It’s the best known, most visited, most written about, and most famous work of art in the world. You know the one, right? Picture it in your mind. This is the most famous painting in the history of the world. It’s so famous that you can clearly picture it in your mind, right? Take a moment and picture it right now.
Chances are you are correctly visualizing the “Mona Lisa.” Now let me ask you, Are her eye brows thick or thin? What color are her clothes? What color are her eyes? What’s in the background? Very few people can answer all of these questions. Their inability reveals blurriness around what just a few moments before was thought to be clear.
In our series on Marks of a Disciple Making Culture, we’ve cultivated clarity in a few normally blurry areas: What’s the big vision? Where should the church be aimed? What’s the place of intentionality? And today, we’ll look at the importance of a picture of a disciple.
Just as most people have trouble clearly visualizing the Mona Lisa, most pastors and Christians have a blurry picture of a disciple. It’s a big problem. After all, if you can’t see it, how can you be it? Plus, it’s hard to repeatedly make something that you can’t clearly see or articulate. The absence of a clear picture of a disciple makes the already difficult task of culture building nearly impossible. How is your church doing in this area?
Picture a Disciple
Try this: sit down with your staff team and ask them to write down what a disciple is, does, and believes. If your church culture has a picture of a disciple this question will surface it. If you don’t have one, you’ll get lots of puzzle pieces, but no picture.
When I say picture of a disciple, I don’t mean a definition or even a description. I mean a visual that sticks in the mind. Developing a disciple making culture without one is like doing a puzzle without the picture. The picture helps us know how the pieces fit together into a whole. It’s the next best thing to a living breathing example.
Jesus was a living example of a disciple, but he still offered pictures of a mature disciple to His disciples. Whether it was to be a fisher of men, a tree with good fruit, taking up the cross daily, or being just like the teacher, Jesus not only modeled what it looked like to be a disciple, he painted pictures of it. He wanted the disciples to be very clear on what He was asking them to become.
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Paul understood he was a living example too, but he still tells Timothy to be like a soldier, an athlete, and a soldier (2 Tim. 2:1-3–7). Later he compares the life of a disciple to a house with ignoble and noble articles. After some housekeeping the disciple is useful to the Master for every good work (2 Timothy 2:20–21).
There are plenty of modern examples to look at as well such as, The Navigators’ Wheel Illustration (and where I often start with a disciple), 3DM’s Up/In/Out Triangle, Dann Spader’s Holy Spirit POWER (Prayerful, Obedient, Word-centered, Exalting the Father, and Relational). Each one clearly communicates what the life of a disciple should look like. Each one has the power to shape the focus of a disciple and a community of believers.
Develop Your Picture
If you don’t have one, let me suggest a simple process to help you develop one.
- Spend time with your leaders doing a Bible study and praying for clarity about how Jesus made disciples. This one is very good.
- Ask the group for the top three things a disciple is, does, and believes. As a group identify 6–10 key qualities of Jesus.
- Pray for God to help you identify an image or acronym to hang these on. For most, this takes time and wrestling.
- Take your picture to other leaders in and out of your church and ask them to critique it. Use their input to improve it.
- Come back together to finalize your picture.
- Develop a plan for how to communicate this picture to everyone in the church.
Every disciple making culture I’ve ever seen has a picture of a disciple. It’s one of the major pieces of a culture that’s focused on being and making disciples. Since what we elevate people aspire to, such a picture sets people’s sights on who they are to become…and who they are to make.
It’s okay if your picture is the same as another’s. The important thing is not a brand new picture, but the process of collective clarity with your leaders. A pixelated image of a disciple isn’t enough to motivate people to do the hard work of becoming. They need living, breathing examples of what a disciple looks like. Clarity allows you and your leaders to live it and communicate it with conviction. And that sort of life brings incredible power to transform (Acts 1:8).
By Justin Gravitt