I was never told to bring out a pen and a paper and then take down notes from the sermons in our church; I just saw it being consistently done by my discipler. No one was doing it in our church before. Everyone would just listen to our pastor and wait until the concluding or challenge remarks are preached. Some would take out their phones and snap a photo of one or two slides. But no one ever dared to take notes from it.
I first saw my discipler do it the first time she came in to our church. I was curious at first. I wondered why she was doing it. The next time I saw her taking notes, I wondered, “Maybe she really finds the sermons important.” Then I observed how she would ask questions to people in our small groups about the sermon topic based on the notes she wrote.
One time, after a sermon, she came up to me and asked, “Trudy, what did you learn from the topic today?” She wanted to involve me in creating questions for reflection for our small groups. I was stunned not because of her question but because I did not know what to answer. Then she asked, “Wait, do you remember what our topic is today?” Again, I was not able to answer.
She helped me out by summarising to me the topic and its content and what it is for us. As she was teaching me, she was constantly skimming through her notes. I thought, “If only I had written down notes, I would have understood better and remembered what our pastor preached today.”
Come Sunday, I took out a small notebook and a pen and started to take down notes. I wrote the verses that struck me, the points that rebuked and corrected me and application points that I should bear in mind. After the sermon, I waited for my discipler to approach me. I was excited to share to her what I learnt.
Again, she did not tell me to do it. I saw her do it and witnessed the sincerity and value of it and so I copied.
The first time I did note-taking at church, my friends sitting beside me observe with curiosity. Come next Sunday, I was still the only one in our row with a notebook and pen at hand. Then the next Sunday, one of my Bible study friends from the other side of the room started to take down notes. I saw my mom eventually do it as well.
Today, majority in our church family are taking down notes from the sermons preached to us by our pastor. This initiative (though caught; not taught) brought significant effect in our church. It helped us not only to listen better but to reflect on God’s word better and more intentionally.
What my discipler did is an example of modeling. Yes, taking down notes during sermons seems like a very small task to do, but her consistency in doing it implied a lot of what God intends for His church: the value of rekindling and studying His word not just inside a building premise but all the more outside of it.
Discipleship is indeed more caught than taught. It is modelling (not merely saying) the life of Jesus to others. In one of the books I am currently reading, “Motivate: 8 Secrets of Successful Parenting” by Peter and Deonna Tanchi, I underlined the following sentences from the first chapter:
Disclaimer: I started reading Christ-centered parenting books not because I am planning or about to be a parent soon but because I think that such books are also significant in discipleship or being a spiritual parent.
- “But research has revealed that children have an inborn ability to mimic what they see, imitating not only our actions but also our behavior and attitudes” (page 7).
- “We cannot teach effectively what we do not practice and we cannot give what we do not have” (page 10).
- “…children have an uncanny extra-sensory perception when it comes to hypocrisy. They can quickly spot any inconsistency…” (page 11).
The people entrusted to us by God to disciple and minister to will imitate our actions, behavior and attitudes whether we are aware of it or not. They can sense hypocrisy and inconsistencies especially if what we are preaching is not aligned to what we are practicing.
I have read the same principles in a page of another book I am currently reading, “Down To Earth Discipling: Essential Principles to Guide Your Personal Ministry” by Scott Morton. Chapter 5 (Stage Two: Discipling from the Heart) has the following statements:
- “There must be congruence between your message and your behavior” (page 61).
- “It is hypocritical to lead where you are not modeling” (page 61).
Few months ago, God revealed to me a bad modeling behavior of mine. I used to be too flexible in rescheduling discipleship appointments. I thought that I should be able to accomodate all of them in a week thus I always have to personally adjust to their schedules. It’s not really a bad thing since it is important to understand that they too have personal errands. However, it became problematic and unhealthy because I was consistently giving in to their favors of reschedules.
I was not aware that the little compromises were implying the attitude of not honoring one’s words – particularly, not honoring the appointment set between two or more people. It also negates consistency and perseverance.
I only realized this bad modeling behavior when a good friend (who is also a discipler) gently corrected me about it. Praise God! I shared to her how I was being stressed-out about attending to discipleship appointments. She told me, “It’s not really them who’s inconsistent; it’s you because you are allowing such inconsistencies. Stick to what was planned and discussed. Teach them to do that by standing your ground in terms of honoring an agreed appointment.”
I sent a text message to all of them sincerely apologizing about my bad modeling behavior. I asked them to forgive me and I emphasized why it is not a good example. I also realized, by God’s grace, that it was not a bad modeling behavior that just sprouted from nowhere; it was a byproduct of small bad choices in my life.
I am still a work in progress. Prayers of faith and dependence must go along God’s pruning for Christlikeness. God is still revealing to me a lot of unChristlike habits that I should stop doing (and what I should model instead) through the power of the Holy Spirit and guidance from His word.
“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness” – Titus 2:7
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” – 1 Corinthian 8:9
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” – Hebrews 13:7
In the book “Overlooked Challenges That Will Devastate Your Discipleship Ministry” by Robby Gallaty, a poem that reflects the aspect of living the gospel (instead of just sharing it) thus modelling Christlikeness was included in page 14. It goes:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear,
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see a good put in action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it if you will let me see it done;
I can watch your hand in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there is no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.