, and Love what has been previously modeled for them.

However, one other element of Leave must be mentioned. Biblically, we see this type of Leave evidenced in the life of Paul, among others. Like many in our day, Paul did not stay at one place for long. But when he was there, he made the most of his time helping others to Learn, Live, and Love by Leading them before he left to make disciples elsewhere. Of course, Jesus left as well, but sent the Holy Spirit in His place (John 14.16, 25-26; 16.7). Again, all of us will leave some day in some way, so what will we do with our time in the meantime? If we heed Paul's words in Ephesians 5.15-16 we will redeem the time, making disciples for the Lord, and therefore, likely, make our final L - Legacy, a positive one.

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