At the end of last year, I took some time to set some annual goals. I went through a book by an author I respect who encouraged us to look at ten different dimensions of our lives and set goals for each.
“Spiritual” was the first dimension. Then followed by categories like “intellectual,” “emotional,” “family,” and so on. It was a good list.
On one hand, I loved that spiritual was the highest priority. First things first and all that.
But by limiting “spiritual” to one area, the direction this goal-setting book wanted me to take ended up feeling restrictive. Here’s why.
Everything is spiritual. As theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Every square inch, in all of creation, belongs to King Jesus! He claims it for himself, as his own. When he says it’s “mine!” he doesn’t say this in a petty or selfish way, like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. Jesus cries out “Mine!” with the same voice that thundered at Sinai and calmed the storm over Galilee. Every square inch rightfully belongs to him, as Creator, Redeemer, and King.
This means nothing in our lives is meant to be divorced from the spiritual. This means that that discipleship is both “lifelong” and “lifewide.” Lifelong, in that our calling to follow Christ is not for a season but every day that follows. Life-wide, covering not only the properly “spiritual,” but every other area of life as well. In other words, “life-wide” means taking both the long-range and the wide-angle views.
Predictably, when the goal-setting book said “spiritual,” it focused exclusively on private spiritual disciplines. While our spirituality has to include “me and Jesus” time, it’s so much more.
For example, what about loving your neighbor?
After discipling people for two decades, I believe one of — if not the greatest — chokeholds on disciple-making is the radical compartmentalization of spirituality to something strictly personal and privatized, not shaping and informing every other area of life.
Discipleship can’t be restricted to 30 minutes in the mornings and church on Sunday. So when making disciples, make it ALL spiritual by keeping these crucial points in mind:
- Form the heart before the head. Don’t just shape people in terms of what they know and how they think. Shape their hearts. As Jamie Smith has said, “What if, instead of starting from the assumption that human beings are thinking things, we started from the conviction that human beings are first and foremost lovers?” His book You Are What You Love explores this, I highly recommend it.
- Put it into Practice. Don’t just talk a good game; put it into action. Right hearts should lead to right practice. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy should go hand-in-hand. The doing is part of the learning. Taking our first halting steps of obedience in everything from reading the Bible to sharing the gospel to working on your marriage is part of how we grow.
- Debrief and Follow-up. After Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs in Luke 10, they came back and gave a report, and Jesus gave them feedback and additional teaching. I’ll be talking about this more in future posts, but the best time for teaching is after people have been putting their faith into practice. Yet so often, we do the opposite, loading people up on teaching before they do anything. And as a result, they end up with full heads but empty hands.
- Show, then Tell. Model what you want to see in those you’re discipling. If you’re teaching on evangelism, you should have some stories to tell from your own life. The more recent the better. People need to see it being lived out
- Challenge People to a Specific Stretch Goal. People get overwhelmed and ultimately disengage when something seems too big to tackle. “Read the Bible” is great, but not specific enough. “Read the Gospel of John” is better. But “Read the Gospel of John with me, 21 chapters in 21 days” is best. It’s specific, they’ll feel it’s something they can, and they’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s done. And they’ll be more likely to continue reading afterwards.
When we help people see that everything is spiritual, that every area of their lives is pregnant with kingdom opportunity, and that Jesus has prepared good things in advance for them in every sphere, we open up new vistas that help people “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus,” the very goal of discipleship.