Discipleship Shouldn’t Make us Like Christ?

I read a tweet recently that said, “The imitation of Christ is the core of discipleship and goal of disciple-making.” I’m not sure I disagree with the sentiment of this statement as a goal of a Christian. Christian implies the nature of Christ, right? It means that we should be little Christs.

For discipleship though, this reminds me of the WWJD movement. I don’t think Jesus asked himself, “What would Jesus do?” In fact, the precedent for Jesus work is actually fairly explicit in John 5. Jesus says that the Father (God) is always at work, and the son joins him in that work. According to that statement, Jesus should wear a WITFD bracelet that says, “What is the Father doing?”

My question in this rises from the goal of discipleship. Is discipleship spiritual formation where the goal is to make people like Christ? Or is the goal of discipleship to reveal the particular characteristics and qualities that a person is created with?

My perspective has shifted more and more into the latter question. I am seeing my role as leader and mentor become more about finding a person’s unique gifting. It dives into created identity to find how our particular talents point to God’s purpose.

What do you think? Should our goal in discipleship be formation or revelation?

Art and Discipleship

There is a unique connection between art and creation. The work of art amazes, but it also points to the artist more than the art. Look at Water Lilies and you see a work of art. Look deeper at each brush stroke and choice of color and you see the artist. Art highlights the artist more than the actual piece itself.

Discipleship mirrors art in the same way. When God the artist created us, he did so with a deliberate plan. He carefully thought through each detail that would become an essential part of us. Nothing went unnoticed in his eye. The job of discipleship isn’t for a leader to leave his mark on a disciple. Instead, the work of discipleship reveals God’s work in creating that person.

In this way, spiritual formation gets it wrong. Our created identity is more revealed than it is formed.

Much like a sculptor, a person discipling another knocks away all of the pieces that obscure the work of art underneath. It might be insecurity, shame or self-condemnation that obscures someone from seeing the work of art that they are. Maybe it’s arrogance or avoidance that keeps a person from living as God’s glory. What ever the case, the leader sets his goal in discipleship to reveal the truth underneath all of that.

Then discipleship becomes art.

What’s Your Story? Pt. 2

Last week I talked about how Donald Miller visited our group. It was an amazing time for our group. This week, I expanded on each of one of the points from last week’s discussion: purpose. Specifically, we talked about how we can find our purpose. Here’s what happened.

After reviewing last week’s discussion, we began thinking through the many ways we might be able to find out our own purpose. In the group we wanted to have a test for what would work and what wouldn’t. For something to reveal our purpose it would have to be

  • true
  • specific
  • intrinsic (to the person)
  • obvious after speculation
  • and draw that person into a closer relationship with the Lord.

Almost everything that was brought up failed our test. The Bible is true, but it isn’t very specific to an individual. Prayer, while being a great practice, doesn’t always lead to truth being revealed. It also depends on the ability of the person to hear, so it may or may not be true according to the hearer. Creeds like the Westminster Catechism are great summaries of the truths of the Bible, but fail in being specific as well. They also mostly point to extrinsic details in a person’s life rather than those things already inside them.

So after a long discussion, we concluded that there was no absolute proven way of knowing your purpose. We then talked about how using many of these tools together would be the best scenario. Enter discipleship 101.

Discipleship uses all of these tools, the Bible, prayer, intrinsic value that becomes obvious in a way that draws people closer to God. How that works is still being developed, but I will hopefully have some big help coming soon for those who are interested.

Friday Filter 03.25.11



  • Fathered by God – John Eldredge – I really don’t have to say much more. It’s John Eldredge. If you have a father wound, or don’t know that you do, read this.
  • Poke the Box – Seth Godin – This manifesto on scarcity is a must read for people who are literate.

Either Both Or And

My agent has told me more than once that I can be a bit esoteric. There, you have been warned.

I have been recently convicted about a particular bent I have. The same agent who described me as esoteric also identified my arrogance. I own that arrogance, but I don’t let it define me. As someone truly empathic, I understand people on a deep level. It is a gift and a curse. It’s a gift when I can understand another and help them through a tough spot. It’s a curse when I pile on my own judgement of them and eisegete their situation.

Enter the Father of Existentialism.

I have always been a fan of Kierkegaard. His works have been a balm for my particular “bent” because he seems to have suffered similarly. He wrote a brilliant book called Either/Or. In this book, he stresses the need in life to choose. That is, he proposes that we live only when we make distinctions and act on them.

Then came the idea of “Both/And.” In an “Either/Or” life, creativity and fullness come from distinctions. In the “Both/And” life, it comes from seeing what is there (yes I’m an empath), understanding how it works and making it work in your bit of the universe. This approach challenges me. My very important distinctions only matter in this world when I integrate those distinctions in my life.

What does this mean? It means that instead of making distinctions that separate, I choose to find those that include those differences. I think this is the key to how Jesus did discipleship.

When Jesus discipled others, he saw many of the differences and challenges they faced. It didn’t separate him from a person, it moved him to compassion. In this way, Jesus made a connection with people others thought hopeless. Jesus was an expert at making connections.

When I disciple someone, I want to connect with them deeply. I want to be able to see them for who they are. If I let this empathy call out distinctions in my life and eisegete my story into theirs, I will always fail. When I can empathize with them and be moved to compassion, God will win.

Sports, Madness and the Kingdom

Several people have blogged about March Madness or asked me personally about which team or bracket I was pulling for. So I thought I would get some of my thoughts out in public view.

To start, I am not completely against sports or even watching sports, and I am not against playing sports. Sometimes I am a bit competitive.

Having said that, I think sports are one of the most anti-kingdom creations of man. This started with the idea of thousands of people screaming themselves hoarse on Saturday because the care so much about their favorite team. Sunday roles around, and they feel amazing if they can get up and make it to church, but when they arrive, they are marginally  as enthusiastic about worship. Something looks like an idol when that happens to me.

Performance and Grace
In sports, winning counts more than anything. Occasionally  you might hear of someone who focuses on how you play the game, but the majority of hype revolves around the winners. In fact, coaches use every form of manipulation they can to produce winners. They nag, badger, shame, guilt, equivocate, verbally abuse, punish and use any other form of lever they can to get the best performance possible out of their athletes. When we win, they offer us praise. When we lose, they shame and then remove all attention. Then they leaves us alone in our imposed condemnation.

Grace focuses on inclusion because it’s based on freedom and gift giving. It always invites us into relationships that are redeeming and restoring. It cares more about the person than what they do. Practicing grace involves us in our grief and brings fellowship where there was condemnation.

Competitive Divisiveness and Unity
Being competitive only separates winners from losers. This competition gives a false sense of value. When you win, you feel like a winner. You feel better than everyone else. At least until the next competition. Then it’s time to ramp up and perform again. Anxiety sets in. What if we can’t beat the competition? What if we lose this sense of being better? This is self-condemnation at it’s best. It bases self-worth on performance.

Grace treats everyone as equals. It thrives in celebrating distinctions but dies in feelings of separation due to superiority. With grace, we know our need. We live in the tension of being needy and being completely accepted in our needs. We live in the freedom of having to perform.

Imposed Identity over Revealed Identity
The thing that bugs me the most about sport is the way people say, “We won!” Really, I didn’t see you out there on the field. People, for whatever reason, identify with a team and the team becomes their identity. This identity is false though, because it comes from outside of a person. The ease in which we celebrate others is corrupted by our own need to own what is good about something else. It’s a false sense of who we are.

Grace reveals identity by allowing us to accept ourselves for who we are. We see the good and the bad. This true self becomes our focus instead of the performance of something outside of us.

All of this is probably a buzz kill for many sports fans. Don’t let it be. If you enjoy sports, please don’t let this blog change that. However, if any of this made sense, please do search yourself for what grace gives you.

Donald Miller Helped Me Disciple Youth Last Night

I have been working on a teaching moment for a couple of weeks now. It revolves around a play on the words James the Apostle is probably known best for. His “faith without works is dead” is probably one of the most quoted lines in discipleship. I believe that, but I have a phrase of my own that is similar.

Knowledge without purpose is dead.

One of the issues I have with the western church is that they teach so much but expect so little. We really have one of the most educated generations alive. And yet, there is little difference in the lives of believers compared to those who have no faith. If what James says is true, we have a lot of believers, but not a lot of practitioners of faith.

So I have this idea about knowledge informs purpose and how purpose guides our actions. It has percolated in my head now for years but recently come back into my thoughts. Enter Donald Miller. I read his blog pretty regularly. He wrote something so simple. It wasn’t event he point of the post, but it had a profound impact on my thinking and gave me a context for teaching this though.

His words:

The elements of a meaningful story are the same as the elements of a meaningful life:

1. A character.

2. That knows what they want.

3. And is willing to overcome conflict.

4. To get it.”

So last night, I opened our discussion with the question of “What’s your story?” After a few questions about what I meant, we got down to business. Each person had a chance to think and talk about their character (who they are), their purpose, and what they were willing to do to get it. WOW! I hadn’t imagined that it would have such an impact.

I also read James’ passage about faith and ended with Philippians 2:13 (it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose). I think some big decisions were made last night.

Being Decisive, Love Wins and Discipleship

Wow, friend Jeff Goins sent me a video interview of Rob Bell for his new book Love Wins. It is the closest I have seen anyone corner Rob Bell. Watch it for yourself.

There has been a lot of talk about Bell and his new book. Much of it centers around his video and how it seems universalist. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t chime in, but that’s not the point here. What disturbs me is how Bell seems to deliberately obscure what he says. He says that love eventually wins and also that what we do now is important in the case of salvation. Waving off how those two ideas coexist, he claims paradox. If it’s just paradox, like he says, then why write about it?

Granted, the interviewer has an agenda and super-imposes ideas onto Bell. Where Bell says love wins, the interviewer says God wins. I have never heard Bell actually say that. The interviewer accuses Bell of softening the gospel into a more palatable idea. He also asks if it’s relevant what we do in this life repeatedly, even after Bell answers with an affirmative. Even so, Bell still doesn’t make himself clear.

I have been accused of being esoteric and vague at times myself. When faced with a direct question though, I tend to be as explicit as I can. It’s important for me to speak plainly if I can so that I am not misunderstood. Bell doesn’t seem to have that problem.

In discipleship, we speak into people’s lives. Some things are paradoxical and are therefore hard to wrap our minds around. If we can’t make a decision about an idea and clearly communicate it, we should be silent. It isn’t fair to guide someone in their faith, raise a bunch of questions they haven’t thought of and then be obscure in our reasoning to answer those questions. That’s just cruel and irresponsible.

I don’t know what is going on with Rob Bell or his book. He says there are questions he hears as a pastor that led to writing this book. Maybe he has people around him asking these questions. Maybe he explains more in his book and doesn’t want to give anything away in an interview. For whatever reason, I take more issue with what seems careless pastoral awareness than theological expression.

Resurrecting Moments

I was channel surfing the other night and somehow landed on the movie Tin Cup. This movie stars Kevin Costner and tells the story of a driving range golfer who struggles with self-control. He always goes for the impossible shots and ends up paying for the lack of wisdom. One line has stuck with me after the ten minutes I watched (yeah, I couldn’t stay there and watch).

“It’s a defining moment. In a defining moment, you define the moment or the moment defines you.”

I wonder at the truth of that statement. Can we ever define a moment for ourselves? Certainly others try to define us in those moments. For a follower of Christ, I think he defines us in our “moments.” I wonder about all the moments that pass us by that unrealized as defining. If what Jesus says about God the Father is true, that he is always at work, shouldn’t our lives be full of these moments?

In discipleship, we work to realize as many of these moments as possible. Discipleship helps a person realize these moments and points to God’s work in their life. But it shouldn’t end there. We need to resurrect these moments to be relived in our lives. Our memory of those moments convince us that our faith in God exists. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for and these moments point to our hope – a life of God defining us through carefully planned moments.

Do you remember a moment?

Practicing a life of being, not doing

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