I am not an intelligent man. I am not an academic. I am a simple guy who believes the Bible.
When I became a Christian I had lots of questions. Foolishly I thought all believers would be the same, thinking about their faith, pondering things, asking questions. I confess to being disappointed to find out that I was wrong.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
How can we love God with our mind without thinking? Surely our obligation is to weigh, to reason, to consider what the Bible says in order that we might fully love God with our minds?
In The Great Tradition of Christian Thinking: A Student’s Guide by David S. Dockery and Timothy George, Robert Louis Wilken is quoted saying this in The Spirit of Early Christian Thought:
“Christianity is more than a set of devotional practices, it is also a way of thinking about God, about human beings, about the world and history. For Christians, thinking is part of believing.”
Church, small group, discipleship programme, fellowship dinner, men’s and women’s programmes, you name it, they all should be involved in helping men and women who love the Gospel of Jesus Christ to think more and love God with their mind.
Appendix B of Bill Hull’s The Complete Book of Discipleship (p 310) contains a list (from original research by George Barna) of what makes churches effective at disciple-making. It is well worth reading as many churches appear to have little idea of how to make disciples. It should also be noted that churches that made disciples didn’t do all of these, they did a few of them well.
Barna’s research showed that “a church engaged in effective discipleship is a church that will grow steadily and solidly.”‘ In addition, the research demonstrated how churches can correct the nine flaws above. Every church doing well did a few of the following nine things well.
1. The leaders had passion for making disciples.
2. Depth: Personal growth and spiritual reproduction were one and the same.
3. Maturity: The end product was for a person to reach his or her highest earthly potential in Christ.
4. Practice: The repeated acting of the will created habits and therefore, character.
5. Process: Discipleship is not a destination but a journey. The process is lifelong and one must be patient.
6. Interactive: Discipleship is done in community, not in isolation.
7. Multifaceted: The process incorporates a variety of thrusts toward building us up in Christ.
8. Lifelong: Every day of life for all of life. Don’t think program, trust the process.
9. Christ-like: The marker is Jesus, being formed into his image; all else is a waste of effort.’
More from Dallas Willard in a section entitled The Radical Ruin of our Soul, pages 39-40 of Revolution of Character,
From the most hardened criminal to the most devout person, everyone has had some form of spiritual formation. In one of C. S. lewis’s more striking passages, he challenges us to remember this,
“The dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals, whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
Strangely, it is precisely the intrinsic greatness of the person that makes it “a horror and a corruption such as you now meet…in a nightmare.” If we were insignificant, our ruin would not be horrifying. G. K. Chesterton somewhere says that the hardest thing to accept in the Christian religion is the great value it places upon the individual soul. Still older Christian writers used to say that God has hidden the majesty of the human soul from us to prevent our being ruined by vanity.[Emphasis added]
This explains why even in its ruined condition a human being is regarded by God as something infinitely worth saving. Sin does not make a person worthless — only lost. And in its lostness it is still capable of great strength, dignity, and heartbreaking beauty.
This day you will encounter all manner of men, women, children, there is a God-given beauty in each of them just waiting to be unveiled. Maybe you are the key.