Perspective is everything . . .
My kids love watching the show “Brain Games” on Netflix. It is a show that explores many of the complexities of human perception (sight, sound, memory, etc.) and seeks to provide a deeper appreciation for the things we often take for granted.
Perception is often based on recognized patterns and personal presuppositions. Like in the picture above, we see two red boxes on the wall and assume that they are the same size and shape and that all the corners are square. We see black and white checker patterns on the floor, and we assume that they are squares of the same shape and size. So, we conclude that the person on the right is a giant compared to the person on the left. Our mind interprets the information to make sense of the picture in front of us. In reality, these two people are the same height – the room had been adjusted to mess with your perspective. This is called the Ames room, invented by American scientist Adelbert Ames in 1946 – if you’re curious, you can check it out on Wikipedia.
Similarly, our perception of Biblical truth is also influenced by our presuppositions. Presuppositions are the ideas that we have assumed to be true, either by our experience or by the things we have been taught throughout our lives. In my own life, God has shattered many of my limited perspectives so that I could see Him in a better light. For example, I once equated spiritual maturity with externals – the way a person dressed on Sunday, or the way they cut their hair. Of course, I knew that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart,” but my experience told me that the godly people looked a certain way. Over the years, God has been showing me that godly people come in all different shapes and sizes and appear in many different ways.
What is your perspective of discipleship?
Perhaps another presupposition that needs to be addressed is our understanding of discipleship. What comes to mind when you think of discipleship? Bible studies, one-on-one training, classrooms, homework, monthly meetings, accountability? Those are all good things, and they have their place in accomplishing discipleship, but at the end of the day, that process only leaves us with more knowledge but doesn’t necessarily make us look more like Jesus. Isn’t that what discipleship is supposed to accomplish? Isn’t is it supposed to make an imprint of Christ on our lives so that others see him?
Where it all begins . . .
The first step towards true discipleship is standing in awe of the eternal plan of God for individuals! Paul puts it this way:
Ephesians 2:10 - “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Can you imagine that? Does that verse take your breath away? Before the foundation of the world, God had an eternal purpose for you! He planned it! He made it possible through Jesus Christ! And he is currently working in you by the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish that plan! Just let that sink in a little bit.
- - - - - - - That’s INCREDIBLE! - - - - - - -
And the implications of that TRUTH must SHAPE everything about our approach to discipleship, both personally, and corporately.
As we behold that truth and begin to appreciate the ramifications, we must walk away with a deep sense of JOY in God’s kindness to use us for such AMAZING purposes! But we must also be DEEPLY impacted by an URGENCY to FULFILL the work that God has called us to accomplish.
How discipleship is designed to work in the church . . .
A couple of chapters later, Paul elaborates on this theme when he talks about the practical outworking of discipleship within the church.
Ephesians 4:15–16 (ESV) - 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
As we mentioned before, the goal of discipleship is to look like Christ. We find that spelled out clearly in verse 15. But the process of discipleship that Paul describes here seems a little different than the process we have been accustomed to. Here, we see that members of the body have recognized their UNIQUE function. They realize that they have been called to SERVE, and they are ACTIVELY fulfilling that objective.
But notice how discipleship plays a part – maybe you’ve missed it before as I have. Verse 16 says, “joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped . . .” Do you see the implications of that? Verse 11 and 12 talks about the function of pastors and teachers who “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” And here we find that the EQUIPPING process happens simultaneously with the SERVING process. That means that discipleship and ministry are inseparable! And that means that your pastors and mentors need to come beside you in ministry to IDENTIFY and REFINE your gifts and passions.
What are some Ministry Mind Shifts we need to consider?
If you haven’t purchased the book Trellis and the Vine already, then I would really encourage you to do so. Chapter 2 spells out some important considerations that every church should seek to address. I will just share some of the headings below and let you read the book if you would like a fuller explanation.
1. We need to move from running programs to building people.
2. We need to move from running events to training people.
3. We need to move from using people to growing people.
4. We need to move from filling gaps to training people.
5. We need to move from solving problems to helping people make progress.
6. We need to move from clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership.
Maybe you noticed as you read through those six statements, that the goal of Christian ministry and discipleship is PEOPLE, not PROGRAMS. God has called us to IDENTIFY, EQUIP, and UTILIZE the unique gifts that God has given every individual in the church. He planned your PURPOSE before the world even began! How might you DISCOVER that purpose and FULFILL the objectives that God has designed you to accomplish?