We live what we think and feel – a discipleship key

Everything we do in church happens in a context.

Many of us agonise over the struggles in discipleship; but we ask the Q often in only programmatic terms and almost always remain superficial in our cultural analysis. We talk about busyness, distraction, short attention spans, break down of morals… all of which are valid to the discussion; but we need to talk further and deeper.

In Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, he highlights that modern society is a result of an important departure in human history: man turned towards himself for answers. We began to trust more and more in our technology and abilities. Today we may be a tad cynical of science to save us, but it seems we have found a substitute: Passion. Yes, the hopes of the world today lie in passionate people who will re-invent,  re-imagine, re-align us all !

So our discipleship and Gospel is veering towards Passion; which we think is the same as highly emotional, expressive and maybe some anti-establishment thrown in.  Passion is a little understood dynamic indeed.

Some of us are afraid of all these seemingly wild and potentially out-of-control scenarios and continue to hunker down on the good old days….

Psychology 101 has a useful way to help us here. We are all CABs, taxi-ing around as our Cognition (thoughts), Affection (feelings) shape our Behaviour ! This means what you see has deeper roots in thought or feelings.

Discipleship, the Bible tells us is a process of transformational growth in maturity. From futility of thought, we are made spiritually alive to engage in a life-long journey of having our thoughts renewed, proving the mind of Christ. {see Romans 1v21 which gets inverted in Romans 12v1-2!, then 1 Cor 2v16- wow!}

From wild, unruly emotions that hijack us, we are formed through habits of gratitude and worship to be more stable and generous hearted. {join me over at http://jennihh.blogspot.sg/ for a Psalm trek ~ a journey of honesty, worship and relief}

If this is what the Bible describes it takes, then our discipleship plans and strategies must address thought and feeling as the root.

When we scan the church horizon, we see that the different spiritual traditions and streams have strengths in different aspects of discipleship. The prayer for healing, the divine encounter, the receiving of gifts, the disciplines of spiritual formation are all wonderful resources we need to use over time to help each other mature.

Alas, the milestones of many churches in discipleship continue to stay at the level of behaviour: tithing, serving, joining… which at heart is both a call to conformity and a way to manage people.

Indeed if we think hard about it, effective discipleship requires shepherding, servant-leadership, mentoring – all relational deep, sacrificial processes we often don’t want to give the time to. Greg Ogden stumbled upon the power of such an approach when he used small groups of three to test a thesis he was working on. Three people committed to help each other grow – which calls for accountability, giving, honesty, peer mentoring – turned out to be a powerful discipleship structure. He writes about it in Transforming Discipleship.

We need seminars, conferences and great sermons to inform and inspire.

We need the safety of a small group who want to journey together to go deep.

We need the quiet of being alone with God to heal deep from our roots.

We sometimes need the prayer support and intervention of gifted persons to break free from bondage.

May we as leaders find a way to slowly, patiently build an architecture of discipleship through engaging minds and winning hearts with the glorious Truth of the Gospel, the gracious mercy of God, and the gifts of the Spirit.


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