The trainee and the trainer
A few years ago, I went into the Apple Store to get some help with my iPhone. The truth be known, I am not a “techie” person. If my device doesn’t work right off the bat, I’m sunk! I’m the guy who has the “customer assistance” number in my speed dial.
I went in with a cell phone problem, and a young lady in her early twenties stepped up to help me. Over the next thirty minutes, she diagnosed my problem and made arrangements for me to get a new phone. At one point, while we were waiting for the new phone to arrive, I asked her, “So how long have you been working here?” “Just a few months,” she said with a smile. I asked, “Do you like it?” “Oh, yes sir. I love it.”
Then I said, “I bet it’s really hard to work here. I’m mean, with all these different devices and all the techno language, I bet it takes years to learn all this stuff.” “Not really,” she said casually. “It didn’t take that long at all.” With my curiosity peaked I asked, “So how did you learn it all so fast?” She said, “Well, I saw an ad online they were looking to hire, so I went to a local hotel banquet hall for a two-day training.” “That’s it! You learned all of this in just two days?” I asked.
“Not exactly” she continued. “After our two-day training they placed me at this store, and I was paired up with a trainer. My trainer wore the traditional blue shirt and lanyard, and I just wore plain clothes. I followed him for several months, watching him answer questions and solve problems. Then, when he thought I was ready, I put on the blue shirt, and he wore plain clothes. He followed me, coaching me when I needed help. Finally he said I was good to fly solo. Now I’m about to take on someone to train myself.”
This is how Jesus trained His men
I looked at her with excitement in my eyes and said, “That sounds like Jesus!” (No joke, I really said that!) This actually was the way Jesus trained His men. He called them to commitments. He held them accountable, but He also leveraged the power of His personal example. For the first 18 months to two years, the men who followed Jesus simply watched Him. They watched Him talk with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. They watched Him preach and heal. They watched Him perform miracles and pray. They watched Him confront religious hypocrisy.
In a sense, Jesus had the blue shirt on, and they were watching His every move. But after a while, Jesus challenged His men to put into practice the things they had been observing in His life. He sent them out two by two and commissioned them to preach, heal and confront just as He had done (Matthew 10.1 ESV; Mark 6.7 ESV; Luke 9.1 ESV).
We learn from Jesus’ example
How did they know what to do? They had been watching and following Jesus’ example. I’m sure after every sermon, miracle or confrontational event, they debriefed the whole thing with Jesus. “Jesus, why did you say that?” “Jesus how did you do that?” “Jesus what should we do in a situation like this?”
The Scriptures only give us a glimpse into these private conversations, but I’m sure they lasted long into the night. These men were learning from Jesus’ example. We still learn from Jesus’ example. The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life,” (1 Timothy 1.16 NIV).
By giving Paul grace, Jesus was giving us an example of how to extend grace to others. In (1 peter 2.21 ESV), we read, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” Jesus suffered. And in His suffering, He leaves us an example of how to face suffering when it comes into our lives.
Throughout His whole ministry, Jesus wasn’t just dispensing Biblical truths, He was setting an example His men could follow. After washing the disciples feet, Jesus said, “I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you,” (John 13.15 ESV). In that moment, Jesus could have given them a lesson on the values of servant leadership. But what seared these principles into their minds was His incredible, undeniable example. The Apostle Paul taught the same way. As he invested in godly men, he set an example for them to follow. At one point, he told the believers in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” (1 Corinthians 11.1 NIV).
We all need examples to follow. God has always used godly men and women to serve as examples for other believers. Lot had Abraham. Joshua had Moses. Elisha had Elijah. Esther had mordecai. Timothy and Titus had Paul. The list could go on. It’s not enough to just know how to live for Jesus; we need to see someone living for Jesus. It’s not enough to know how to pray; we need to hear someone praying. It’s not enough to know how to share the Gospel; we need to watch someone sharing the Gospel.
The Christian life is more caught than taught.
We all need “blue shirt” Christians in our lives we can follow and emulate. So as you invest your life in people, you must be that example for them. Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity,” (1 Timothy 4.12 NLT).
He also encouraged Titus in the same way. “…you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind,” (Titus 2.7 ESV). Investing your life in people means striving to set an example they can follow.
As you meet with your peers, be sure to share from your own experiences and struggles. Pause as you teach through the weekly lesson and model what that principle looks like in real life. If you are teaching them how to journal, go through God’s Word together and model how to journal spiritual truths. If you are teaching Scripture memory, you go first, modeling how to memorize and meditate on God’s Word. If you are teaching them to share the Gospel, look for ways to model how to start spiritual conversations and share the Gospel.
As you walk with God and reach your world, you demonstrate to others how they can walk with God and reach their world.
This blog features an excerpt from our book, Invest in a Few.