There's a teaching illustration that I have found to be extremely useful for encouraging disciple-making to take place in the church. I learned it from Murphy Crowson who explained it in an email this way.
"Emphasize that they HAVE TO PASS THIS ON! This is not a leadership training school where they will get a paper diploma. Their graduation certificate will be those who they've discipled who are discipling others! They must have an outward focus on this material and an "I'm learning to teach others" attitude from day one. I use the visual illustration with my leaders of a glass and a funnel. Some leaders/churches/Christians are like a glass, always receiving and never giving. When the glass is full, God can't pour anymore wisdom/blessings/etc. in. A funnel however constantly receives and gives. Always receiving more and always passing it right along."
Murphy shared this insight about the difference between a funnel and a cup to me back in 2007 and I have used this illustration more than any other to describe the process of disciple-making with my Mozambican friends.
But a couple weeks ago, a church member offered a new insight that deepened the imagery of the funnel and the cup for me and the rest of the group.
I had taken a basic, plastic water bottle to the church cluster meeting and cut it in half in front of the students. The bottom half was shaped like a cup and the top half had the form of a funnel. I talked (once again!) about the need for each of us to be like a funnel. And this time I took advantage of the fact that this water-bottle-funnel had a lid on it. We talked about how sometimes we may want to share what we've learned with potential disciples, but until we remove the lid, we will be unable to effectively share. The word for lid in Portuguese is "tampa" and the Makua-Metto version of that is "itampa." So, I emphasized how changing our practices could help us remove the lid from a strategic point of view and help us become the funnels we were created to be.
Then one of the church leaders made an important insight. He noted that sometimes our best intentions and even our best practices for being funnels will be limited by our own sin and lack of integrity in our witness. Interestingly, the word for sin in Makua-Metto is "itaampi." It is not just that the lid that limits us (itampa), but sin (itaampi) also keeps us from fulfilling our calling. The group all laughed at the truth found in this play on words (okay, so maybe I found the pun more interesting than the others did :) ).
The task that Jesus commissioned us for is to make disciples (Matt. 28). But we will only be able to do that well when we have been liberated from a life of sin (itaampi) and when we've removed the lid (itampa) that keeps us from opening ourselves strategically to minister and pass on the gift of living water to others.
So, Murphy, thanks for being a funnel so long ago and passing on what you learned. That illustration is still blessing people and bearing new insights and fruit even over here.
May we be a people who let neither itampa or itaampi get in the way of making disciples of Jesus.
Grace and Peace,