What to do with a willing learner?

Russell Minick

Ted Hope had invested more than a decade in the remote jungles of Thailand preparing for this day.  Three Lisu village leaders stood at his door and demanded to be taught.

“Do you speak Lisu talk?” the villagers asked.

“Yes, I speak Lisu talk.” he answered.

“Do you know the Most High God?” they asked.

“Yes, I know the Most High God.” he answered.

“Then tell us about him.  But do not lie to us. Whatever you say we will follow, so don’t you lie to us!” they demanded.

So what did he do?  What would you do?

Overview of 3 New Testament components of Discipleship

So what should we be able tell willing listeners?

1.    “Rethink” Proclaim what is true.

 2.    “Realign” Call them to enter that truth.

 3.    “Renew!” Lead them to grow in that truth.

Rethink is the message of repentance.  However we perceived life before, the gospel message tells us to learn what is true.  We are called to realize:

  1. Creation: we exist because God gave us life, and our life has meaning and hope because of God.
  2. Separation: life in this world does not work the way it ought to work, because each and every one of us has fallen short of God’s glory.  We have rebelled.
  3. Redemption: God in Christ has lived the life we should have lived, died the death we deserve to die, and risen to new life to give us real hope.
  4. Transformation: When we respond to Jesus as our Lord and our hope our identity is changed, by his grace through our faith.  Then we grow to be like him in character and to join him on mission.
  5. Completion: One day what God has started he will complete.  Creation will be renewed, redeemed humanity will be renewed and our relationship with God will be unhindered.

This is what the apostles proclaimed.  Willing learners were told that Jesus explains life, and that we should “repent”.  They got this from John the Baptist, and importantly, from Jesus.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” is a message declaring that God is in charge, here and now.  Believe it and then act on it.

Realign is what you do when rethinking shows you what is true.  Immersion in water (baptism) is the symbolic indication of aligning oneself to the truth that God is in charge here and now.  For rebels the act includes renouncing old allegiances in order to declare their new allegiance.  But what about Jesus?  Why was he baptized?

Jesus did not need to rethink his view of reality in response to John’s preaching, nor did he need to renounce any other allegiance.  Still Jesus said he needed to be immersed to fulfill all righteousness.  Jesus was going public with his alignment to the reality that Yahweh is in charge here and now.  The father blessed him, the spirit descended on him and then he was thrown into Kingdom battle in the wilderness.

The Acts of the Apostles repeatedly shows them proclaiming the Big Story, how God is in charge in the resurrected Lord Jesus.  This is what people are to “repent/rethink” to believe.  How should they act on that rethinking?  Be immersed in the name of Jesus; enter into the Big Story with a realigned allegiance in which they will grow.

Acts 2 for example:

Peter proclaims the Story :

2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!”

Listeners are now very willing learners:

2:37 When they heard this, they came under deep conviction and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?”

Peter tells them to rethink and realign:

2:38 “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!”

They respond by accepting the “rethink” and then “realign” through baptism into the Story and joining the people of the King to “renew” in thought and deed:

2:41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

 

So how does that look for growing churches?

We have kids, transferred Christians, new Christians, long term members… a very wide assortment.  How does this help us to meet all of their needs in practical, godly, excellent and effective ways?

Unity of Process; Diversity of Particulars

This basic pattern (rethinking what is true, realigning to Jesus and his people, and continually renewing thoughts and habits over a life time) is the heart of what we as the church are called to do.  The pattern shows up all through Acts and the rest of the New Testament.

Discovery from the frontiers

What I learned alongside others in our mission work was to help each team develop a basic default approach to the major aspects of discipleship, as well as some specific smaller elements.  By having an overall pattern that is the same for everyone, and then encouraging teams to modify their approach for their audiences, we saw great progress.

“Rethink” using Crown~Heart~World to teach Biblical Worldview

“Rethink!” is teaching a biblical worldview.  There are ways to do this intentional for young children that are different than for college students.  But the categories and their meaning are not different.

Worldview:

A preschool example

Adult example

Creation: God made you, and trees, and everything good.  We thank him for good things. Your body, your desires, your sense of adventure… were all given by God and are meant for good.
Separation: People do not always do what God says.  Sometimes sad things happen. Trying to satisfy your desires and dreams without reference to God brings more suffering than good.
Redemption: Jesus loves you and wants you to trust him.  When there is bad, tell him you need his help and know that he cares. Jesus took on your selfish choices as if they were his own.  God can forgive you because the hurt you have done has been dealt with firmly; justly.
Transformation: Jesus will help you grow up wise and strong.  Learn from how he does what he does. Conformity to the world will leave you frustrated.  By learning from your Creator, and being transformed in your thinking and habits, life is far more satisfying.
Completion:  God promises that he will make everything perfect one day.  The future is great! What God starts he will complete.  Your life matters and will continue to matter into the Kingdom God is going to establish.

I use Crown~Heart~World to teach this.  It is an example of a default.  The categories should be taught to everyone, both as evangelism and as discipleship.  There can be no meaningful discipleship without knowing at least the basic outline of the Big Story.  There can be little sustained growth without learning how to process experiences, ideas and choices in reference to the Big Story.

This week a 5th grade teacher at a public school used it to explain something that came up in reading class.  The kids not only seemed to understand the idea (as explained by a teacher who knows the content and the audience) several of them wanted to learn more and have even taught others.  This is after one telling from someone who has only seen it explained; they had not even been trained.

I think this is possible because the categories are revealed in ways that prior knowledge, from Bible study, classes, sermons, books etc. were already available in the teacher’s life.  There is no new teaching in Crown~Heart~World.  It is simply a format in which existing teaching stays organized in relationship to the bigger picture.

I have a booklet drafted, about 25 pages, which gives a summary explanation of how to teach this with sample passages and transition statements.  A friend who leads evangelism at a large church is finding that it is the most useful format he has for sharing the gospel with young adults.  The key differences between this model and most evangelism methods in use are:

EVANGELISM

Traditional models

Crown Heart World

Problem to be addressed:

How to know you will go to heaven when you die.

How to discover meaning and hope.

Main point of connection:

How justification works: What is the missing step in being right with God?

Cognitive dissonance: Why there is a disconnect between what “ought to

be” and actual life?

Biblical Story:

Assumed to be basically understood by the listener

Explained in light of common experiences, along with appropriate Scripture passages

Follow up instructions:

Although salvation is a free gift, you really should do a list of appropriate things we will tell you now.

The natural expression of receiving the gift of forgiveness and belonging in God’s Kingdom now and forever is to “realign” 

“Realign” as the call to respond and follow through via Crown~Heart~World

What is the invitation at the end of proclaiming a need to “rethink”?  Confess your need for Jesus, the resurrected Lord, to replace your guilt of rebellion with his righteousness, and to lead you forever.  You do that in your heart, then you speak it out loud in prayer to God and in clarity to people, and then you show your death to the old allegiances and as you are immersed in water, like a grave, and raised to walk in new life.  You are then joined with others who have done the same and you actively seek to grow in your new identity.

  • Who you are:
    • God’s beloved: You are redeemed, in Christ, a new creation…
    • Part of a royal family: brothers and sisters with God’s children, citizens of a Kingdom…
  • What you do:
    • Faith: GROW in understanding God and his truth by learning his Word in personal study, small group study and under good teaching and preaching.
    • Hope: GATHER with the family of God to celebrate the goodness that is growing and will one day be brought to completion.  You do this by worshipping in prayers, songs, hymns and spiritual songs.
    • Love: GIVE blessings you have been blessed with to advance God’s loving Kingdom in the world.  Christ’s example is followed in how we give our time, talent, and treasures.

“Renew”

Paul told the Colossians that all of his energy was being used to present them mature in Christ (Col. 1:28-29).  Growing up in “who we are” is the main issue in discipleship.  That is the case in the New Testament, on the mission field, and at our local churches.

How we respond in life is a matter of discipleship.  Responses to challenges, whether in regard to money, service, pleasure etc., come down to whether we know and live the realities in Christ.  That is the whole point of why Jesus told us to apprentice people; to make disciples immersed in God, the singular Name, who is Father, Son and Spirit, learning to actually live like he taught, and relying on His presence to do it.

Sermon on the Mount growth cycle

What I have used for this in my mission work is from the Sermon on the Mount, and is reflected in epistles.  Basically it is a never-ending cycle with 4 steps:

  1. Treasure wisely (value what Christ teaches about how to think and live)
  2. Put off (reject old forms of thinking and coping that are contrary to what Christ teaches).
  3. Put on (learn new truths and form them into action with intentional disciplines which form new habits of thought and action)
  4. Live out (whether in reaction to what others do, or in choosing what you will do, actually live out the teachings you treasured enough to replace the old ways.

Then?  Repeat 1-4; for the rest of your life…

What will happen?  Disciples will increasingly be rooted in God such that they actually trust him to meet their physical, relational and spiritual needs his way.

I am currently editing work on this teaching to be used in our context.  The default program involves learning Matthew 5-7 via a pattern.  People end up memorizing the whole Sermon on the Mount and reporting how it becomes a way of retaining every other teaching on growth they encounter in the New Testament.

Conclusion?

Obviously I’m passionate about these ideas.  I have much more to share, but I have already given more to read than most have time for.  If you are interested, I will gladly expand on any aspect of this.  Currently I am teaching the Sermon on the Mount way of growth cycle and deep rootedness at theGroveFellowship.org each Sunday night from 5:30-7:00.  I am also writing it up into a training manual which I will share as it is available.

And what DID he do?

He taught them The Story, invited them into it, and helped them to grow in that new identity.  Within a matter of years every Lisu village in Thailand had a church.  What will you do with those who are eager to learn?

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