I remember the first few times I tried to use a rod and reel that was not a “push button.” You know — the one that requires pulling both the line and trigger to open the bearing, swinging your arm back, and then releasing both the trigger and line simultaneously. At first, this motion was unbelievably tricky. I remember one time I even hooked my dad with a treble hook. It was messy, as is discipleship.
The way I figured out how to master that motion was repetition. But more importantly, it took my dad modeling for me how to hold the rod, swing back and release all in one fluid motion. I watched him over and over until I felt I could try it myself. But he did not leave me alone. He assisted me, talking me through it, not giving up on me, even when it cost him something. One day it just clicked. I was fishing with the big boy rod, hooking fish instead of him. All he had to do at that point was watch me.
There was a progression in my learning that is also crucial for evangelism and discipleship. When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, did He immediately send them to fish for people? No! Jesus knew they had a trait that so many of us lack — teachability. Robert Coleman puts it this way: “These men were looking for someone to lead them in the way of salvation. Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new image — Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.”
Jesus’ strategy for discipleship can be seen in four progressions: Model, Assist, Watch and Leave. Jesus called these men to follow Him, and He made them fishers of men. He showed them how to love, serve and give their lives for people. He helped them feed the five thousand (“you give them something to eat” Matthew 14:16). He watched them proclaim the kingdom, offering encouragement and rebuke through accountability (Luke 10:1-23); then He left them and imparted the Holy Spirit to them.
What happened then in Acts? They simply repeated the patterns their master had shown them, and He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell inside them to live this life out. They knew what to do because Jesus had lived among them and shown them everything, in order to tell them with full authority to teach others everything He had commanded them. This is the power in modeling for discipleship.
This model of discipleship came alive for me in my first Gospel Conversations training. I was taught a lot of things, but the modeling and assistance I got from others unleashed me. Would you consider going to one? Maybe bring some people God wants you to invest in? These trainings are so much more than other evangelism programs. We do want to equip people in how to engage in gospel conversations, but the greatest thing we can give is to show how to do it out in the field. We not only want to get repetition in the classroom but also repetition out where lost people are. After this training, you will feel competent and confident in fishing for others, and you will know how to teach others to do the same.
Discipleship is caught as much as it is taught.