You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7
How does God makes a disciple? Teaching is important. There are propositional truths a Christian needs to learn. Liturgy is important, too. James K. A. Smith describes liturgy as those actions that train the heart what to desire. Importantly, word and sacrament have both a human dimension and a divine dimension. They are among the means of grace through which God has promised to act.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7, Paul shows us one more dimension of disciple making: imitation. As I wrote in this site’s invitation:
Being a Christian is not a solitary endeavor. To a large degree, you will learn how to be a Christian by being around other faithful Christians.
Learning through imitation affects every part of a Christian’s life, including how we engage the scriptures, how we conceptualize the faith and how we worship the living and true God. Moreover, the truth we believe in our heads and cherish in our hearts spills out into all our relationships, the koinonia we have with other Christians together with the actions and attitudes we take toward our neighbors.
Both consciously and unconsciously, we learn how to live as Christians by absorbing how the faithful people around us live their lives. And, in turn, we become models for others who choose to walk in the way of Christ.
One cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ apart from the church.