For you, which has more power: words or example? We have all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. An example is a living picture. It is worth even more. Words and example go together, but they are weakened when they contradict one another.
Consider this question. To which have you paid more attention: Jesus’ words or His example? We know they both are important, but too often we have not focused on what His actions teach us. We can better understand what He is teaching if we also pay attention to His actions.
Allow me to illustrate. Why did Jesus spend 3 years with 12 disciples? Yes, it was His method for preparing them to go make disciples of all nations. But why 12? In Mark 6:7, why did Jesus send the disciples out in pairs? Why did Jesus drive out the moneychangers from the temple courts? Was His example pointing out that He was the sacrificial Lamb that was needed? His actions were not accidents. His example was intentional. And we should pay attention to His example.
Your Words and Example
Yes, Jesus’ words are important, and so are His actions. In the same way, your example as a disciple-maker has influence on your disciples. They notice what you do. They assign value to your words as they observe your actions.
For instance, if you tell them to pray but never talk about your prayer life, your disciples may assume you don’t believe what you say. If you tell them to journal, but you keep referring to what you wrote in your journal 10 years ago, they may believe journaling is simply an exercise for now that can be abandoned. Do you see what I mean? Your example matters.
Review your words and your actions related to your disciples. Intentionally use your example to teach your disciples. Share experiences when you can. Walk with your disciples through exercises, experiences, and life. Jesus did.
Be careful when sharing stories of your own example. Your motivation for sharing should be for teaching and example rather than because of pride. It is often wise to be transparent by sharing some of your struggles and failures as well. If you appear to be perfect, your disciples may give up trying.
Finally, encourage your disciples to take stock of their own words and example. Ask them to review each part of their lives: marriage, parenting, work, church, marketplace, etc. Ask your disciples to share that review. You will learn much, especially if what they share is honest. Thank and encourage them. Follow up in areas which may be appropriate from time to time. That says you care. In all you say and do, be a disciple and make disciples!