Tell them why; show them how;
get them started; keep them at it.
The above statement was made by Keith Phillips in his book “The Making of a Disciple.” It proclaims four fundamental principles to be considered in our instruction to others. These principles are applicable to many aspects of discipleship, such as the Quiet time, Prayer, Bible study, and Scripture memory to name a few. As I look back on my life over the years, I realize that I primarily majored in the third one of these which is to merely get them started. The why, the how and keeping them at it were not emphasized to the same degree.
Telling them why is the first of these principles mentioned by Keith. Sometimes this step is bypassed, assuming that others automatically know why these disciplines are important. It is most important for them to know that all of these are, as Jerry Bridges describes, disciplines of grace. By this he means that these disciplines are given to us by the Lord and are the chief means by which we are aware of and participate in His grace. The Lord does not generally choose to work apart from these in our lives. In telling them why, the life and example of our Lord is often the best place to start. Helping them see why He had a quiet time (Mark 1:35), why He prayed (Luke 6:12-13), and seeing the importance of the word of God in His life (Luke 24:27) are foundational to the principle of “telling them why.”
Showing them how involves personal in depth interaction with individuals. God doesn’t just send a message, He sends a man with the message. “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.” (John 1:6) There must be incarnation before proclamation. We teach from our lives, not just from our lips. The apostle Paul describes his transparency as he related the following to the Philippians in Philippians 4:9. “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Showing them how involves letting it be seen in our lives.
Getting them started involves use of specific instructions and an agreement in regard to accountability. Many of our discipleship materials have well delineated sections to study. Accountability is perhaps the key ingredient to a good start to these studies. A lack of commitment is contagious to other parts of the Christian life. Accountability helps promote a solid start to the disciplines of grace.
We are all encouraged when someone starts well. In Scripture, however, we read that the end of a matter is better than its beginning. Multiple scriptures speak about the value of perseverance. Paul addresses Timothy in II Timothy 2:2 to commit what he has heard from him to others in such a way that they would be able to teach others also. This implies not only a good start, but a commitment to keep them at it. There are a number of factors to be considered in the topic of keeping them at it. Let me name just four. These are exhortation, example, exposure and expression. By exhortation is meant the encouragement and instruction that is necessary to continued growth in discipleship. “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” (I Thessalonians 2:11-12) The most important of these four is the example set by our own lives. “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (II Timothy 3:10-11) Those in whom we invest time need to see our example of consistency as a model for their lives. Not only are they to see the example of our lives, we are to provide exposure to the lives of others who are modeling discipleship as well. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) As they continue to grow in a life of faithfulness to the Lord, they need opportunities to give expression about their journey to others. “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
Tell them why; show them how; get them started; and keep them at it. This is our calling that the Lord has given to us. It is His Grace that has enabled us to “keep at it” in our own lives, and His Grace will be given to us as He ministers through us to others so that they, in turn, may so impact the lives of others.