Making Disciples: The Problem & Promise of Spiritual Formation

I’m taking a few days for rest and reflection with my family. This week I’ll be reposting some of my favorite guest posts dealing with spiritual formation. You cannot read these and reflect on them too many times.

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I find myself very unlike Jesus. You probably are too. The church I knew as a kid was wonderful. I loved it, and love it still. But I have come to believe that a failure to sufficiently understand what it means to make disciples existed in that church, and that correcting this failure could help many people take hold of blessings that God wants us to enjoy. The following story, a strong memory of mine about church one Sunday, might help explain what I mean.

I was about ten or twelve years old, attending the A&M Church of Christ, and we worshipped one particular Sunday in the large high school gym. Before the event, we invited other area churches and took out an ad in the local paper. We wanted lots of people to know that we were going to have worship in the gym on that particular Sunday. It was very well attended, and lots of people “went forward” following the sermon. I don’t remember the name of the preacher who was brought in for this event, but he made an impression on me. I remember one moment when he was discussing how terrible it would be to look across that great divide between heaven and hell and meet the eye of a hell-tormented friend I had known from life and realize that I never took the time to tell them about Jesus. The preacher was trying to impress upon us the importance of making disciples. One of the reasons my church scheduled this event was, no doubt, to make disciples.

I agree that it is important to make disciples, but I worry that my tradition never properly informed me about what a disciple is, nor how to go about making one. I knew that a disciple was a follower or student of Jesus, but I never reflected on what it really meant to be Jesus’ student. I can be a student in Mrs. Evan’s math class without ever caring a lick about math and without ever trying to be like Mrs. Evans. As a result, it took a long time for me to grasp a mature picture of what it means to be a student of Jesus. Unlike being a student of Mrs. Evans, one cannot be a student of Jesus without coming to care a great deal about what Jesus taught and who he is, nor can one be a student of Jesus without making progress in becoming like him.

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“Shhh” is the Prevailing Wisdom & You Should Question It

“Shhh…” might be the most powerful word in the English language.

“Shhh…don’t rock the boat.”

Shhh…hold your tongue.”

“Shhh…people aren’t ready for that.”

Shhh…some people don’t like what you’re saying.”

“Shhh…you don’t want to cause people trouble.”

Don’t Upset Anyone

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The Fine Art of Slowing

I’m taking a few weeks away from work to study and rest. And I think you should too.

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Jesus got a lot done without ever seeming like he was in a hurry. I find this thought both refreshing and frustrating.

Maybe you’re like me and find yourself suffocating under the pressure of accomplishments, deadlines, goals, and generally trying to reap the consumerist marrow out of life. If you know me, you know that I’m all for goals. The goals aren’t the problem. The way we oftentimes go about them is.

Maybe you want to live “the good life.” You keep chasing it but never know when you’ve found it. If so, you know that if the pursuit of having it all produces anything, it produces busy people.

But I don’t think we enjoy being busy as much as we like to pretend we do.

When I finger my way through the pages of the New Testament, I witness Jesus challenging contemporary notions of leadership and productivity. Our culture wants to get farther faster, but Jesus wanted something different. Jesus seems intent on creating wholeness and peace. He was less centered on volume of activities but meaning and purpose.

The Lord choose to be on mission rather than on pace. Sometimes events happened quickly – think the time period between the last supper to crucifixion. Sometimes they happened slowly – Lazarus died while Jesus was taking His time.

Repeatedly, Jesus shows us how to be present rather than productive. Admittedly, I’m terrible at this! But I don’t want to be. As a remedy for me – and for you – I suggest we embrace the lost spiritual discipline of slowing.

What is slowing?

Slowing is the prolonged space between and during activities.

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Get My New Book, Agenda Music: A Conversation on Faith & Art w/ Derek Webb & Friends

“I‘d listen to more Christian radio, if the DJ’s didn’t talk.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Christians – both inside and outside my own community of faith – share this sentiment. Add to that the growing number of Christian people who tell me they grow weary of the saccharin, seemingly-departed-from-real-life, sentiments of Christian music, and it’s easy to see that something is going on in “Christian Art” which some believers find frustrating.

While there are bright spots (for me: Gungor, Hillsong United, Third Day, Derek Webb, Robbie Seay and others), much of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) is designed for the sensibilities of the children and the most easily offended corners of the American Evangelical subculture.

But there is hope. Enter “Agenda Music: A Conversation on Faith and Art With Derek Webb, Seth Tower Hurd, Sean Palmer, and Friends (like me),” a book you won’t hear about on the radio, yet calling Christian creatives to embrace the larger marketplace and see all beauty as God’s beauty. If you found “Killing Becky” useful or attended my sessions, Designing Wonder, on creativity in worship at Pepperdine Bible Lectures, you must read “Agenda Music.”

You can get it today and PAY WHAT YOU WANT. All proceeds go to charity. Go get it NOW!

**Also available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon**

 

What Are YOU Reading This Summer?

Summer is the absolute best time to catch-up or get ahead on your reading.

There’s simply no way around it, the greatest tool for your personal development and growth is reading. Plus, it’s one of the few aspects of life you can actually control. As a pastor, writer, and leader, I have to read in order to fund my imagination, shape my vision, and develop as a person.

The same is true for you. If you want to take the next step in life, you have to read…and you have to read a lot. Reading will advance and educate you beyond your present capabilities, but books also help us mark life. I can point to particular books that I happened upon at just the right time. Those books changed my life. If you don’t have your summer reading list set, you need to get on it.

Here’s What I’m Reading:

Spiritual Formation-ish / Churchy:

Business-ish / Start-Upy:

Fiction-ish:

There you have it. I know it looks like a lot, but here’s my process for reading through difficult books. I hope you pick-out one or two books and give them a go.

Happy Reading.

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