Distinctives of Christian Training – Discipleship Series Part 3

26 01 2008

We’ve defined discipleship and unearthed training methods but what elements must be a part of Christian discipleship? Below is a list of seven that have been important for us as we’ve initiated processes intended for transformation from our old life into the life of Christ.

Strict Training – What little Christian training does exist it seems to have a level of intensity somewhere between Kindermusic and the Brownies. Perhaps this is why we would rather endlessly pontificate abstract general truths from the pulpit rather than get up in each other’s “bidness”. After all, isn’t hurting someone’s feelings a sin? (God save us from this lie).

Here’s a little explored passage these days. 1 Cor. 9:25olympiad.jpgEveryone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Notice that when Paul says “they go into strict training…but we” But we what? We go into strict training to get a crown that will last forever. We do? Do you remember the date you went into strict training? Further. Paul compares our training to Olympic training. Here is one of those cultural illustrations that actually still works for our culture but to no avail. We all know how Olympic trainers train but we have an Olympians skill at avoiding these kinds of uncomfortable Scriptures. Oh well, it’s only the Bible. And this was a long time ago. Maybe the people of Paul’s day needed strict training but today our transformed lives are so evident that all we have left to do is come together for 1 hour a week to celebrate the achievement of our unsurpassed maturity in Christ. Paul would be so proud (when the Christian activity of almost all mediocre Christians is “weekly celebrations” what exactly are they celebrating anyway?).

Faith-building – One big difference between training someone to master a skill (like playing the piano) and discipling someone in Christ-likeness is a shift from focusing first on behavior to faith. Jesus knew better than anyone that behavior naturally follows faith and the best way to transform behavior is to build the disciple’s faith. Our aim in discipleship is to tear down false beliefs that naturally lead to godless action and to carefully construct a new set of beliefs strong enough for the weight of real life.

Let me illustrate this process. In Genesis 1 we learn that men and women are created in the image of God (The Imago Dei) which is the foundation of our worth and that every human being. It’s a nice idea but I’ve never met a Christian that believes it. On a scale of 1-10 the may, if they are lucky, believe in the Imago Dei at a 1 but they believe in the culture’s definition of human worth (performance, appearance, and self-esteem based) at a 8 or 9. So almost all Christians think of themselves and treat others just like the culture because we believe the same as they do. If you teach them about the Imago Dei they will say to themselves “Come on, I’ve heard this before. I already know this.” And they are right, but they don’t believe it.

You see, the instant their faith in the Imago Dei grows (to say a 6) and surpasses their faith in the culture’s definition of human worth (say it falls to a 5) that person will instantly change. No joke. I’ve seen this over and over again. What is not instant is the process of increasing one’s faith in the truth and the deconstruction of one’s faith in the lies. Jesus didn’t care about what people knew, he cared about what they believed. We’ve replaced an obsession with faith with one of knowledge. A discipled congregation for most leaders is when their church knows all of God’s truth once they spent 20 years preaching through the Bible. Never mind these things they “know” they only believe at a 1. So how do you build faith instead of merely impart knowledge? It requires specific training methods we’ll build on later but for now I’ll say its often the dynamic interaction of two methods 1) intensely, intentionally and personally testing the real beliefs of trainees through invasive questioning followed by 2) aggressively, systematically deconstructing worldly beliefs by a skilled faith-filled Spirit-led trainer the trainee trusts and respects.

Christ-centered – He is our model our inspiration and the physical embodiment of the truth we are growing to believe. The Gospels that painstakingly describe Christ’s life must paint the target.

Narrative-based – What are we building faith in? Unfortunately we’re still recovering from a devastating period of human thought called “the Enlightenment” which ripped truths out of contexts, which tends to work fine for disembodied abstractions like math, but is devastating for theology (truths about God). We are living in God’s story and the Bible is mostly narrative, so we can experience God through his real life actions, not so we can dissect him in neat pieces for scientific evaluation. People need to become personally identified with who they are through the story of God. This Story-formed Life contains the categories for all the faith elements necessary for life changing discipleship.

Calls to Repentance – As disciples work through the story and identify truths they clearly don’t really believe (given the evidence of their life) we need to call them to repentance in every area. Radicle disciples have chosen to turn their back on lies and reorient their lives toward the truth the first step of which is repentance every time.

Spirit-filled – No doubt some have received teaching about the Spirit that they use as their excuse for avoiding this activity. I’m sorry but Jesus didn’t command the Spirit to make disicples, he told the disciples to make disciples (and us by extension). But with that said, discipleship, like everything in the Christian life, must be done through active dependence on the Spirit. Few things are more amazing to watch than a discipler, filled with the Holy Spirit, unearth the secret faulty foundation of a trainees heart in a way that brings a flood of freedom, life and Christ-likeness.

Lifelong – It doesn’t stop until we reach full maturity (which doesn’t happen in this life) so this process needs to keep going. But it’s precisely this unending nature that makes it so important to separate training into clear, burstable, bite-sized modules. Modular training allows everyone to start where they actually are at, but gives freedom to push well-trained disciples even farther in their pursuit of the Christ-like life.

In part 4 I’ll describe what we do at Koine to give one (imperfect) example of these principles applied.

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8 responses

27 01 2008
Kami

I’m really excited to go through the Story Formed Life again.

I believe I’ve given everything to God (Lordship) but I find I’m struggling to really believe the Imago Dei mostly in myself. I am still dependent on performance and appearance with how I appear to other people and I hate it but I can’t seem to get away from it. I know I’ve grown but I want my growth in the Imago Dei to surpass how I see myself based on our culture.

Good post Jeremy really hit home.

28 01 2008
Sammy

This is a great series of posts, Jeremy. Thank you. I’m wondering whether the Story Formed Life is in any way accessible through “distance learning.” If I were in KY, I’d be in your living room (or whatever forum you guys are using for now), but I’m way off here in DC. Ever thought about walking people through it @ a distance? That may actually vitiate some of what the whole experience is grounded upon, but I’d be very interested.

Go Pats.
~ S

29 01 2008
eden2zion

Hey Sammy,

Yah, we’d love to help you in any way we can. We have some church planters coming in on February 15-16 to two days of heavy Story-Formed Life training so they can be fully equipped to launch these courses in their own context. We are also going to discuss our theology of discipleship training etc.

We’re then going out to Seattle to do this with some people there. So the two most immediate options would be you coming to us our us coming to you. I’d be up for either.

7 02 2008
Sammy

I wish I could just hop a flight and hitch alongside the 2/15-16 training, but the baby’s due on 2/17 and I’m not sure Renee’ would understand (her common commitment to the kingdom notwithstanding). I heard from Gavin that you’re headed to Seattle for a time, too. Do you know when you’ll be back in KY? Email me if you get tired of communicating back and forth on your comments.
~ S

29 02 2008
Pastor Jeremiah Nimely

My beloved Christian greetings to you my dear and wonderful family,

I greet you all in the mighty name of Jesus Christ,our soon coming King and Lord.

Please alow me to introduce my self,I am Pastor Jeremiah J. Nimely,Snr,Senior Pastor of the Living Waters Fllowship Church,Inc,located in Liberia,West Africa.
I am married to Pastor Roseline Nimely since 1989,March 5th,we are blessed with two wonderful children,they are with us in the ministry,they are,Jeremiah Nimely,Jr about 14 years of age and Jereline Nimely,about 11 years of age,she is serving as one of the praise and worshipper and also sing in the choir and the boy is also singing in the choir and also is the drum player of the church.

I as the pastor,I am an orphan,my father,mother,brother,sister and my eldest daughter were killed during the war in Liberia,during the more than 15 years of civil bloody war,that started snce 1989,and also is a called minister by the Lord during the war after all of my parents died,the Lord called me in the midst of that,but it was a challenge to acept this call,because I wanted to revenge,but the Lord said,NO,this is not the way out,I will use you to go back to the same people to be my preacher to peach the gospel of reconciliation,love and forgivenness and healing and repentance in my name,but it was ot an easy thing to believe,until He proves to me through signs and wonders,than I was convinced and convictedand that is how I am His servat minister since then up to now.

We are a ful time minister of the gospel and do not have no secular work,but is working wth the sexually abused kids and youths,the orphans,the handicaps,the less fortunates,the widows and the widowers,the elderly and the poor in the cmmunities of Paynesville,the capital city,Monrovia, the city of Kakata,and other places with a subsidy scholarship primary educaon and a hot meal and other programmes.

My wife and I have planted five churches,two in the city of Paynesville and also three are outside of the city of Paynesville.

This ministry is a faith based ministry and we also have some other working going on in Sierra Leone with one of our trained son,named Jeremiah K. Smith leading the wrk there with his wife we just married during their training in the central church in Liberia,Paynesville.

We have more to share with you,but we have decided to just email you thse few testimonies and info to you,reason s that,we saw yor information and after searcing and decided to pray and fast and to seek the Lord for a diection in ordr to find some friends whom we can relate to so as to encouage us in the work of the Lord that we ae called,it is in this regard,my wife and I and along with the church write to email you this email of request that,we are desirous of a covenant famil relatonship or partnership from you so as to be able to better be encourage,train,develp and equip for the Lord’s work(Eph.4:11-12)

Therefore,we are seeking for a ministry partnership with you and to also become one of your extension ministry partners in Liberia and West Africa.

Also,my wife and I as ministers of the gospel are also interested to be ordain as gospel ministers who are already go to the world and is preaching and carrying out Matthew 28 mandate of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our full ostal address is:
Pastor Jeremiah and Roseline Nimely
Senior Pastors
Living Waters Fellowship Church,Inc
P.O. Box 1779,1000 Monrvia,10 Liberia
West Africa
Our cell contact are:
Pst. Jeremiah is:+231-5656930
Pst. Roseline is:+231-5497099

It is our ardent hope and ervent prayers that,as you receive this email of request from us,we ray that,the Lord will tuch and inspire your heart so as to be able to hear from you with a wonderful response that will tel us that you have receive it and do pray that the Lord imself will make bthis relationship a success and bring to ass His promises in this newly expected family relationship He is trying to built and establish by His grace.

Please greet all of your amily,all of the saints of your fellowship and all of your friends,and do pray for God’s blessing and avr with eack of s as ewe srve Him as His servants in His grat commission of harvest.

Because He is risen,alive and comingback again for is saints,

Pst. Jeremiah and Roseline Nimely and family,
Your beloved and humble servant leaders
Liberia,West Africa
+231-5556930

2 06 2011
Emmanuel Gatera

Hello and Praise the Lord. I am Assistant Pastor of Senior Pastor of Siloam Evangelical church of Rwanda in East Africa and the President of Rwanda Christian Action Ministry.I am happy to see how God I using you and your wife for building His Kingdom,that is hwy I would like to be your friend so that we shall help each other about God’s work.
Hoping to hear from you.

Yours in Christ
Rev.Emmanuel Gatera
Rwanda country

15 01 2010
pastor Lubhaya John

From : Pastor Lubhaya John
c/o Prem masih
Village: Rania, p.o : Dhariwal,
District: Gurdaspur, Punjab state,
North India-143519
Mobile phone + 91 98723-24382
email godisloveministry@gmail.com

Dear brother in Christ,

Greetings to you in the blessed name of our Lord and savior jesus Chrsit, who said that I am coming soon.

I am pastor Lubhaya John from India belongs to punjab state. Once I could see your website and the glorious ministries that you ar doing in various places, when I was searching on the computer. I am really very happy to see your wonderful ministries.

I and my friends, we are also working in His vineyard. Near to my town where we are working there are so many villages around us; and thousends villagers are living there without the knowledge of christ. My vision is let whole my area accept Jesus christ as their personal savior and Lord and wherever I go, i want to see every person worship only our Lord Jesus Christ, for that I want to reach the unreached people with the gospel of our Lord jesus Christ. By faith I have started a small Bible training center for born-again youngmen and women and some students are learning the word of God there. At present they are coming as daily visitors and facing lot of problems in thier studies. So I have a burden to give them residential facilities that they will be more useful in their vision. To train the laborers for the harvest, we are in need of financial supportevery month and prayer support everyday. people are waiting to hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the message and the great commission of our Lord Jesus christ does not ful fill, if we christian do not take up the responsibilty to pray for and support one another. so you may kindly keep on thinking on this particular matter and move as the spirit of the Lord leads you.

We are eagrly awaiting for your lovely and precious reply.

Yours for the perishing precious souls in India
pastor Lubhaya John

25 04 2011
Rev Emmanuel Gatera

Hi Pastor Lubhaya John, Greetings in Jesus’ name.
Let me introduce myself to you and inform you briefly about Rwanda Christian Action Ministries.I am Reverend Emmanuel Gatera, the Founder and National President of Rwanda Christian Action Ministries. I’m married and have 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls with 1 orphan I take care at home. I have a Bachelor degree in Biblical studies.
Rwanda Christian Action Ministries is here in Rwanda country for 4 months .
When I was visiting the web site I found your Christian Training there and I was so pleased to see all you are doing for building up the body of Christ.It my pleasure to invite you here in Rwanda so that we may know each other, the aim is not know each other I wish you to come and minister in our ministry and to the churches of Christ here in Rwanda.
I love you even if I don’t know you.
May you answer my request and pray for that invitation of coming to Rwanda.
I am going to pray and believe that one day we shall welcome you here in Rwanda.
May God bless you.I love you even if I don’t know you.
Hoping to hear from you.

May God bless you.
Rev. Emmanuel Gatera.

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