“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). Christ was the ultimate model mentor. Everything He expected His disciples to do, He did. The disciples learned to pray by listening to Jesus pray. They learned the importance of Scripture by seeing how Jesus depended on the Scriptures. They learned to love by seeing love in action in the life and ministry of Jesus. They learned to teach the truth by watching the Master Teacher. Jesus Himself stated, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
The example that started with Christ was handed down from disciple to disciple, from master to follower, from mentor to mentee. More than programs, courses, or philosophies, the instruments of discipleship are people. What better way to instill the principles of Christ-like living than being incarnated as a human being to show a living example.
This wasn’t for Christ alone. Paul picks up this motif when he says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Phil. 3:17). New disciples learn what it means and how to follow Christ by following the example of others, including us! “Let the teachers lead the way in working among the people, and others, uniting with them, will learn from their example. One example is worth more than many precepts” (The Ministry of Healing, 149). A living example is more powerful in making disciples than are our words.
The quality of new disciples is limited by the quality of the examples they are following. Jesus mentions in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Discipleship is not always a positive spiritual trajectory; it can also be an ungodly one. In this case, the Pharisees made their disciples twice as hypocritical as themselves! A principle to extract from this passage is that disciples rarely rise higher than the mentors who lead them.
In the process of following Christ, the first step to establish good discipleship is to find, train, and/or be good mentors. This dynamic is found in 2 Timothy 2:2, where Paul says, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Do you see the flow? It starts from Paul who makes a disciple of Timothy, who makes disciples of “faithful men,” who make disciples of “others.” Through it all, Christ is inspiring the discipleship through the Holy Spirit, and Christ is the ultimate example they are following.
In all our going, baptizing, teaching, preaching, training, soul-winning, and “churching,” we must impress everyone with this essential truth: every Christ-following disciple is to lead souls to Christ and be a disciple-maker. Discipleship from Christ embraces all and includes all. Every disciple should be trained to invest time and personal ministry in others—leading and mentoring as Christ did. This was His mission. This should be our mission. If embraced, “one soul, won to the truth, will be instrumental in winning others, and there will be an ever-increasing result of blessing and salvation” (Christian Service, 121).