Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Spiritual Formation Page 2 of 6

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Attitude

Strolling through gift shops one summer, my husband George and I spotted a T-shirt which said, “Sometimes I wake up Grumpy, other times I let her sleep.” Wise husband that he is, George did not buy the shirt. Alas, my husband is a happy morning person, and each morning presents a major challenge: how will I respond to my husband’s innate cheerfulness? Will love or grumpiness win the day?

It may sound like a simple problem to overcome, but feelings are tricky things. They often show up unbidden and, if left unexamined (and unchecked), may morph into attitudes. And habitual attitudes often result in character qualities displayed for the world to see.

Spurring on one another - Learning to be disciples and disciple-makers

Who spurs on the missionary to love and good deeds?

Over the last year or so, I have been thinking about what it means for missionaries to be both disciples and disciple-makers. I recognized that we can easily make the mistake of assuming that at some point in our Christian life, we graduate from being disciples to become disciple-makers. But through an in-depth study of the Gospel of Matthew, it became clear to me that we never stop being a disciple of Jesus. We never graduate from his school of discipleship. Just as we need to keep learning how to be better disciple-makers, we also need to continue learning to be better disciples.

Disciples in Disciple-making

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard said

First of all, it is clear that, if we would make disciples, we should be disciples. … To plan on making disciples, we need to know what one is and how people become disciples. We need to know these things by personal experience, as did the first generation of Jesus’ people. They had been made disciples. And we need to be standing in the position of Jesus’ students and co-workers, so that our efforts in making disciples will be appropriately guided and strengthened by him. They are, after all, to be his disciples, not ours. So we are, then, disciples in disciple making. We learn from Jesus how to make disciples as he did.”

Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (p. 328). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

So what we can do practically to help one another continue to learn from Jesus? How do we help one another be diligent students in Jesus’ discipleship school? Does each disciple just have to figure this out on their own? Or can we learn together in some way?

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Gifting

It happens every year: the gift that no one else wants finds its way under my Christmas tree. One year it was an electric hot dog cooker. The contraption had twelve metal prongs that sent electricity through the meat—I felt like Dr. Frankenstein every time I plugged it in. Another year I received a box of homemade cookies regifted to me because the original recipient thought the treats “tasted like smoke.” They did.  And who hasn’t received a perfect candidate for an ugly sweater contest? Confession: I’m sure I’ve given a few poorly chosen sweaters, too.

These experiences, along with the commercialization of Christmas, sometimes make me want to give up gift giving altogether. I wonder how all this madness celebrates Christ. It’s so easy to forget the real reason for the season in the rush to get the best bargain online or at the mall. Is it possible to find the Savior somewhere in the mix of shopping, wrapping, and exchanging presents? Would it be better to eliminate the tradition in order to focus on Jesus? In my search for answers, I decided to turn to the Christmas story for insight. I was surprised to discover how much gifting occurs there.

Exploring Spiritual Formation: Perspective

Recently I heard a pastor tell a story about a women’s conference whose promoters sold more tickets than the venue had seats available. To compensate, they brought in hundreds of rented chairs that were neither sturdy nor comfortable. The women from his church became angry about the situation, and their complaints grew louder and more frequent as the conference progressed—until the last day, when Joni Eareckson Tada rolled up to the mic and said, “I hear some of you are not happy with the chairs you’ve been given.”[1] Needless to say, the atmosphere changed immediately. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do for our souls.

The Scriptures are full of stories about the disciples’ frequent need for a change in perspective. Think of the disciples shooing the children away from Jesus until he explains that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:13-16). Think of James and John trying to secure positions of power before fully understanding the cost of such a request (Mark 10:35-45). Think of the disciples in a boat fretting about drowning before watching Jesus calm the wind and the waves with a simple command (Mark 4:35-41).

Fruit to Harvest: the key is abiding

In October 2017, a major consultation on Muslim ministries was held in Thailand. It was called, “Abide, Bear Fruit“, and was a follow-up consultation to the one held 10 years earlier, also in Thailand. Both conferences were organized by Vision 5:9, “a global mission network focused on ministry among unreached Muslim people groups”.

The 2007 conference had identified 68 fruitful practices in working among Muslim peoples and these practices have significantly impacted missiological strategy for the past decade. The conference also resulted in a well-known book in mission circles, From Seed to Fruit: Global Trends, Fruitful Practices and Emerging Issues among Muslims.  That book, edited by J. Dudley Woodberry, was reviewed by this blog in a post a few years ago.

Teaching Doctrine in Disciple-making: Academic elective or life-giving essential?

In contemporary literature on church planting and disciple-making doctrine is often downplayed. Doctrine is seen as secondary or primarily the intellectual concern of academics. But Paul put great emphasis on doctrine when he wrote to his church planting partners, Timothy and Titus. Kevin Vanhoozer writes,

Christian doctrine is the disciple’s meat and drink. You may think that I am overemphasizing the role of doctrine in the Christian life because I am a theologian, but doctrine is biblical. The Greek term didaskalia (teaching; doctrine) occurs twenty-one times in the New Testament. Fifteen of these occurrences are found in the Pastoral Epistles alone, which strongly suggests that doctrine finds its fitting place in the church, as a means to pastor congregations and teach disciples. Indeed, Paul says Timothy’s duty is to teach (didaskô, 1 Tim 4:11; 6:2).

Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers, 206. See book review on this blog.

Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities – a review

In the last number of years, many books have been published about how to engage and do evangelism among Muslim peoples. But few books address the specifics of how to help new believers from Muslim contexts grow in their faith while remaining in their Muslim communities and families. Given that some claim that up to 90% of converts from Muslim backgrounds reconvert back to Islam, discipleship and support of these converts is clearly a critical need in mission work among Muslim peoples.

A few months ago, in this blog, I posted a review of Evelyn and Richard Hibberts’ “Walking Together on the Jesus Road: Intercultural Discipling.” Now, I would like to highlight another book in this same vein, speaking even more specifically to the challenges of disciple-making among Muslim peoples – Effective Discipling in Muslim Communities: Scripture, History and Seasoned Practices by Don Little. This book is one of those recommended on our SEND U pre-field reading list for those preparing to serve in Islamic contexts.

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