Who’s imitating you?? 9 ways to invite others in

In this series on Vision and Reality: Starting to close the Gap, we have identified that the first challenge of bringing vision and reality closer together is living a life of example. This means a living a life that others around us will look to and want to copy or imitate.

Imitation is a powerful thing. Have you ever been with someone that so imitates Jesus that you want to imitate them?

I have.  It’s powerful.

Some of the lifestyle choices Rich and I have made over the years have been birthed from closely observing and living alongside another couple. I know that this couple aren’t perfect. I know they have some major flaws and weaknesses. But I still see Jesus in them and I still see a lifestyle I want to imitate.

Imitation is at the heart of discipleship.

Many of us have never had anyone in our lives that we can imitate. It’s difficult to disciple others when we don’t feel like we’ve been discipled ourselves. Of course, Christ is the one we ultimately imitate, but when we’ve not had life-on-life discipleship ourselves we can feel ill-equipped to pass it on to the next generation. We have 2 choices here:

1)     Choose to not invest in other because we’ve not had the investment ourselves.

2)     Choose to invest despite the lack of investment because we don’t want to see another generation flapping around in the dark.

Wouldn’t it be great to see a new wave of imitators of Christ who invite others to imitate them?

We do not need to be perfect to invite those to imitate us. We do need to be accountable disciples of Jesus who are willing to open up our lives to others. We do need to be Jesus-followers who are secure enough to release others to go further than us. We do need to open our life up so that others can see the whole picture – the good, the bad and the ugly.

 Here are 9 practical ideas of how we can invite others into our life:

1)     Make clear invitations

Those who you’re inviting to imitate you should know this! They should know that they’re invited closely into your family life, what the vision is, as well as the cost and the prize.

2)     Recycle time

We are not offering on-tap mentoring to those we call to imitate. We’re inviting them into all of our life. If we’re doing the shopping they can come and help us. If we’re taking our kid to their swimming lesson they can sit at the side of the pool with us. If we’re going on a long car journey they can come with us…..get the picture? Great conversations and building relationships happen along the way.

3)     Be vulnerable

This becomes easier as we invite people more closely into our lives. It’s easier to maintain an appearance of strength/faith/joy/love when we hold people at a distance. People will learn a lot from us when we share our weakness, our difficult times, and how we let Jesus into those places.

4)     Structured and Spontaneous

We always have set times where we meet with our extended family but alongside that are spontaneous times. We’re giving people access to our lives not to our meetings.  Give people permission to pop into your home or to join you for a trip to the park. One thing we always say to those we call to imitate is this: “You are welcome to join us at any time. If for any reason it’s not a good time we’ll tell you”. This means that there is always permission to call in for a cuppa and the onus is on us to communicate if we can’t do it.

5)     Don’t compartmentalize

This really links back to the “recycle time” point.  If we compartmentalize our lives into “discipling” and “non-discipling” times we will never give others access to all of our life. With a compartmentalized mentality we are also limited in the amount of time we’re able to give to others because everything needs to be scheduled in as an appointment.

6)     Create family rhythms and invite people in

If we do the same thing at the same time each day it’s easy for others to join in with what we’re doing. We’ve just started doing family prayers Monday-Thursday morning. It’s an easy way for those in our extended family and community to join us.

A few years ago we used to have one lady in our neighbourhood who always came round at family tea-time.

Rhythms are best created around prayer and food.

7)     Have intentional conversations

Use and apply the learning circle in conversations with those we’re discipling.  Make the most out of conversations so that there is every opportunity to grow more like Christ together.

8)     Model Rest

If you’ve got people in your home and you need a half hour rest, excuse yourself from the room and go and rest.  Rest doesn’t need to be something that happens behind closed doors, even for introverts. It’s good to model to people how we rest, and makes living life with others more sustainable. Families rest together. I have been known to “model” power-napping in a room full of people.

9)     Make it fit with the season of life

We will never last the distance if we’re trying to live a life that isn’t compatible with the season of life we’re in. For example, if you’ve got kids what do they need and require? How can inviting others into our lives fit around this? However, we’ve often been surprised at how our kids adapt to the rhythms we set. So it’s important to both consider our kids but also to not over-indulge them when thinking about how life works and the pace that we set.

As we step out in what God has called us to and invite others in, we WILL begin to see our vision birthed, grown and fleshed out in those around us. So, have a think:

Is your life worth imitating at the moment?

Who’s imitating you?

How are you inviting them into your life?

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9 replies »

  1. I find this hard. People understand meetings but they don’t seem to understand the getting involved in my family life. They are either too busy in their own lives or don’t want to intrude in mine. Obviously my door is open and I am working on building fellowship within the church but whether it is cultural or a problem with our individualistic society I find this level of imitation difficult. I just wondered whether others thought this great but difficult to achieve? I managed it with one person who is now a great friend and about to lead her first posse with another disciple. To come alongside her the three of us came together and did a charity walking marathon. I love the idea of this but think we need to come up with other opportunities because this is to enough for all contexts. The Moonwalk experience really helped bonding and bringing families together but I don’t see us “living in each other’s pockets”. Or is this easier to do in the city? Just curious.

    • Thanks, really good & honest comments. There are a few things I would say in response.

      Firstly that it is not an easy or quick process we are talking about. I would absolutely agree with your assessment that this ‘is great but difficult to achieve’. Putting another few meetings in the diary is quick and measurable in the short term (so we feel better that we are ‘doing’ something) but doesn’t deepen or build relationships into the medium term and therefore produce the fruit of discipleship we desire. My suggestion would be to start with one, two or three people or couples. Start small and sustainable and see what develops with these people. In the same way we talked about looking for the pioneers in an early post it is that same process. Who are the one or two that are open? Start there and begin to move towards the integrated lifestyle that you would desire.

      It sounds like you have seen this in practice so I hope this encourages you. As you look at ideas for overlap or connection with others, look for the natural places of overlap or interest – this makes the relational connections far more natural, deep and sustainable (rather than specific events to gain the connection). These can be as simple as food, walks, parks (if you have small children!), local/national events (olympics etc) – things that you love or would do anyway and then invite others into this.

      I think there are challenges in both the rural and urban environments – I think it comes down to people deciding they want to live & lead this way and working with (and within) the circumstances that they find themselves.
      The reality is that what we are talking about is counter-cultural – both outside and inside the church. But it is the call to something more – some people will respond with an open heart and come closer but others will not understand or respond. Work with those that respond and pray for those that don’t.

      As I said this is a process. Would love to hear your thoughts in response to this – and the thoughts of others?

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