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No Jesus, No Discipleship, No Disciples.

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Over the last few years I have read many books on subjects that previously, I have had no interest in at all. The call to actually (vs in theory) “Make Disciples” is so challenging and other than all of the obviously spiritual elements to the task, both negative and positive, there are just so many contributing and more often than not, limiting, even opposing factors, that seem to make the challenge of making disciples an increasingly difficult challenge, that I have felt compelled to learn varying subjects in order to try and broaden my understanding on why this simple sounding task can be so incredibly difficult and so painfully slow.

The things I have read have been about the mind, how patterns are establish, how we think, how we learn or why we don’t, books on factors that influence who we are, looks on determination and grit. Many of the books have been basic psychology combined with a lot of “teach the teacher” type of books and they have all contributed something to my understand on the subject of “people and how we change , respond and react”. Some of the knowledge goes hand in hand with bible teachings, although most of them are not written by Christian authors.

I have had some amazing revelations on “being renewed in the Spirit of your mind”, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is” and other related passages. In this last couple of weeks I have been chewing through yet another book on “thinking” and I have sort of been stuck, or pondering a section of the book where it makes these few statements –

  • the mind is not naturally well suited to thinking
  • thinking is slow, effortful and uncertain in it’s outcomes
  • deliberate, conscious thinking does not guide most people behaviour in the real world where they live and interact
  • mostly our brains rely upon memory and tend to follow well worn paths
  • although we are often curious, but interests are often restricted to areas of prior knowledge

This is not a Christian book, it’s more academic in nature, but I am drawn to these 5 things, seeing certain truths in these statements.

the mind is not naturally well suited to thinking” – I see “naturally” as the key word here. I am not sure that unsaved man, separated from God, so the natural man, has accomplished anything all that amazing by himself. We have invented a lot of good things, but most of the good has far further reaching evil applications.

thinking is slow, effortful and uncertain in it’s outcomes” – This is probably very true, but if this is true, then thinking can be practiced, refined and possibly perfected, it will just take time and deliberate effort, with constant reviews of the outcomes to refine the process.

deliberate, conscious thinking does not guide most people behaviour in the real world where they live and interact” – Definitely true, we just do or react, with often little or no thought at all. As a “Rescue Diver” on of the first things you learn in any situation is “Stop, Breath, Think….then Act (if it’s safe to do so). A great skill is to learn to Stop, Breath and Think before we Act – but most things in our daily lives either do not require this, or at least, they seem like they don’t require this, either way, most of us don’t do this.

mostly our brains rely upon memory and tend to follow well worn paths” – We all have and enjoy our habits, there is often great comfort, safety and predictability in them. But then if “you made a path”, you can make another one. “Caroline Leaf – Switch on your Brain” (highly recommended reading).

although we are often curious, but interests are often restricted to areas of prior knowledge” – out of these 6 statements, this one probably has gotten my attention the most. Many people have hobbies or interests that come and go. How many things, sports or activities did your children try and not continue on with after a month or so. Maybe you brought a fancy camera, read the manual a couple of times, took a lot of photos initially, but now you rarely get it out. Who has sports stuff jammed away somewhere, never been used for years, or camping gear, anyway, interests they come and go….BUT….this is more predominant in the developed world where there are more resources to spend (or perhaps waste), we do not often find homes amongst the poor crammed to the rafters with unused stuff. Economics must also effect interest, as some interests are incredibly expensive which puts them out of the reach of many.

If the original statement is correct, then what is it that expands the “knowledge” of the poor? Extra resources might play a part in it, although we have probably seen the opposite, when the poor get more resources they just do more of the same things, eat more of the same food, they don’t tend to add “new things” into what they do.

So I have been pondering this one and I think it comes down to this – “genuine need demands a new interest or a new area of learning“. If what you are doing is just no longer working and it’s a necessity for life, then you have no choice, you are forced to change, you must learn some thing new. In this case helping out too soon can be very detrimental to growth, because once the help comes, the crisis is over (at least for now) and the need to change has been eased at this immediate time.

In one absolutely brilliant book, that I have read a number of times, “Grit – Angelina Duckworth” (highly recommended reading), success was often connected to “struggling a little bit longer”. If we save people from the “struggle” too soon, we can actually be doing them a dis-service in terms of their own development. People need to be allowed to “struggle in safety”, until they either make it or until it becomes obvious that they need help, but even then the help must be very wise and it needs to be help that actually increases the ability to struggle a little bit longer. We don’t want to watch people suffer and we definitely don’t want to increase a persons suffering, but the wrong type of help at the wrong time can actually do do the latter if we are not careful.

Even in discipleship, if we hold some ones hand too tightly for too long, when we let go they will more than likely fall over. Falling is part of the process of learning, we need to provide a place for people to fall in safety, for them to be able to eventually stand by themselves.

But back to my thought, “genuine need” demands a new interest or a new area of learning“, as much as I might encourage, teach, train, want, like, desire or even see and identify the need for a person to change, they will not until they “need to” – how frustratingly true is this statement when you consider disciple making.

The understanding that they “need to” can come a number of ways, but they are not really ways that I can really have much impact upon. My example should be a point of inspiration, my words and attitude must always be encouraging and of course we can never discount prayer, if anything we should endeavour to over-emphasis the prayer aspect – but even if I get all of these right, it still comes down to some one else’s personal choice.

Making Disciples” – the call to do a job that you can’t actually do, that’s possibly why the verse ends with these words – “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”, then these words in Mark – “the Lord working with them”.

No Jesus, No Discipleship, No Disciples.

I encourage myself with the thought, Jesus had 12, then He had 72 and some how there was 120 in the Upper Room, so compared to those figures, we are doing ok, although often it seems like such a frustratingly slow work.

Just some random thoughts from a “Disciple trying to Make Disciples”.

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