West London Alliance Church

Intentional Imitation

Two weeks ago I preached a sermon from Philippians 3:15-17 which reads as follows:

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

In his commentary on Philippians, Matthew Harmon states that Paul’s command to imitate me and to keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us is an apostolic summons “to be intentional about observing the lives of those who are spiritually mature and seeking to learn from their pattern of life.” At the end of my sermon I mentioned the ways in which I had intentionally observed and sought to learn from mature Christians.

The first example I gave was the apprenticeship I participated in here at West London Alliance Church. In this opportunity I was able to observe Pastor Mike Wilkins in his role as senior pastor. Obviously, this had a huge impact on my life, both in my sanctification as well as in my occupation. The intentional-keeping-eyes-on-a-mature-Christian that was my experience as an apprentice will forever be a pivotal moment in my life.

The second example I gave for this type of discipleship was my participation in a small group. Attending and leading a “life group” has been foundational as a formative tool in my maturing as a Christian. My mind, my heart, and my life have been stretched in a significantly positive way in this environment. I am thankful for the friendships and fellowship that this intentional example-watching ministry generated in my life.

The final intentional observatory that I have been greatly impacted by is a weekly meeting with three other godly Christian men that has been an ongoing blessing in my life for around 10 years. I thought I might give some details of this discipleship experience in the hopes that it might encourage some of you to consider doing something similar.

Who participates? Three of us began this as part of a ministry while we all attended Church in the Oaks in London, ON. The three original participants are still involved. The other two guys are Rich Cherry–an anesthesiologist here in London–and Nathanel Wright–lead pastor at Crossroads Alliance Church in Ingersoll, ON. We quickly added a fourth, Chris Power, who left the group when he joined a police force in another city. He was replaced by Dave DeSmit who, as many of you know, is our Director of Student Ministries at WLA.

How often do you meet? The goal is to meet weekly. Generally, we only meet if three can attend though sometimes we’ll proceed if there are only two of us. I would say that over the course of the ten years we have probably met an average of 3 times per month.

When and where do you meet? We originally met at 3:00 in the afternoon at various coffee shops around London. Currently we meet in the morning, 6:00 or 6:30, at various breakfast restaurants around the city. We usually fellowship for an hour and a half and then get on with the rest of our day.

What do you do? We have a couple of ground rules that we follow closely. First, we have gospel conversations. We steer away from talking about sports, current events, and other “small talk.” We are intentional about talking about gospel-topics; anything from doctrine and theology to our personal growth in godliness to the challenges we face in life. Second, we are less about keeping each other accountable on the bad things we do and more about keeping each other accountable on the good things we should be doing. That is, we aren’t regularly asking the question “In which ways did you sin this week?” If you were eavesdropping on our conversation, however, you would hear questions like “What are you reading these days? Have you guys ever thought about this doctrine that appears in Romans? Did you listen to the sermon Kevin DeYoung delivered at the T4G conference?” We ask about our spiritual disciplines and the ordinary means of grace that the Holy Spirit uses in the lives of believers. It isn’t that we never talk about our failings, but rather we emphasize the importance of godly practices and through our conversation encourage one another to pursue Christ. We have also regularly read books in community; I find this practice very helpful. We read and we talk about what we have read. Pretty simple. To be honest, we are intentional about our friendship and intentional about the center of that friendship: Jesus Christ and him crucified. That's pretty much it.

I strongly encourage Christ-followers to participate in something similar to this. It is not easy. It takes work and it takes commitment. But I think all of us would say that the dividends are massive.

Do you have a couple people that would be interested in regularly joining you for fellowship, discipleship, and friendship? If you do, I think your inner person would benefit significantly.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

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