And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy spirit, so that you became an example to all believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
-1 Thessalonians 1:6
Charles Barkely once quipped in a Nike Air Commercial, "I am not a role model." Maybe marketing powers were responding to Gatorade's Michael Jordan commercial "Be like Mike!" But the debate in the NBA in the 1990's of the role of these larger than life figures played out on the TV screen. Are these men role models? If so, to what extent?
A similar question is being asked in the church. If I want to grow in my faith, where are my role models? And in what capacity should they be in my life? Now if you have grown up in the church, you have heard of the term discipleship. And this is the proper term that should be employed. Jesus states in Matthew 28:19, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations."
We should not fear being disciples nor being disciplers. This is the call of the church. But the tendency today is to look for mentors, coaches, and dare I say spiritual "gurus" to help us on our journey. These terms connote a specialist who can help us gain certain spiritual skills or tackle certain spiritual issues. Now, these are not necessarily bad, but when they become primary in our discipleship, we lose the sense of wholeness and fullness.
We use the term discipleship because of what it literally means. We are followers of Jesus. Our call is to follow our Savior individually and corporately. We are to learn how to surrender our hearts to the Lord and learn how to love others well. The proper context in becoming a disciple is the life of the Church. We learn here how to express worship to the Lord, what it looks like to properly repent and be restored, and how to share the gospel. The health of the local church is paramount to develop healthy disciples!
But how do we build a healthy church life? By building Christ-centered relationships. And we do it, one relationship at a time.