Disciples mutually discipling disciples

In this post: disciples, disciple-ship, and the books & tests in Natural Character Development, formerly known as the 3 Color Discipleship Series

Is it the rebranding that has pushed me to reassess what the 3-Color books and tests are designed to achieve, or am I being pushed out of my comfort zone of what it means to be a disciple – a follower of Jesus? Or … and … am I gaining a new sense of what it means to disciple others?

Let’s start with becoming a disciple: the tests are designed to help us become more inspired and inspiring, loved and loving, empowered and empowering, and so on. I move toward freedom, maturing and responsibility as I grow in inspiration, love, empowerment, stewardship, and so on, I want more of them, and see the Triune God as the only source. This starts to transform my identity – it transforms my head, heart and hands, the very essence of who I am, and whose I am.

And discipleship: as I grow in these characteristics, as they frame my character, I flow over and give it away. Don’t get me wrong, my comfort zone has been getting, accumulating, having; more is better. However, as I grow in my relationship with the Triune God, I’m growing in my ability to give away – understanding, experiencing and doing it. I’m not there yet, but I’m heading in that direction … it’s a journey. Now I can influence the transformation of the heads, hearts and hands of others too.

This journey, then, requires community, the fellowship of others who are leaning into the same approach to life. Christian Schwarz talks about this in his book, God Is Indestructible – 12 Responses to the Relevance Crisis of Christianity, in chapter 7 (Abandon the us/them divide) and chapter 8 (Communicate at eye level). He suggests we don’t just mutually mentor fellow disciples, but learn to learn with all kinds of people, regardless of their creed; it’s not about changing them, it’s learning from and with them.

This graphic shows the eight Quality Characteristics positioned on the Trinitarian Compass, and introduces the idea that each of the eight is a component of discipleship. Each of the eight characteristics are part of my developing character, my becoming a disciple, becoming more like Christ. And they frame the conversations I have with my fellow disciples as we live into our transformation into the likeness of Christ.

In chapter 12 of God Is Indestructible, Christian appeals to our need for a process of ongoing growth. “While most Western Christians would verbally agree to that statement, in practice it is only rarely taken seriously.” He goes on to show how NCD’s data proves that “on average, the longer someone is a Christian (and involved in a local church), the more likely they will regress in their Christian journey”. This is not good news and has to be a wakeup call to us all.

Of 20 indicators of a person’s spiritual health, only four are positively correlated to the length of time they’ve been a Christian – sixteen are negatively correlated! This diagram shows three of the 16:

I hope you are as alarmed and/or encouraged as I am, and motivated to influence this outcome. In a subsequent conversation with Adam Johnstone at NCD International, we talked about this further. He says we need to acknowledge that most of us are not continually being transformed – are we becoming “de-formed”? And each of us must step into this ongoing growth cycle in our own lives before we can speak into the lives of our fellow disciples. He says we must constantly be “re-evangeled” – we must continuously be re-seeing, re-encountering, the good news. Evangelism isn’t a one-time thing, it’s an ongoing process in our lives and in the lives of others. We become by receiving from God, and give it away. Evangelism and Discipleship.

If you want to learn more about these principles and how to apply them in your own head, heart and hands, and in the heads, hearts and hands of the people you love, there are ways: you can read the books mentioned in this post; apply the principles in your own life; and mutually work with others as they apply them too.

To go deeper still, from time to time we offer a six-week webinar series on God Is Indestructible.