Have a Life Worth Imitating and Be Prepared to Pay the Price, Says Discipleship Expert

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(Photo: The Christian Post via Exponential.org)Jo Saxton, a director of 3DM, an organization helping churches to become missional, speaks at the 2013 Exponential Conference Wednesday, April 24, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.

Helping Christian converts develop into spiritually mature disciples of Jesus takes more than a church program, said Jo Saxton Wednesday at the 2013 Exponential conference in Orlando, Fla. Making disciples who make disciples requires life-changing sacrifices and for those involved to "have a life worth imitating," said the discipleship expert.

Saxton, speaking before thousands on how Christians can transition from teaching about being a disciple of Jesus to modeling how a follower of Christ actually lives, is a director of 3DM, an organization that trains churches and Christian leaders "to do discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian world," according to the movement's website.

"Are we like the (guardian) or will we be like the parent?" the U.K. native asked her audience, referencing Paul's first letter to the Corinthian faith community in which the apostle distinguishes between being a "paidagogos," a guardian or nanny, and being a parent.

"I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church," reads Paul's letter in 1 Corinthians 4:14-17.

Despite all the guardians and teachers the Corinthian church had, said Saxton, the believers had not experienced transformation in their lives. Using Paul and Jesus as examples, Saxton observed that a true parent-teacher makes herself accessible to her students, not only teaching them right belief, but letting them witness intimately and relationally the teacher's own Christian praxis.

The alternative to being a parent is basically loading up young believers with information "and then sending them off to do their own thing," she added. Christians must recognize "as Paul describes, that something more intimate is needed." Saxton noted during her remarks that the Bible tells of Jesus in his ministry choosing to work with and invest in "a few" in order to reach "the many."

Timothy was prepared for ministry by "standing at the shoulder of Paul," she went on, before referencing Galatians 4:19 in which the apostle compares discipling new believers to child birth.

Commenting colorfully on the pains and joy of giving birth, the 3DM director insisted that creating disciples who make disciples "will cost you."

"Are we ready for discipleship to cost us? Are we ready for it to tear us apart?" asked Saxton of her 25,000-plus listeners.

"God is calling us to make a shift," she added, noting that to help Christian converts develop the character and capacity to be missional and affect change in the world, requires "more than a program."

The married mother of two cautioned, however, that those seeking to make disciples who make disciples should make sure that they themselves are spiritually mature and "have a life worth imitating."

"Be prepared to pay the price," she repeated. "Be prepared to embrace a shift, going from the download of information and sending people out to the role of having someone standing at your shoulder."

Saxton expressed the hope that, "as we wrestle with His word and we look at the people God has called us to," Christ's followers would be like parents and "be living examples of what it [means] to live like Christ in this generation."

Saxton, who lives in in Southern California with her family, was one among more than a hundred speakers participating in sessions, workshops and conversations during the 2013 Exponential Conference, running through Thursday, April 25 and freely accessible online. Exponential describes its mission as existing "to accelerate movements" inside individuals, inside churches and inside networks and denominations.