Ever since Genesis, we have been reproducing “after our kind” (Gen 1:21,25 et al). This same idea is made into a pattern in the New Testament when we are told to make disciples. Disciples are followers, learners, and imitators. They imitate who they follow and learn of their teaching and their lives are changed–they are made into the likeness of the person they follow. Peter and his named friends were disciples and were identified with Christ–even though he denied it. It was undeniable–even though he tried. He later repented of even trying to deny it and went on to be a major spokesman for Christ. What a change it was for him to stop talking about himself and talk of Christ. His letters speak of this change of heart by the grace of God in Christ. Paul also understood this and became a discipler and even exclaimed “…to give you in ourselves an example to imitate” (2 Thess 3:9).
This has to be a priority of a pastor. A pastor (or, my favorite word, shepherd) must be one who disciples–that is, one whose very life can be imitated as he imitates Christ. Christ had twelve immediate disciples–that is, men who were with him non-stop. I like what Matthew Hoskinson said in a recent message on this topic: “Spend increasing amounts of time with a decreasing amount of people.” This is a great picture of a discipler. Go with those who are going! Train other people. Pastors should be training other men and eventually they should work themselves out of a job!
Start with small things. Help your men take ownership of the church in small, but significant areas. They can open doors and welcome people, they can usher, they can set up chairs, they can organize things, and they can even come up with their own ideas as to what they can do! God has gifted men with different gifts–find out what they are (which happens only when there is time spent with them) and then put them into jobs that will exploit those gifts. Give them training and vision in those areas, but let them do it! They have the Holy Spirit, just like you do!
Next, train deacons and elders. Spend time with them as a pastor and let them see your heart and life. Speak Christ into their heart and life. Choose or write some studies that will enhance their giftedness and equip them. This will be time well spent and you will begin to imitate Christ. Go over the qualifications of elders and deacons and search their hearts to make sure they are qualified according to Scriptural qualifications. Alexander Strauch has an excellent tool for study for both the elder and deacon. Ask them questions–hard questions. Ask their spouse good questions. Watch their children and their interaction with them. What does their community life look like? Do they pay their bills on time? Are they hospitable? Many more questions can be asked here, but don’t be afraid to ask.
Be aware, though. If you really believe in discipleship, you will no doubt disciple someone who eventually becomes better at it than you. This is a good thing. God has given some men some terrific gifts and sometimes they can seem intimidating, but know that they need discipleship as well.
If pastors don’t train men, do we leave it up to the seminaries? I think they do a reasonably good job educating them, but I am not sure that an educational institution can take the place of discipleship–especially in the realm of the local church.
2Tim. 2:2 “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Good advice! Let’s do it!