To understand how to adapt our approach for present-day, we must, first, understand the core principles that we are adapting; The principles upon which discipleship is founded.
A Timeless Model
Jesus’ model was simple, yet included a lot of different components. In spite of all His varied interactions and unique approaches to situations, most of what Jesus did in relationships to make disciples could be boiled down to the following core components:
- Calling Disciple: Jesus had disciples that He selected. Sometimes, like with the Twelve, He asked them specifically. Other times, He made assignments – like the 72 – from among His followers. And He certainly had an open invite with crowds.
- The Big Takeaway: Your church leaders need to be calling people into discipleship, not just offering it.
- Teaching Principles: Jesus spent a lot of His time teaching in small-group and large-crowd formats. He adjusted His content to match His audience, and those closest to Him learned the most in the context of relationship.
- The Big Takeaway: Sunday messages aren’t enough. You need varied, contextualized teaching.
- Demonstrating Actions: As we know, Jesus didn’t just teach what to do, He demonstrated how to do it. He did the works the Father showed Him to do in a way that others could see and replicate.
- The Big Takeaway: Your leaders must be developed, not just to talk about God, but to actually live as followers of Christ.
- Fellowshipping Together: Much of what Jesus taught was done either in the context of relationships or while in the midst of relating with others. Meals, travel, fishing, even floating on a boat, Jesus integrated life fully.
- The Big Takeaway: Church can’t only be a place people come for “God” stuff. Full-fledged community is a must.
- Sending Out: While it would be nice and neat to just theorize about what must be done for the Kingdom, Jesus demanded that His disciples actually go out and do it on their own so they could learn from experience.
- The Big Takeaway – Any discipleship initiative you undertake must involve assignments with measurable goals.
These principles are non-negotiable. If Jesus did it, so should we. But the way in which Jesus conducted his ministry was contextualized to His point in history. He utilized and referenced the context of His day in everything He did. His teaching, His calling, His method for fellowship – all of it – was all done in a way that spoke to the lives of the people who lived 2,000 years ago. It stands to reason if He did that, then He’d do the same today. He’d apply His everlasting, unchanging principles within the framework of history in which He lived…and that’s exactly what we intend to do.
Expanding Influence & Overcoming Limitations
Now that we know what’s essential. Let’s talk about how we can apply these principles in the 21st century. To do so, we’ve created a comparison to show how tried and true fundamentals can be reengineered for a modern era.
|Jesus’ Principle||Applied Today|
|Calling disciples meant being in person because it was the only (primary) way they could connect. |
Teaching principles had to be to a live audience (online groups, Zoom, and Youtube weren’t really a thing).
Demonstration meant being with a person who could see what you were doing and communicate about the process.
Fellowshipping together meant gathering together. There was no substitute for being in the same room or on the same road.
Sending out disciples to do the work required reporting back with progress and tracking effectiveness on a case-by-case basis.
|Calling disciples can be done online, reaching a broader group of people who might participate. |
Teaching can be done in print, in podcasts, vodcasts, blogs, websites, text, online groups, and yes, still in person.
Demonstration can be documented with opportunities to comment and dialogue about the work as you go along, even remotely.
While in-person fellowship is preferred, it is now possible to develop certain aspects of relationships and connections online.
Assignments can be given and processes followed up on with a certain level of automation and accountability for fidelity.
As you can imagine, these comparisons are just the tip of the iceberg. They reveal that there is room for creativity in carrying out our most important mandate.
In today’s unique times, there is a lot that hasn’t changed. If we are going to reach people the way Jesus did, we have to meet them where they are and how they understand.
Scott is the Vice President of Sales at ACS Technologies. He spent nearly a decade as the Executive Pastor for The Bible Chapel in McMurray, PA, and has extensive knowledge of sales and management best practices with several Fortune 500 Companies. Scott currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for ANA Panama. A ministry focused on the care of abandoned and orphaned children in Panama.