My wife, Peggy, had an opportunity, through her employer, to join fitness club for 6 weeks and I also could join, so we did. There was an introductory class in which we were given an overview of the 6 weeks and several of the staff members introduced themselves. They were all obviously in good physical condition and they were enthusiastic and committed to our being able to complete the 6 weeks. We were given a pocket journal to record what we ate and drank during this time and were given a list of recommendations as to what to eat. They specifically instructed us to avoid “SAS” — that is sugar, alcohol and all soft-drinks. We were assigned a personal trainer and given a card with the trainer’s work phone and personal phone numbers and were encouraged to ask for assistance any time we had a question. After submitting to a personal evaluation, our weight, range of motion and other relevant measurements were recorded. We were e-mailed during the week with reminders and tips and encouragement to stick it out. The trainers were examples of a healthy lifestyle. We were told if our personal instructor was not at the gym we could ask any personal trainer for assistance. I did that and had no trouble getting the information I needed to perform the exercise correctly on the equipment that I was working. Every time I went to the gym I was greeted with a friendly “hello”…often by my first name. After the third week I had a mid-term evaluation. They measured my weight and retested the skills that were tested on the first evaluation at the start of the program. I also showed my trainer a diary of what I had eaten during this period. I was pleased to see progress. He then asked what my biggest problem was in following the diet. I shared with him that my biggest problem was that I ate too much!
In all of this I saw many parallels with discipleship. First was the example of the trainers. They lived what they preached, it was obvious they were in good physical shape. It was very common to see the various trainers working on the equipment during their days off and other off times as well. The trainers exhibited an ability to work together for our benefit. They taught specific classes in which they had expertise. Their mission was to work with the clients and to bring them along by teaching and encouraging and with follow- up. We had classes on stretching, weight training, balance, cardio training etc. once a week — it was a well balanced approach. We were given information on proper dieting. The instructors would correct or assist us when we were not doing the exercise as it should be done. If for some reason a person could not perform a specific motion due to an injury, a prior surgery, etc., a way was provided for the person to continue, as best as possible, without making him feel inadequate.
Discipleship is a skill that we would do well to develop. The Lord commanded us to make disciples in the great commission (Mt 28:19-20). He did not say “make converts”. When we seek to make disciples we are offering a sacrifice of time and effort by developing a relationship with the one who is being discipled. We are to be encouragers and should know and live the subject matter, much like those personal trainers. Also the personal trainers were personal, they were not just teaching a class. I have heard it said that: “A message prepared in the mind reaches another mind. A message prepared in the life reaches another life.” These personal trainers had a message and they lived it! They labored to transfer their message of good health to others. That was quite a feat. Perhaps the level of intensity was not fully transferred, I know that I did not do all that my personal trainer did. Does that discourage me? Not really. My habits have improved. I am motivated to head in a better direction. I did join a gym that I could afford. I am equipped with knowledge. I know what I need. I know where to look. I have been given some tools that I can use to move in the right direction. I am growing.
That is what a discipler does. He comes alongside and shares his life by example and assistance!