“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9
It is evident from the scriptures that, as Christians, we are to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. For most Christians this is a given. What is not a given is how we are to fulfill that command. It has been startling for me to read passages like 1 Corinthians 11:1 and Philippians 4:9 where Paul calls others to simply do what he does. Paul is literally saying, “Do you want to follow Jesus? Do you want to know him more? To you want to experience more grace in your life? Then do what I am doing. Live like me.”
Which isn’t all that revolutionary. It is exactly what Jesus told us to do in The Great Commission. “Go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” In John 14:12 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” For three years Jesus showed the disciples how to live and what it means to be human, and then he commissions them to go and teach others how to live.
Discipleship modeled for us by Jesus and Paul is simply calling others to follow what we are doing in our pursuit of Christ.
The question that looms is, “Would I follow me?”
I answer the question very tentatively at first. The answer I give says a lot about how I view myself. Answer “yes” and I look a little arrogant and probably disqualify myself from being someone worth following due to an under developed sense of humility. Answer “no” and, outside of the obvious “you aren’t worth following because you don’t think your worthy to be followed, you might not be worth following because a lack of confidence and/or false humility. It is a tricky question.
So let me as honestly as I can answer the question. Would I follow me?
….but that’s a qualified ‘no’.
Here’s why I say it is qualified. I don’t say ‘no’ because I think I lack character, or vision, or that I would be ashamed to have people see how I live. The reason I would say ‘no’ is altogether different. Looking at the lives of those who I wanted to follow and who have discipled me, I see a characteristic in them that is absent in me. Those to whom I have sought to model my life after have been people who push me. They ask me to do things I didn’t know I could do. They ask me to examine myself and stretch myself. At times in ways I don’t want to stretch. And it is always hard to say ‘no’ to these people because I see them doing the same things of themselves. They push. The desire. They ask for more.
The reason I say, “No, I would not follow me” isn’t because I don’t think I’m not a person worth following. I say ‘no’ because I have not been a person who asks something of others. And this isn’t just limited to asking things of those who have followed me, but asking in general. I typically don’t ask for help. A few months ago I wanted to ask someone to be a mentor to me, and it scared me to the core. I had to be forced to ask for what I want.
As I reflect back on those relationships in which I was discipling someone, I have to regrettably admit that I didn’t ask well. I didn’t ask them to push themselves. I didn’t ask them to do more than they thought they could. I didn’t ask them to make bigger steps in obedience to Christ. I didn’t ask them to consider more of the Kingdom of God. I didn’t ask them to follow me. Consequently, their growth as followers of Jesus wasn’t what it could be.
Neither was mine.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Okay, there is one reason expressed a lot of different ways: fear. I feared I would be seen as demanding asking people to push themselves. I feared I would be seen as seen as arrogant because I “knew” what someone needed to do to step into the kingdom. I feared the accountability that kind of relationship fosters. I feared if I explicitly asked them to follow me, they would say no…
…so I didn’t ask.
One of the more paradigm shifting ideas I am learning is that it is okay to ask. In fact, as a leader it is necessary to ask. Learning how to ask someone to be better than they believe they can be is the essence of what being a good leader is all about. It is the essence of making disciples. Jesus asked fisherman to follow him so they could be more than they, or anyone else, imagined they could be. Who thought a bunch of fisherman from a small village could change the world? But he asked. He asked Nicodemus to stop trying to wrap his mind around the idea of being born again and step out in faith. He asked the rich young ruler to sell everything. He asked Zacchaeus to lunch. He asked a young boy for his lunch in order to feed five thousand people. He asked John to care for his mother in his absence. He asked the disciples to lose their life. He asked.
If this is what Jesus has done, then this should be what I am doing. So I am learning how to ask.
So for my first ask…
Would you follow you?