What we talk about, They will talk about

February 22, 2011 — 13 Comments

Part 1 of a 2 part guest post by Tim Norman. Read the excellent follow up post here

Last fall Tim Norman (our new regional director) came to visit our team and he shared some insightful thoughts on meeting with students (and being VERY intentional about what we do and do NOT talk about). I’ve asked him to share those thoughts over a couple posts (in the first-ever Guest Post for this blog!).

Tim just started blogging and I encourage you to subscribe to his feed. Tim’s a critical thinker – you will benefit from his wisdom and insight.
The Apostle Paul motivates many of us who attempt to influence others to follow Jesus. Some things he had to say are pretty challenging. He said, “To live is Christ; to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). To be honest, many days it would be a stretch for me to say that for me to live is Christ. I have wondered if some things that Paul says are somewhat off limits for me to say.

One of the other things Paul said that I thought was out of bounds for me is “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
One night, after a discussion at Applebee’s on which translation of the Bible was the best (did we know how to have a good time or what?), I went home and thought, “Everything that was being said around the table at Applebee’s was something that those guys heard from the guys that are discipling them.” I had heard the entire discussion before; the difference was it had come out of someone else’s mouth.

After going to my apartment, I had what I now refer to as the post-Applebee’s epiphany.

As someone who is trying to influence others for Christ and take up the task of making disciples, people will imitate me.

I accepted that I cannot alter the fact that people will imitate me. As a leader, I will influence others. Those that I begin to disciple, they will imitate me.

I made a choice to be intentional with what I will talk about others with. There are certain things that I want to pass along to them. Initially, there are few convictions and motivations that I hope to pass along. I’ll post an entry later this week on a few of the key things that I seek to pass along to students that I disciple.

I also embrace that I have limited time with someone. For the vast majority of students I will have only sat down in a one-on-one setting fewer than 10 times. Some, I will only get together with a few times.
What will I talk about during those times? What do I want them to imitate?

I do not care about which translation of the Bible the guys I disciple use. For the most part, I do not even talk about it.  Some of my theological positions or proclivities don’t fall into those few times.

What I did talk about initially was the gospel and the greatness of Jesus. I’ll share more about that later. Even accepting that I’ll likely need to talk about it more than once makes me keep my list short. After all, in most cases we are hoping for total worldview overhaul. And that may take a pass or two at a topic.

So, even if I had 40 times with a student over 2 years, I would still have to bring focus. I asked myself, what experience and training can I give them that they likely won’t receive somewhere else?

I encourage you as a leader to take stock of what you want others to imitate from their encounters with you. As a leader, you will influence their lives. That’s what leaders do. What will characterize that influence? Do they come away knowing that you are someone who can chat it up about the ESPN highlights? Do they know you have theological superheroes, past or present, that make your heart quiver? Do they begin to see that you are captivated by the magnitude of Jesus and his call on your life?


What are the top 5 things that you want to make sure you pass along?

photo courtesy of colindunn


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  • A few things I adapted from the Downline conference in Memphis this weekend:

    1. Eternal Perspective
    2. Love for God’s Word
    3. Heart for those without Jesus
    4. Need for Integrity
    5. Vision for local/global discipleship

    • These are great Finley. Over time, I have shot for the following 5 convictions. They are somewhat similar to what Andrew posted below.

      – Jesus is worthy of all our affection.
      – The Word of God is the foundation for our life.
      – We have a personal responsibility for sharing the good news of Jesus and raising up laborers for the nations.
      – The believing community is the context for our growth and contribution.
      – The Holy Spirit provides power and direction for the life God desires for us.

      I admit that my list doesn’t appear to stress ethics the way yours does. But I have felt that if people are captivated by the magnificence of Jesus and recognize the Word of God is their foundation, then talking about integrity was easier. Perhaps, I should consider putting something about integrity or holiness in my list.


      • timcasteel

        Good list Finley. And Tim, I like the thought “I have felt that if people are captivated by the magnificence of Jesus and recognize the Word of God is their foundation, then talking about integrity was easier.” It does seem like all others (on any list) should flow from those 2 (captured by Jesus and Word as foundation).

  • Great observation; being aware of this imitation principle seems very important. I wonder if we could add the following:
    “The extent to which someone imitates me is heavily influenced by the depth of my relational connection with them.”

    If so, then another application of these thoughts could be pursuing deeper relational connections with those we seek to disciple. In most of the instances I found for Paul’s call to imitation, he has a deep relational connection to them (Corinthians – he is their “spiritual father”; Thessalonians – he lived among them for quite some time; Philippians – they have a great affection for Paul and he for them). Also, side note, it seems most of the calls to imitation refer not only to Paul’s teaching but to his overall Christ-like character; how much more then should be examine not only what we are teaching to others but how we are living and acting around others?

    I think my church’s (Sojourn in Louisville) 5 core identities of a follower of Christ could be great to focus on passing along, because what we do flows out of who we are. So after they have been grounded in the gospel, maybe I’d talk about life with them through this grid. We are:

    1) Worshipers: We were made to worship; all of life is worship. We worship what we most highly value. We should worship God, because he made us, redeemed us, and is the only object of worship that is worthy of it and that will satisfy our hearts.

    2) Family: God is a community of Persons; he is a relational God and we are relational creatures in his image. He relates to us as Father, and adopts us into his spiritual family, the church. Believers need one another in pursuit of Christ-likeness.

    3) Servants: Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and he set an example for us. We adopt an others-centered mindset that pursues their best good.

    4) Learners: We are to grow in the knowledge of God; studying the Scripture, growing in wisdom, imitating the faith of our leaders.

    5) Missionaries: We’re called to be witnesses for Christ in words and deeds, bringing the gospel to others.

    So that’s one grid to possibly think through. Here are five more specific topics after the essentials of the gospel that I would emphasize specifically with college students:

    1) The why’s and how’s of being a member of a church.
    2) Daily Christian living and the Holy Spirit
    3) Loving God’s Word – reading, studying, memorizing
    4) How to talk to others about Jesus
    5) Prayer
    Bonus: biblical sexuality and gender roles

  • For many years for CCC these 5 things seem to have been it:
    1) Confession of sins
    2) Assurance of salvation
    3) Christian growth
    4) Fellowship
    5) Walking by the Spirit

  • Good word by Andrew, “The extent to which someone imitates me is heavily influenced by the depth of my relational connection with them.”

    I believe that leadership works best when I am able to increase relational proximity with those I seek to influence. But, at the same time people are imitating Christians with whom they have little to no relational connection. How many Christians go around trying to imitate John Piper, Louie Giglio, Mark Driscoll, Rod Bell, etc.? So, imitation is not necessarily linked with depth of relationship.

    So, while relational connection is important, if we focus on the intentionality of what we bring to the relationship we will get more desirable results from our leadership and influence.

    • timcasteel

      Andrew – I think I agree with TIm on this one. I feel like imitation can/does happen from a distance. Especially in one to many relationships like Cru talks, training, and Bible studies.

      And even in one on one relationships, I can have one appointment with a student whom I barely know and just by virtue of my position as staff or, especially, Campus Director my words carry a lot of weight (not because I’m awesome. But simply the title). So we (all staff/pastors or leaders) should watch carefully what we do or do not talk about.

      • Agreed and agreed. I only wanted to further explore the factors that seem to influence imitation, and relational connection seems to play a large enough role in addition to what we are specifically teaching to warrant considering when we think about how best to model a gospel-centered and godly life to build others up in Christ.

        A student’s respect for your authority and position will certainly go a long way, and I believe that the extent to which they are familiar with and trust you will go far as well.

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