the weblog of Alan Knox

You know how we lived among you…

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in blog links, discipleship | 5 comments

You know how we lived among you…

Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate Paul’s two letters to the believers in Thessalonica: 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. Why? Because even though Paul was only in Thessalonica for a few weeks (perhaps only 2-3 weeks), in those letters he was able to point them back to the way he and those with him lived among them as an example for them to emulate.

In fact, the title of this post comes from the NIV translation of the end of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 – “You know how we lived among you for your sake.” The ESV translates it like this: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” [A literal translation would be something like this: “You know what manner [of men/people] we were among you for you.”

In other words, Paul is pointing the readers of his letter (in Thessalonica) back to the example that he and others set while they lived among them. A real, living example was very important for Paul and others in the New Testament.

I thought about this passage (and the importance of example) recently when I read a post by Christopher at “Life With Da Man CD” called “Take For Example…” (By the way, please take the time to read Christopher’s whole post. It’s well worth it, and I can’t do it justice in this short post.)

At one point, when thinking about Bible studies that he’s been part of, Christopher wrote this:

It reminded me of some Bible class experiences I had a long time ago. The nature of the studies required answering questions from a booklet covering 13 weeks of lessons on a given topic.

Some of the questions asked in the week’s lesson would nudge towards the students giving answers based on personal experiences. What would tend to happen at that point, is that people would give generic answers. Nothing specific, mostly seeking to insert some scriptures to reinforce familiar concepts. Little, if anything in the way of real life experiences.

Have you noticed this also? Is there a lack of teaching by example among the church today? If so, why do you think that is?

Can you think of time when someone taught you something about God (a spiritual lesson, I guess) by example? Have you ever learned something by observing someone’s life?


5 Comments

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  1. 5-1-2013

    I learned the importance of modeling when I was a new parent many years ago. As I began to interact with my daughter, I found myself asking the question, “What did my father do?” It wasn’t so much what he said about things but how he lived and interacted with us.

    As you point out Paul and also Jesus lived among people and specifically told folks to emulate what they had seen. Very few of us actually learn by reading and applying knowledge. Mostly its by what we see and experience.

    Too (all) many churches rely on ‘book learning’ and lecture. I can’t currently think of ANY church leaders in my experience who were open enough to live among their people intentionally as models. I also don’t think it’s particularly possible in the context of large (over 20-50 persons) assemblies. (in a general sense, perhaps but not effectively)

    Elder/shepherds might be able to do this amongst sub-groups but I have never seen/heard/experienced a church where elders were either chosen by this standard nor visible enough to folks to do this…

  2. 5-1-2013

    A friend of mine and I frequently meet at a local diner for coffee and pie to just talk about stuff… while at that diner, my friend frequently demonstrates to me an incarnational mission as he builds relationships with the wait staff and, eventually, enters into their lives to bring hope and joy and help. Two examples come to mind:

    1) A high school senior, unsure of her future, worried about where she is going to go next… and my friend speaking words of comfort and even asking to pray for her in the middle of the diner (she accepted and it was a beautiful moment). Was she a “Christian”? Who cares… we ministered.

    2) A single mom, living at home with her parents, mother of a 2 year old kid, trying to juggle making enough money to make ends meet and being a good mother for her son and not being a burden to her parents, etc…. and my friend offered his home to her and the freedom of a babysitter in his wife.

    That good enough for real life experience examples? ;-)

  3. 5-1-2013

    Thanks for the link back to my post, Alan. As ever it’s a privilege to be so recognised by your good self.

    It’s interesting that Paul is able to draw from an example presented to people in such a short space of time. I reckon part of the reason for any failings today is because in certain cases our idea of leadership does not have anything to do with that level of transparency of your life.

    That’s why it’s so encouraging to read what Robert shares and reveals how simple this real life experience example is. It’s not meant to be in addition to how you live, it’s meant to be embedded in how you live.

    As Kathleen said in her post today as part of the chain blog on relational unity (plug, plug) it’s about being purposeful and intentional in this even in home life. Yet Heartspeak is spot on when he says that his has to be futher poured out from home life into our relationships.

    That way, I firmly believe, and have witnessed, that we gather quite a number of real life experiences that enrich conversation about how this life in Christ works. We become living epistles this way. Also in line with sentiments of both Heartspeak and what Kathleen is all about over at Church in a Circle (plug plug), it moves us as a community of believers towards more intentional mutual edification, rather than a focus on monologue.

  4. 5-1-2013

    Thanks for the “examples” everyone. I can look back and see a few people who partially shared their lives with me. Of course, we had a different idea of what it meant to disciple and to lead. Today, God has placed me among a group of believers who have opened up to each other much more, and I’m constantly learning from the examples of other people.

    -Alan

  5. 5-3-2013

    The last couple of years I have seen God disciple us and teach us through each other’s sharing of life & real life application of His truth and guidance on a daily basis. and I’m so thankful for it!!!

    The rest of my life looking back, I think it was mostly books & sermons that I learned from except for my grandma, who was the only real leader, mentor I’ve had that did it right. Amazingly enough, I can’t even really remember one specific thing she ever said to me to teach me. It was much more powerful & impactful than a passing of information.