One would never suspect that watching a person refill the copy machine with paper could completely change so many things.
To this day, I vividly remember sitting in the church workroom and watching as a senior leader opened a new ream of copy paper. This person placed it in the machine and then took the time to figure out the correct print settings simply because the task needed to be done.
Every staff member in the workroom watched in amazement with their eyes locked on this leader’s actions. We were caught up in this moment because this was not a task we were used to witnessing those in higher leadership perform — and with a smile. While this particular leader was relatable, likeable and someone I personally admired before this occurred, I was now intrigued as to why would he do that, when so many others didn’t? Why did he complete a task that others viewed as an assistant’s responsibility?
I had to find out, as this occurrence was just too different. So, I went and asked. His answer was filled with humility and a personal challenge to me, “Filling the copy machine with more paper is an opportunity to serve the staff and be helpful to them as they carry out the many tasks on their to-do list.”
Did he really just say that? He’s a senior leader and his view of refilling the copy machine is about serving others? I spent the next few days constantly replaying his actions in my mind and thinking through his words. I came to the conclusion that this unsuspecting small moment largely changed me as a disciple.
I realized that seemingly small actions speak a profoundly larger message when it comes to discipleship. The small actions we make, and the words we say in everyday conversations become the foundation of the bigger picture. There are small verbal and non-verbal messages that we communicate on a consistent basis to those around us, and these are what I consider discipleship on a micro-level, or micro-discipleship.
A micro-discipleship teaching is not one that is specifically taught in a class or a Sunday morning sermon, but rather they are moments that show others what a disciple is in word and deed. These are times where others are observing and listening to see how we live out being a Christian and a leader in God’s kingdom. It’s when someone around us is looking to us to figure out what a disciple sounds and acts like. Making disciples in an ongoing, never ceasing work, and we are accountable to disciple others on the micro- and macro-level.
For us to make disciples, we must be a disciple that observes the words and actions of Jesus to see how we are to live. Scripture allows us to examine Jesus on the micro- and macro-level as we sift and evaluate each word, moment and movement that Jesus made. His teachings, actions and heart set the precedent for our lives, and we emulate him so that the world will know him and so that his followers will know his ways.
Mark 10:13-16 gives a perfect example of micro-discipleship. In this Scripture passage, the disciples watched and listened to Jesus in what seemed as though a meaningless occurrence at the time. But this situation was packed full of significance. We know this small moment largely shaped their discipleship because it was included in three of the four Gospels.
We all have times where someone’s seemingly small actions or words greatly shape us as a disciple. We also have times where our actions or words greatly shape someone else’s discipleship. The question we should continually ask ourselves is: are our actions and words creating disciples of the gospel? Or of the world?
The leader that changed the copy paper changed my perspective. This person reflected Jesus in word and deed, and I wanted to copy his actions. As a Christ follower, my heart saw things differently in one small moment, and I realized the larger impact of refilling even the copy paper for my brothers and sisters. As disciple-makers, we are called to be mindful of those around us who are looking to us to figure out what a disciple sounds like and acts like. What are we teaching those who look at our actions and words?
Micro-discipleship is all about living for Christ in the smaller of moments in life, while remembering the bigger call at hand.
Stay tuned for Part 2 about macro-discipleship.
Rev. Amber Kunkel is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church and serves as conference director for the Wesleyan Holiness Women’s Clergy Conference. She has led, served and worked in various ministry roles over the last two decades at multicampus churches and other nonprofit organizations.