Many churches struggle with discipleship. Church leaders want church members to grow spiritually and be evangelistic, but the old model of providing classes or trainings gives people a lot of information without the knowledge of how to apply. The problem is one of learning and application.
In Mike Breen's and 3DM's excellent book on building a discipling culture, they discuss how we learn. We learn through a triangular relationship of information, imitation, and innovation. This triangle is demonstrated in the mission of Jesus as seen in the Gospel of Matthew. First, Jesus provided information to his disciples. Second, he instructed them to imitate what they saw in and learned from him. Third, he set them loose to go on mission within a general framework that they could innovate within.
In the beginning of the gospel (4:18-22), Jesus called his disciples. He invited them into a relationship with him by calling them to follow him. He challenged them with a mission: "I will make you fishers of men." The disciples accepted this invitation and challenge by following, and they showed evidence of growth by what they left behind (family and work).
To these followers (disciples), Jesus provided information. He taught, he proclaimed the kingdom, he healed, drove out demons, restored sight, cleansed lepers, and even raised the dead. The disciples learned from Jesus as they observed what he did and taught.
Later, in the "limited commission" (Matthew 10), Jesus told his disciples to imitate him. He provided specific instructions about this imitation by limiting the commission (the disciples were to go only among the Israelites, though Jesus interacted with Samaritans and even Gentiles) and by instructing the disciples to do exactly what they had seen and heard in him: "proclaim [the kingdom], heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (10:7-8). The disciples were to come back and report what they had seen and done and learned.
Finally, he set them loose at the end of the gospel, after his resurrection, in the "great commission" (Matthew 28:16-20). Here, only a general framework was given but the mission was expanded to all. They were to teach all nations to obey everything Jesus taught. The disciples were free to innovate, based on information received and imitation done, as they took the mission and message to all nations.
The idea of information, imitation, and innovation, as seen in Jesus' example, gives us a reproducible model for discipleship in our own churches. By using simple, reproducible models like Life Transfomation Groups, Discovery Bible Studies, or even 3DM's huddles, we can inform disciples, encouraging them to imitate even ourselves as we imitate Jesus. Through learning and imitating, they will become empowered to innovate and take the mission of Jesus to others in new ways.