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Organic Discipleship - Appendix 2: Verbal Plenary Inspiration

Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt

We use this outline to teach disciples why the Bible is inspired by God, and what inspiration means. We usually read the text and look up the verses, asking for each what implications they see for the doctrine of inspiration.


Inspiration - “All Scripture is inspired by God [theopneustos= “God-breathed”] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16) - God so moved the authors of Scripture that the resulting product was the Word of God written, totally without error in the autographs, in every area including theology, history, geography and science.

Reasons for Accepting This View

An inductive case for verbal inspiration:

  1. Demonstrate the relative historical reliability of the Gospel records.
    • Bibliographical test - Are there enough copies to reconstruct the originals
    • Internal test - Does the author disqualify himself by contradictions or known factual errors?
    • External test - Do other historical materials confirm or deny the author's testimony? (See F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? or Gleason Archer, Survey of Old Testament Introduction for details on these questions.)
  2. Note the claims of Christ to deity recorded in the Gospels.
  3. Verify the claims deductively by eliminating unsatisfactory explanations (the Lord, liar, lunatic argument) or by demonstrating the authentication of Christ based on biblical prophecy.
  4. Therefore, since Christ is God, his teaching on biblical inspiration is authoritative.

Christ's Teaching on Inspiration

With your disciple, go over each of the following passages, answering the question, “What does this passage teach or imply about the nature of inspiration?”

  1. The Old Testament:
    Mat. 5:18; John 10:35; John 5:39-47; Mark 12:36; Mat. 19:4-5; Mat. 22:29-32; Mat. 12:39,40; Luke 17:26-32; Luke 24:44
  2. His own words:
    Mat. 24:35; Mat. 7:24-27; John 3:5 "truly I say"; John 8:31, 32
  3. The Apostles' writings:
    Jesus preauthenticated the apostles' writings during the last supper: John 14:26; John 15:26,27; John 16:13,14

The Human Authors Agree with Christ's Position

Again, if you have your disciples read these passages with you, and determine what each teaches or implies about inspiration, the knowledge will last longer in their memory than simply telling them.

  1. The Old Testament:
    Joshua 1:8; 22:5; 2 Sam. 23:2; Neh. 10:29
  2. The New Testament:
    John 21:24; 1 Cor. 14:37; Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Tim. 5:18 (Where in the scripture does it say “The laborer is worthy…?”) 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:16-21; 2 Pet. 3:2; 2 Pet. 3:15, 16; Rev. 1:3; Rev. 22:18,19

Organic Discipleship - Appendix 3: Inductive Bible Study Method

Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt

This study is usually used as a study plan for a book of the Bible. Disciple makers will typically select a short book like Ephesians or 1 Thessalonians to study. Then they will go over this plan, demonstrating how it works in the chosen book. After getting a start while together (perhaps in the first chapter or two), disciples are challenged to do their own work before the next meeting. The discipler maker will also do fresh work on the same book and during the next meeting, they will compare their work and talk about what they have learned. The hope is that disciples will gain a sense of mastery in their ability to read the Bible and analyze what the text is saying.


Inductive study is a process where the student gathers as many facts about a passage as possible, and only then draws conclusions about the meaning. The main point of the discipline is to teach disciples how to interpret individual passages in the context of the whole book. It also teaches readers to avoid jumping to conclusions based on similar words or expressions in other, unrelated passages.


A. Read the book all the way through writing down titles for each paragraph. This reveals the general thought development of the book. The titles should meet the following requirements:

  1. The title should be short. No sentences are allowed. A phrase of a few words is the maximum length. We are not writing synopses. Summarizing compels us to get the main idea clearly fixed in our minds.
  2. The title should cover all of the significant content in the paragraph. If there is subject matter that is not covered in your title, you need revision.
  3. Decide how you will determine where the paragraph divisions belong. If studying with a study group, it is probably best to stay with the existing paragraphs. However, if studying one-on-one, you may not agree with the paragraph divisions in your translation. These are purely a matter of opinion. You may decide to divide the paragraphs in a different location than those used in any particular version. Feel free to discuss where the divisions should be, and why. (Remember they are not inspired, and are different from one version to another).

B. Compile all the references to the author, audience and key third party. This is usually done by drawing three columns on a sheet of paper—one for the author, one for the audience, and one for others. The data should be referenced with the chapter and verse, and marked with an asterisk if the insight is implied rather than directly stated. The implied data are less conclusive in reconstructing the historical situation.

C. Summarize their respective situations with a short paragraph.

D. Record your conclusions about the author's reasons for writing the book. Differentiate between major and minor reasons. Remember that this could affect the interpretation of some passages.

Specific Study (six questions for each paragraph).

After doing the overview study for the whole book, go back to the beginning and do the following six studies for each paragraph, recording your findings as you go. For any of the six questions that don't apply in any given paragraph, just put N/A.

A. Language

  1. Identify and define the key and difficult words and phrases. If necessary, perform word studies using concordances and lexicons. Look at other uses, especially by the same author, to understand the likely meaning of words and expressions.
  2. In some cases, the style of the paragraph affects its interpretation. This is the case if the author employs sarcasm, parable, diatribe or poetry.

B. Historical

  1. How does your understanding of the historical setting affect your understanding of the words?
  2. Identify and explain any additional historical references.

C. Theological

  1. What does this paragraph teach about theological issues such as the nature of God, sin, man, Satan, salvation, the church and the Christian life? Limit your observations to the information in the paragraph at hand and the preceding paragraphs.

D. Strategic

  1. How does this paragraph fit into the overall purposes of the author for this book? Why does he write this paragraph? Why does he include it here? How does it relate to the structure of the book?
  2. This is the question that gives depth to your interpretation and ensures that your application is legitimate, because you are making the same point the original author was. In the Strategic question, you are asking yourself, how was this supposed to apply to the original audience?

E. Contemporary Application

  1. How does what is taught in this paragraph apply to our world today? How does it affect your overall Christian world view?
  2. What are the implications for the church or for individuals? How does this paragraph contrast with faulty views in the world today?

F. Personal Application

  1. How does this passage apply to my own life and ministry? What are its implications for my sin problems, relationships and general spiritual growth? What are its implications in the same areas for the people in my ministry?
  2. The point is to make sure you are applying the passage to actual situations in your life, as God used the Bible to speak to your life.

Organic Discipleship - Appendix 4: Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics For Lay Readers

Gary DeLashmutt and Dennis McCallum

This study covers principles of Bible interpretation according to the grammatical-historical approach. Most of this approach is nothing but a common sense way to establish the intent of the original author, and to balance any truth discovered with the rest of the Bible. Go over the rules, discussing why each does, or doesn't make sense. Then, look up the verses, trying to see how each illustrates the rule mentioned.

  1. Interpreting grammatically
    The grammatical-historical method assumes that words and expressions have a relatively stable meaning during given periods of history. Therefore, we begin by taking what we can determine as the normal, everyday meaning of the words, phrases, and sentences to the extent possible. In other words, our interpretation must correspond to the words and grammar in the text in a reasonable way. Otherwise, the interpreter could assign his own meaning without objective control. The Bible would become a horoscope of vague sayings we try to plug into our lives however we want.

    Most of the Bible can be easily interpreted by simply taking the language (either in the original or translation) in the usual way (John 3:36; Acts 1:11). In other words, if the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense.
    A plain sense reading should not be confused with a literalistic interpretation. We should allow for figures of speech, symbolism, and poetic language (Mark 1:5; Luke 22:19). If a passage contains symbols or a special literary genre (or style) this should be indicated in the text, either by textual cues, or because symbolism is required in order to make sense of the text. Most symbols are explained by the Bible itself (Rev. 1:9-20)

  2. Interpreting historically
    Historical interpretation means that we take into account the historical background of the author and the recipients as much as possible. The Bible was written to common people, and is understandable to anyone. However, it was written thousands of years ago to a different culture. Therefore, as modern readers, we have to try to recover a general sense of the meaning of words, phrases and concepts in the ancient cultures.
    We are not interested at first in the question, "What does it mean to me?" but rather, "what did it mean to those whom it was originally written?"

    • Rev. 2:12,13 - Pergamum was the center of the worship of Aesclepius.
    • I Cor. 11:4-6 - Shorn hair was typical of Aphrodite priestesses, who were also ritual prostitutes; shaven heads were typical of convicted adulteresses (vs. 5).

    Use Bible dictionaries or other sources to discover customs, money, geography, etc. Then find a corresponding meaning in our culture.

    • Good Samaritan (Luke 10)
    • 200 Denarii (Mark 6:37)
    • 50,000 Drachma (Acts 19:19)
    • Pharisees' teaching on the relationship between illness and sin (Mark 2:5-10; John 9:1-2)
  3. Interpret Critically
    Your interpretation must make rational sense. If interpretation is permitted to contradict itself or other passages, there in no reason for hermeneutics since we can make a passage say whatever we want.

Six rules for interpreting critically

These rules will enable you to arrive at a critically sound interpretation. Some of these rules are the outgrowth of a high view of scripture. In other words, the entire Bible is the product of one author (God) at the same time that it is the product of many authors. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to seek to find a consistent message throughout the Bible. Notice that Jesus and the New Testament authors harmonize the messages of different, unrelated passages in the Old Testament when interpreting. (See, for example, Paul's reasoning in Gal. 3:6-17)

  1. Interpret in light of the context of the passage: Follow the thought development in the book you are reading, and make sure your interpretation flows along with the general direction of argument. Sudden changes in subject are unusual. If you have the thought development of a book centering on one subject, suddenly switching to another, and then back to the first, your interpretation is almost certainly wrong.
    Consider the larger context as well: Which Testament? What author? What time period? Never view a passage in isolation from its surroundings. The context should be considered the most important kind of evidence in the interpretation of a passage. Usually context supplies all we need to know. We should turn to other explanations only when we can find no critically feasible interpretation based on the English text in context. Anyone who claims to see a break in context bears the full burden of proof.

    • Mat. 16:28 - Referring to the transfiguration (in context of passage)
    • I Cor. 14:34 - Means to disrupt (see I Cor. 11:5 - context of book and passage)
    • I Cor. 3:17 (The thought development of the passage limits interpretation – he is talking about the church as God's temple, not individuals. Therefore this is not teaching that suicide is the unforgivable sin. Notice that some connect this verse to 6:19, which is a different context.)
  2. Interpret in light of progressive revelation: (Heb. 1:1,2). While God's purpose for man has never changed, his strategy in accomplishing that purpose has changed. He has dealt with man under different “covenants,” or programs. Therefore, it is important to ask, “Under which program was this written?” Primary application of the passage will be to the people operating under that program. There may be secondary applications for those under other programs based on principles which have universal application. Note special problems here in connection with the ministry of Christ before the cross. He operated under the Old Testament covenant. (Gal. 4:4)

    • Polygamy was permitted in the Old Testament, but taught against in the New Testament (1 Tim. 3:2)
    • Theocracy was commanded in Old Testament, but secular government is affirmed in the New Testament. (Rom. 13:1-7; Mat. 22:21; 2 Chron. 7:14)
    • Animal sacrifices, dietary laws, Sabbaths, holy days, festivals, priests and liturgy have all been fulfilled in Christ and are thus obsolete (Col. 2:16,17; Heb. 8).
    • Mal. 3:7-12 - in context of the testament (see Num. 18:21-24; Deut. 14:22-29 compare to 2 Cor. 9:6,7)
  3. Interpret scripture in harmony with other scripture: Since the Bible is inspired by God, it does not contradict itself. Therefore, never interpret scripture in such a way that it clearly contradicts other scriptures. First discover the allowable range of meaning for a passage, then choose the interpretation that doesn't contradict any other passages.

    • Acts 2:38 could either be referring to baptismal regeneration, or simply adding baptism as a desirable adjunct to the minimum requirement for salvation (i.e. faith - compare with Acts. 16:30).
    • James 2:14-26 "justify" can also mean "justify before men," (vs. 18 and compare with Gal. 2:16)
  4. Interpret the unclear passages in light of the clear passages: Scripture teaches every major, essential truth clearly and many times. Never build a doctrine on an unclear passage.

    • Luke 16:9 is used by Roman Catholics to support indulgences and purgatory.
    • 1 Cor. 15:29 mentions an obscure, unknown practice used in Corinth. Today the Mormon Church uses this passage to elevate dead ancestors to a higher status in the afterlife.
    • 1 John 5:16,17 the “sin unto death” is never defined. Don't base a doctrine of falling away on such a passage.
  5. Interpret the “spirit” of the passage, not necessarily the “letter”: Don't necessarily follow a literalistic meaning, especially when the text is a literary genre prone to figures of speech or colorful statements.

    • Proverbs 22:6 the book of Proverbs contains many general maxims, but not all are absolute promises. Not every child will go right, but most will.
    • Proverbs 15:1 not every gentle word will turn away wrath, but in most cases it will.
    • 1 Cor. 11:1-18 - In some New Testament passages interpretation by the “letter” contradicts the “spirit” of the passage. Paul's point is that they should not offend cultural sensibilities by praying with no head covering. By insisting on head coverings today, we offend cultural sensibilities, and at the same time, fail to communicate submission, since head coverings have long since lost all meaning in western culture (c.f. 1 Cor. 10:32,33).
  6. Interpret with dependence upon the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to teach you. 
    Mark True or False.

    • Proverbs 3:5 "Lean not unto your own understanding" means we should avoid approaching the Bible on an analytical level.
      [False – this passage is referring to making autonomous plans, not how to interpret scripture.]
    • Since the Bible is “living and active,” the interpretation of a passage may be different for different people.
      [False – application can be different for different people, but the correct interpretation is the one intended by the author, and that means only one interpretation is right.]
    • Unless we approach God's word with a deep reverence for God and a passion to know His will for our lives, we may often get the wrong interpretation.
      [True – lack of these attitudes could lead us to distort the meaning.]
    • If the rules of interpretation give one answer and the Holy Spirit shows another, we should choose the latter.
      [False – this would never happen. If we thought the Holy Spirit was indicating something different than the properly interpreted text, we are elevating our subjective feelings or impressions above scripture.]
    • We should pray before studying that God will enable us to understand the passage.
      [True – God can help us think clearly, and he can show us how to apply passages to our lives.


Organic Discipleship - Appendix 5: Assurance of Salvation

Jessica Lowery


This paper is designed to be studied with a new believer. A disciple maker may give this paper to a new believer for her to read on her own, or go over it together. The language is simple and designed for anyone to understand, whether they have a church background or not. If you choose to read this together with your disciple, pause to look up the verses mentioned and discussing how they apply.

What Is Salvation?

  • We are naturally rebellious toward God, and separated from him by our sins. (Rom. 3:10-13; 23; 5:8; 10;12; James 2:10; Eph. 2:1)
  • God wants the separation to end; he wants to bring us back together with him and rescue us. (2 Pet. 3:9; John 3:16 2 Cor. 5:20)
  • He initiates with us throughout our lives “drawing all men to himself” (John 12:32).
  • God won't overpower us and make us right with him against our will. Responding to his initiation and accepting his offer of forgiveness is the most spiritually significant decision we make in life. (Mat. 23:37; John 1:12; Rev. 3:20)
  • It's important to prayerfully confess that we have been sinful, that we want to be reconciled to God, and that we believe God can accomplish this reconciliation. (Rom. 10:9-13; 1 John 1:8,9)
  • Once we do this, we can be assured that we are reconciled to God forever. Nothing can break this relationship. (Rom. 8:38,39; John 10:28,29)
  • We can also be sure that every sin we ever commit (past, present, and future) is forgiven because of the price Jesus paid on the cross. (Heb. 10:12,14; Col. 1:21,22; 2 Cor. 5:21)

Our New Identity

  • We now have a new spiritual identity because of God's gift; we are no longer seen as “sinners.” We are God's children now. Although we may not feel like it, a spiritual change has occurred, and although we may continue to sin, sin is no longer our master – God has paid the ransom price to free us from our life of slavery. Sin no longer characterizes who we are. (Rom. 6:6; 11, 14, 18; 2 Cor. 5:21)
  • Because we are accepted by God, our guilt feelings should lose their power over us. We can always go to God without worrying what he thinks about our behavior. (Eph. 1:,7; Col. 2:13-14; 1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 10; 2 Cor. 5:16-17)
  • We can look forward to eternal life with God. We are going to a place without the pain and hate that fills this world. We no longer have to fear death. We no longer have to worry about whether or not we are “getting enough” here, we will have plenty in a matter of time – this will free us up to think about the needs of other people. (Eph. 1:11,14, 1 Cor. 6:14, 1 Cor. 15:12-26; 50-55)
  • We are adopted children of God. We have belonging. We have a family with God and his other children. We have a God who cares for us, who wants to give us good things, and who understands us. (Eph. 1:5-6, Rom. 8:15-17, Gal. 4:4-7, Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:18)
  • We have been delivered from Satan's authority. If we are afraid because of strange experiences we may have had, we can take security in the fact that we belong to God now, and God is stronger than Satan (Eph. 1:20-21, 2:1-7, Col. 1:13; 2:10-15; Heb. 2:14; Luke 10:18,19)
  • We have a unique role in God's purpose. We can take significance from the fact that God wants to use us to help others. He put us where we are for a reason. (Eph. 2:10, 1 Cor. 12:18, 2 Cor. 3:9-15, 2 Cor 4:1, 5:17-20)


Organic Discipleship - Appendix 6: What is God Like?

Dennis McCallum and Gary DeLashmutt

How do we know we are relating to the true God, rather than a god we made up? While we can never fully understand the infinite God, he has revealed important points about his character. Understanding the character of God is important. These features of God, or attributes of God, are all eternal and coequal. We should never stress one attribute of God at the expense of another. Anything we say about God should not contradict any of these attributes. You can study each attribute and read the verses, considering how theologians get these attributes from the passages listed. Then ask how each particular attribute might apply to daily Christian living. Think how an attribute of God might affect your prayer life, your ministry, your attitudes toward him, etc.

  1. God is omniscient. That means he knows all things actual or possible at once. This includes the past and the future (Ps. 147:5; Is. 40:28).
  2. God is omnipresent. This means God transcends all limits of space. He can be everywhere at once (Ps. 139:7-10).
  3. God is omnipotent. That means he can do whatever he wants. God's power is unbounded except by his own nature (Gen. 18:14; 2 Tim. 2:13).
  4. God is sovereign. This means he owns the creation and rules it, and all of his creatures depend on him. Sovereignty doesn't have to mean God directly causes everything, but nothing can happen without him permitting it. (Ps. 14:1; Gen. 14:19; Acts 7:24-28)
  5. God is loving or gracious. He treats his creation with love and an attitude of mercy (1 John 4:8,16; Isaiah 30:18-21;49:14-16).
  6. God is righteous. God's moral character is the definition of goodness (Mark 10:18; Job 34:10; Hab. 1:13; James 1:13).
  7. God is immutable, or unchanging. He is devoid of change with regard to His attributes or promises. Note that this doesn't imply that God never does or says anything different. Only his attributes and promises are unchanging (Heb. 13:8; James 1:17; 1 Sam. 15:29).
  8. God is truthful and reliable. He tells the truth and cannot lie. He is also faithful (Heb. 6:18; Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim 2:13).
  9. God is infinite. This means both that he had no beginning, and he is free from all limitations. It also means he holds all his attributes to an infinite degree (Ps. 90:2; Jude 1:25; Isaiah 44:6; Rev. 1:8).
  10. God is self-existent, or independent. The ground of God's existence is himself. He is uncaused and exists by necessity of his own being. (See divine name YHWH which means “I am.”) This attribute also means God does not need his creation. He meets all his own needs (Ex. 3:14; John 8:58; Isaiah 40:28; Acts 17:25).
  11. God is just or fair. God cannot ignore evil. He must repay evil or good fairly (Rom. 2:1-5; Gen. 18:25; Ps. 19:9.

Organic Discipleship - Appendix 9: Assessing Your Group

  1. Outreach

    1. How many first-timers have been to the home group during the last four months?
    2. Of the first timers from the past six months, how many were probably non-Christians?
    3. Do you believe that most of the people in the group are actively witnessing?
    4. Do you see a trend in people’s attitude toward outreach during the past few months? What?
    5. Overall, do you get the impression that your church is soft, average, or strong in the area of outreach?
    6. Summary: How do you feel about the outreach in the group? How can you encourage progress, or stimulate change?
  2. Follow-Up

    1. Of the first-timers coming to the group during the past few months, how many are still coming? What is the ratio of first-time visitors and those staying on? (For instance, on average, one person stays out of every four that visit.)
    2. Do members take it upon themselves to greet and talk to new people? Do their discussions include spiritual content?
    3. What about people who have been lost during the past four months? Were the losses unavoidable, or the result of poor work?
    4. How have you explained past losses? Look at recent cases. Is there a pattern in your losses?
    5. Summary: Is your group’s follow up on new people adequate? Or is this a weakness? How can you encourage progress, or agitate for change?
  3. Leadership Development

    1. Have you identified people who are likely to be your next leaders?
    2. Name the men and women most likely to reach group leadership, in order of likelihood if possible:
    3. Are people other than yourself discipling people in the group? Who is discipling whom?
    4. Who in your group do you think really desires to become a group leader some day?
    5. What other members are actively seeking a personal discipling ministry?
    6. Do you have any married people desiring leadership whose spouse may be uninterested? What should be done?
    7. Can you think of anyone who should be discipled, but is not being discipled?
    8. Summary: How strong is the group in leadership development? How can you encourage progress, or stimulate change?
  4. Body Life

    1. How would you assess the general emotional or relational health of the group?
    2. Do your members appreciate body life as significant?
    3. How well do you think people are doing in the area of assisting each others’ ministries?
    4. What do people do after the group meeting? Do they enjoy staying and relating to each other, or run right home?
    5. How deep is the involvement between members during the week?
    6. What percent of the group regularly attend large services at your church?
    7. Summary: How satisfied are you with the body life in your group? Do you see any need for change in this area?
  5. Prayer

    1. Is there a special meeting for intercessory prayer?
    2. If there is no special prayer meeting, is there any extensive intercessory prayer at other meetings?
    3. Are you aware of other ad-hoc times where members get together to pray?
    4. Do your group members understand the important doctrines involving prayer?
    5. Summary: Are you satisfied with the group’s prayer ministry? How can you encourage progress, or stimulate change?
  6. Group Meetings

    1. Is it possible that the teachings or discussions are not consistently good enough to truly hold the interest of the people? How would you rate the teachings?
    2. Do you think teachers or discussion leaders are getting adequate feedback on their presentations? How do you know?
    3. Who is the best teacher or discussion leader in the group?
    4. How often does that person teach?
    5. Is group sharing dead or alive? Why? (i.e. teachings are too long, one person monopolizing talk, silence, etc.)
    6. Are members burdened for the meeting's health? How do you see them contributing?
    7. Summary: How would you describe the quality of your meetings? How can you encourage progress, or stimulate change?

Organic Discipleship - Appendix 11: Leadership Responsibilities

When moving out to lead for God, Christians should have a clear idea of what they hope to provide as leaders. Don't assume that everyone's idea of what leaders should do is the same. Think through these four areas considering carefully what leaders should and shouldn't do in each area.


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want (Psalms 23:1).

Leaders are responsible to see that those in their charge are able to access provision for their spiritual and personal well-being and development. Note this does not mean leaders must provide all nourishment themselves, though they will naturally provide much of it. Followers are responsible to go and take available provision for themselves after leaders have shown them where and how to find food. Here analogies like that used by Paul in 1 Thess. 2 (of a mother nursing her baby) break down. Paul was primarily pointing to his feeling of love for the Thessalonians, not how dependent they should be. Part of equipping young Christians is teaching them how to feed themselves.

Leaders should provide spiritual food, such as the word of God. They should provide good Bible teaching and help understanding difficult passages. Leaders also should provide structures that are conducive to body life and spiritual growth. By structures, we mean meetings or other arrangements that enable people to gather in larger and smaller groups suitable to the functions of the body of Christ. People should be able to worship, study, pray together, share, bring non-Christian guests and raise questions. Usually, more than one meeting type is necessary to meet these needs.


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalms 23:4).

Shepherds are useful for protecting their flocks from wolves. While we are never called to eliminate all dangers from the church, a well-led church is a generally secure place to grow. Leaders should strive to see that the church or ministry is relatively free of wild doctrinal aberrations, dangerous, menacing people, or disruptions that make body life impossible. Leaders must weigh the level of freedom versus control they will exercise. After all, young Christians need exposure to a wide range of viewpoints and problematic people and situations. This is real life! Leaders should be careful not to exceed their legitimate authority. God gives leaders authority in the specific area of operating the ministry. They are not authorized to direct people's private lives in non-moral areas. But if dangers begin to threaten members' well-being, leaders should act to protect. People sometimes even need to be protected from the damage they may do to themselves, and this could call for discipline in love.


He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters (Psalms 23:2).

The world assumes people will automatically know what to do based on following their feelings. God rejects this idea, and instead advances the idea of leadership. In his view, we often need outside advice on which direction to go. Aside from what believers can learn directly from God's word, or what they hear from his inner promptings, believers may at times need the wisdom of godly leaders. Certainly, a group or ministry needs leaders to suggest, or even at times to insist, on a particular direction in the operation of that ministry.

Again, directing does not suggest that followers cannot or should not develop their own ability to apply truth to their lives in a wise way. Therefore, the godly leader will at times withhold his counsel and call on members to decide for themselves. Only when people make mistakes some of the time, will they develop the wisdom to avoid wrong in the future. Therefore, no leader should seek to direct every aspect of a given ministry, let alone the lives of those involved.

Directing is not controlling. New leaders should be taught to shun any controlling attitude over others' lives. Direction means sounding a clear note on the trumpet. While more advanced members may benefit more from a consultative approach which refuses to say what should be done, young Christians often need direction. Groups need direction as well. Leaderless groups falter in virtually every case. But groups with strong but humble leaders who can advance a convincing case for their direction tend to flourish.

At the same time, leaders should be warned that some people want to depend on someone, and they should refuse to allow this. Group members will sometimes ask for direction in areas where they should make their own decisions, such as who to date, or how to manage their money, or how to parent their children. Leaders are free to share advice in these situations, but they should make clear that the decision is the member's to make.


Your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4b).

Someone has said that without vision the people perish. Often, God sends leaders to impart vision to his people, and to bestow the gift of motivation. Note that motivating people is completely different from the idea of issuing imperatives, or instructions. While these may be appropriate at times, here we refer to leaders behaving in such a way that others feel a sense of excitement or need to act in a certain direction. Effective leaders are able to agitate and excite people who were formerly dull, listless, apathetic, and bored. Leaders can develop and impart a vision of godly living and accomplishment that people adopt as their own. After people act, good leaders know how to encourage more of the same through positive words.

Some leaders are able to excite, but it doesn't last. With others, their followings have continued to eagerly follow God over the years. This ability to create long-term motivation is even more complicated, because people have to be gradually brought off motivational support from leaders, and taught to draw motivation directly from God on their own. The artistry and creativity of leaders enables them to sense what is needed at different levels of spiritual maturity and respond accordingly.


Organic Discipleship - Helping Self-Absorbed People

From the book:

We may have disciples who virtually never stop thinking about themselves. When alone, their thought life centers endlessly around self. Depression and defeat usually result. Even when with other people, someone who is self-absorbed either cannot stop talking about themselves, or sits withdrawn, wondering what others think of them.

How can we help such people? Typical steps include:

Awareness and understanding. Self-centeredness is wrong. Disciples must first set a goal to overcome self-absorption based on biblical teaching and God’s power. They need to learn what others-centeredness means and why a life of self-giving love leads to fulfillment.

Practical ideas. We suggest specific actions, or field assignments, that might help disciples make progress in learning how to center their attention on others. These could be actions taken in conversation with others, or times of guided reflection on others while alone.

Support and encouragement. We check back to see how the field assignment went, discussing problems encountered or successes. Then suggest a next step for further progress.

Working with self-absorbed people is slow, patient work. Only regular checkups on how the problem is coming, along with a stream of suggested countermeasures will likely result in lasting change.

Eventually, we should begin to notice that the person “takes off” in the sense that she realizes how to continue developing others-centeredness on her own, without detailed coaching. We are left in a position where we can use generous amounts of encouragement to press on.

Anyone who is extremely self-absorbed will likely continue to struggle with that tendency the rest of her life. But we have seen some remarkable and permanent turn-arounds. What a fantastic victory; to see someone tied up within herself become someone who can creatively move into other people’s lives in a loving way! This is such a powerful gift to bestow, that we will feel gratified years afterward knowing that we had a part in it.

More on self-absorption:

The first thing to realize is that while self-absorption is sinful, most people are not fully aware they have the problem. If they are aware, they may see nothing wrong with it. Awareness becomes our first goal. Some good biblical teaching about the evils of self-centeredness and the virtue of other-centeredness might be a good place to start. Ephesians 4 is a good text to study contrasting the self-centered “way of the nations” with the other-centered “new life.” Each feature of the new life involves trading in our taking values for giving values. For instance “Those who steal should steal no longer,”—what could be more selfish than seeing something we want and taking it? Instead Paul says such a person should “do something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” (Eph. 4:28) Here is an unexpected reason for maximizing our income: so that we can give more. And so on it goes: Exchanging selfish bitterness for forgiveness, exchanging our own conclusions (the vanity of our minds, vs. 17) for mental transformation (vs. 23), and so on.

In the context of such a study, it should be easy to ask how our disciple feels she is doing in this regard. Our observations can be added to anything she already sees, hoping to convince her that she needs change in this area. After a number of such conversations, interspersed with prayer and waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring a sense of conviction, we may well reach a point where our disciple begins to offer up comments about how she feels her self-absorption is really bad and needs to change. If we reach this point, we are in a position to move on with prescription.

Self-absorption is natural to the human condition. Other-centeredness is learned. We need to construct a life situation where she can begin to try taking her eyes off self for a matter of seconds or minutes to focus on another. We may suggest she have a conversation with a friend where she does nothing but explore the other for information, along the lines we suggested in our chapter on friendship building. We might say that afterward, we are going to ask pointed questions about the person she is exploring, and she needs to be ready with answers.

If the conversation happens, we can ask our questions: What did she learn about the other? What about this? What about that? The point is not just to hold the disciple accountable for having had a conversation centered on someone other than herself. We are really hoping that having this conversation, and succeeding conversations, will be rewarding enough in their own right that positive reinforcement will occur. Your disciple will probably begin noticing that others are far more responsive, and things go better in general when you focus on the other person. Meanwhile, we should continue to pursue a course of questioning about deeper issues she can explore in the other person, and in all likelihood, a new friendship will begin to develop. Our prayers together for the other person enhance a growing burden for the other.

In extreme cases, this may be the first time a person has ever had conversations focused completely on another. As the rest of us know, such conversations are far more rewarding than those where we talk about ourselves, hoping others will admire us. For such extreme cases, we may even need to script, or role-play parts of the conversation in advance. Self-absorbed people simply don’t know how to relate this way, and it won’t come naturally. On the other hand, once they get to a place where they are genuinely taking interest in another, they will likely be able to get back to that place again much more easily.

Organic Discipleship - Helping People Troubled by High-Expectation Relating

From the book:

Personal relationships are at the heart of Christian living and ministry. When we are discipling in community, we should be in a position to watch our disciples relating to their friends. We can also gain insight into their relational tendencies from our own relationship with them. As we gain information over a period of months, we may begin to notice patterns of strength or deficiency that point to opportunities for encouragement or for needed change.

For instance, we may find that our disciple exhibits a pattern of high expectations on others. These become apparent when our person is continually offended by others' actions or omissions. Such people are “hard to please” or “high maintenance” in their relationships. They seem to feel like they deserve a certain standard of treatment from others. Properly understood, these expectations are really love demands that make a person a love-taker rather than a love-giver.

High expectations are signaled by regular complaining about friends. Or, you may hear your disciple describing how his feelings were hurt in situations that sound suspicious—the incident doesn't seem like it would have been that hurtful. You begin to realize your disciple is “thin-skinned.” Of course, you can't tell whether the complaints are legitimate just by listening to your disciple, because high-expectation people are able to demonize those they complain against in a way that sounds awful. Here is where being in community together makes all the difference. Your knowledge of the other people involved may contradict what you hear in the complaints. Or, you might even have been present during an interaction that is later characterized in a way you know is wrong.

Even when he has been wronged, you may sense a larger problem with the high-expectation person's inability to forgive. High-expectations seem to go along with an exacting perspective that can't overlook offenses, even when they are minor. This perspective tends to be judgmental—even reading into people's motives in a negative way.

When people believe their relational expectations are legitimate, those expectations ruin one relationship after another. These expectations are a system of rules that nobody knows or accepts other than the love-demander. Consequently, love-demanders are never satisfied for long with their relationships. They punish others for offending their list of rules, creating more hard feelings. Their refusal to forgive leads them to build ongoing cases against people. They manifest bitterness and suspicion of people. How can we help such people?

  1. Awareness and understanding. Helping high-expectation people overcome their weakness is usually a real wrestling match. They are convinced their expectations are only reasonable. They can't understand why anyone would question their right to feel offended or hurt. It all just seems so unavoidable! But we know this approach to relationships is morally wrong. As difficult as it is for such a person to accept, their way of life falls far short of God's call to Christian love. Through a process of teaching and admonition we gradually convince disciples that God calls us to a better way, such as that described in 1 Cor. 13.

  2. Practical ideas. When working with a problem this serious and pervasive let's remember that we probably can't completely fix the problem. We are just looking for progress. Once disciples gain insight, the next step is trying to live out the biblical perspective. Working with personal forgiveness and projecting the grace of God in relationships takes creativity from our disciple and from us. We usually find that once high-expectation people accept God's view of their love demands, progress is noticeable from that point on, especially if we suggest ways to respond to hard feelings and situations.

  3. Support and encouragement. Growing Christians tend to develop a growing appreciation for forgiving and accepting others because the Holy Spirit guides them in this direction. But as disciple makers we can move this process forward more quickly by helping people see God's viewpoint in relational situations and by encouraging them when they respond in a more godly way.

Although relational habits like having high expectations, judging others, and inability to forgive are hardly unusual, they are potentially devastating, and they change very slowly. In the most striking cases, we have seen significant change in as little as a year. But in most cases, helping someone with this kind of problem is a multi-year project, and even then, change will be only partial. Our goal is clear: helping the person reach a point where he can build and maintain deep relationships. Unless he reaches this point, he is too immature to lead in the church.

When it comes to the field of pastoral counseling we see why so many Christian workers choose to focus on outward actions and sins of the flesh while ignoring inward problems like this. Tangling with an entrenched relational pattern like high-expectation relating is just too difficult and messy for anyone who demands quick results. Therefore, we should continually seek out God for a positive vision for disciples who struggle in these areas. God has a vision for them, and we must adopt his vision as our own.

More ideas for helping those with high-expectation relational patterns

We have to begin a lengthy process of persuasion from the word of God, centering in a study of what scripture teaches about love. From the Bible we learn that real sacrificial love doesn't have high expectations or even low expectations. It has no expectations! Paul explains that “love is patient.” (1 Cor. 13:4) That means that people's disappointing behavior doesn't hurt our feelings or offend us. Instead, we see these as areas of need in another, and patiently work with them to see change. He also says love “is not provoked.” (1 Cor. 13:5) In other words, if a loving person becomes angry, it isn't because he lost his temper or took offense. Anger would only be manifested for the good of another. In some cases, a controlled show of anger may be necessary in order to make a point. But it would never be an indulgence of the flesh.

That's because love “doesn't take into account a wrong suffered.” (1 Cor. 13:5) It's not that loving people don't suffer wrongs, but that they don't take them into account. This seemingly unlimited reservoir of forgiveness is only available to those who have come to grips with God's unlimited forgiveness. Paul even says that love “bears all things” and “endures all things.” (1 Cor. 13:7) Paul's picture of a loving person points to someone who is extremely easy to please in relationships. When a loving person holds another accountable to some relational standard, he does so only for the good of the other, not because he feels slighted and is protecting himself.

We need to convince our disciple that failure to forgive from the heart is one of the real serious sins a person can commit. Jesus' emphatic language signals how important he thought this was: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mat. 6:14, 15) We should feel grateful that this formula reflects a law perspective. Jesus often taught the true intent of the law of God when he was refuting the Pharisee's watering down of the law. A grace version of the same teaching says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) In this grace version, our forgiveness is not contingent on our actions, but has already been given. But our response to being forgiven should be just as sweeping as Jesus suggests. Paul makes this even more clear in another passage: “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13) “Whoever” and “anyone” are pretty inclusive terms. It's hard to find exceptions here, especially when he clarifies it by comparing it to God's forgiveness of us. The truth will be hard for our high-expectation disciple (and really everyone else, too) to accept, but God calls on Christians to forgive everyone for everything.

In most situations, judging people is also a very serious sin according to the Bible. Paul says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” (Rom. 2:1) This statement is invariably true. We don't have to watch for long before we find our high-expectation friend doing the same kind of thing he resents so much in others. In another passage, Paul pleads, “You, then, why do you judge your brother?” (Rom. 14:10) He is especially critical of one who would try to judge another's motives: “Therefore do not go on passing judgment1 before the time,but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5) Assigning sinister motives to others is the source of constant division and unrighteous judgment. How difficult it will be for high-expectation people to change in this area!2

As with other problem areas, then, our first hurdle will be the high-expectation person's blindness to his own sin. Before any change can be expected, the person must admit in his own mind that his expectations are no longer legitimate if his sights are set on practicing real biblical love. Through teaching, study, and discussion, we will have to gradually make the case for what real love is, and watch to see if our disciple understands the difference between the biblical picture and his own pattern of relating to others. We can usually use a questioning approach to guide people into self-discovery. Studying good books like Larry Crabb's Understanding People can help the process.

Gaining insight is a first step. But action is different. Once we've had discussions with a friend about how his relational habits fall short of God's call in this area, we are in a position to help them make progress in applying their earlier insight. Perhaps another situation arises where our disciple feels offended or hurt by someone in the church. We may want to let their tirade pass at first, but later come back to the situation and ask, “So, do you think that might be another case of the high-expectations we were discussing earlier?” Whether or not he agrees, this should lead to another discussion of the problem. If we are unable to convince our disciple, we could consider dropping the idea and waiting for God to drive the point home in the following days. But if we feel no progress is being made, we may feel led to argue the case more forcefully. Pacing is important. So is prayer. This is patient work, described by Paul as “agonizing for you.” ( Col. 2:1 NLT) We don't want to nag our disciple, or seem so critical that he closes up and stops sharing his feelings. But if we don't press for change, we are not loving our disciple.

1. In Greek, the word “judge” can be used in different ways, similar to our use in English. Having sound judgment in a situation is a good thing. It means we are able to tell right from wrong, true from false, and important from unimportant. Similarly, we find positive references to judgment in the New Testament, where “judging” means “discerning.” Jesus urges his hearers to “judge what is right.” (Luke 12:57) Paul says he had judged a man in Corinth, in the sense that he had determined that his behavior was unacceptable in the church. (1 Cor. 5:3) He tells the Corinthians, “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” (1 Cor. 11:31) here again meaning judgment as discernment. Judgment is bad when it is condemning, or results in holding someone in contempt.

2. Larry Crabb, Understanding People, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987).

Organic Discipleship - A Biblical Model for Love Relationships

Dennis McCallum

This model is loosely based on my notes from an approach to relationship taught in the 1970's by psychiatrist and former missionary, Dr. Ralph Ankenman. His approach has never been published to my knowledge, and I may have changed his material quite a bit at points.


The key to success in one's emotional life is expressing victorious, mature love output, rather than getting love input from others. In other words, no matter how those around us behave or treat us, we are always able to express love, and in non-clinical cases this should eventually result in improved emotional health. In this paper, we look for a biblical definition of love at its best.

Biblical Love Defined

As we argued in Organic Disciple Making, the biblical ideal of Christian love could be defined as:

"A commitment to, with God's power, give of myself in every area for the good of another."

While the general idea of caring about another, and seeking ways to give of myself for that person's well being is simple enough, we should also carefully consider four specific aspects mentioned in scripture as characterizing mature love relationships. To express biblical love at the highest level, these four aspects should all be present and balanced. The four aspects are:





We will examine each of these aspects in turn. Most people tend to have weaknesses in certain aspects more than others. But by creating strategies for change, you can help people strengthen their weak areas. As you read, consider whether your disciple might need work on any one of these aspects.

The Sacrificial Aspect

The sacrificial aspect of love is based on passages such as Mark 10:45 where Christ explains that, "The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve." Here, positive servitude is seen as the example of Christ—complete willingness to give of one's self for the good of another. In John 15 Jesus says, "Greater love has no man than that he lay down his life for his friends." We see that Christ did live this way. But we must also see that he commanded believers to "love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12; 13:34).

Such servitude does not require that the other person even request help. Initiative in serving is an important component of Christ-like love because, although "no one seeks for God," we find that, "while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." (Rom. 5:6) Put differently in I Jn. 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." This means that the idea of positive servitude is an active, rather than a passive concept. The lover is not responding to love demands, he/she is seekingways to serve and meet needs. Initiating love is part of our sacrifice.

Sacrificial initiative also means that biblical lovers won't complain that, "no one has called me on the phone," or that, "It's always me who has to do the asking," etc. To the Christ-like lover, initiative is always viewed as an opportunity, not as a burden. The creativity and work needed to come up with new ways to initiate love giving are part of the sacrifice of love.

Self-sacrifice means that I have waived all personal rights within a relationship. Christ certainly had basic human rights such as justice and equality. Yet these were voluntarily waived when he allowed himself to be crucified while innocent. We do not find Christ complaining that "It isn't fair" as the nails are driven into his hands. Mature Christ-like love, then, rejects the idea that "I have a right to be treated in such-and-such a way," and instead, has not only accepted the unfairness of life, but sees self-sacrifice as more important than fairness.

Fairness is still a useful concept to mature lovers, because some relationships should be governed by fairness rather than self-sacrifice. Examples might include business dealings, crime and punishment, and a just war. Most of these relationships are not love relationships, and deal more with social ethics (for government or institutions) than with individual ethics (for personal relationships).

Self-sacrificial servanthood is probably the most central theme in biblical ethics. When viewed from this perspective, we see that biblical love is not primarily a feeling of affection for another, although it is certainly compatible with affection. Instead, love is primarily the action of serving another (see John's definition of love in I John 3:17, where love is seen less as a feeling and more as an action). Such serving action can be rendered whether feelings of direct affection are present at the moment or not! Because giving love is a matter of willing commitment rather than the presence of a feeling, our definition of love begins with the phrase "commitment to give of one's self. . .."

The Forgiving Aspect of Love

Another implication of the imitation of Christ is the idea of forgiveness. Jesus emphasized the need to forgive others (Mt. 6:14,15; 18:21-35). Therefore, bitterness, remembering of wrongs and retributive acts are excluded from our understanding of authentic biblical love (I Cor. 13:5; Eph. 4:32).

God's insistence that we forgive others is based on the fact that he has forgiven us, and just as his forgiveness covers all sin, our forgiveness has to be complete and without exception (Col. 3:13 "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."). Therefore, Christians who relate to God on the basis of his forgiveness, while at the same time insisting on the right to refuse forgiveness to others, are fundamentally hypocritical. Stated positively, the recognition of our own sins and the depth of God's forgiveness provides motivation to voluntarily forgive others.

Unresolved anger and resentments involving current or past wrongs can be highly disruptive to relationships. Resentment and hate are terrifically draining emotionally, and these are sure to follow when we fail to forgive from the heart. The depression and hostility resulting from lack of forgiveness can manifest itself in other relationships as well as in our functional lives, rendering us unable to complete demanding tasks and reducing our reliability. We should also be clear that failure to forgive, and the resulting bitterness and resentment are all sin, according to the Bible.

The Disciplining Aspect of Love

However, forgiveness does not imply passivity in the face of evil. Practicing Discipline is also an important aspect of biblical love. According to many passages, real love includes the responsibility to discipline, admonish, rebuke, or oppose others for their own good (Mt. 18:11-14; Rom. 16:17; I Cor. 5:5-7; II Cor. 7:8-12; Gal. 6:1; Col. 1:28; 3:16; I Thess. 5:14; II Thess. 3:6,14; I Tim. 5:1,2; II Tim. 2:24-26; 3:16,17 Titus 1:13; Heb. 12:5-12; III Jn. 9,10; etc.). When dealing with Christians, we should be guided in the application of discipline by the desire and goal of seeing other's conformed to the image of Christ. Christians are also called to grow up to "the fullness of the stature of Christ" (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 13-15). When dealing with non Christians, we still have a basis for discipline, mainly focusing on general principles of relating which we can negotiate with others for the common good.

Discipline in love must be carefully differentiated from any principle of justice or fairness. The point in discipline in love is not to punish fairly for wrong-doing, but to help the other person change for the better. Therefore, the believer is free to be "unfair" in the sense that more grace may be shown than would be warranted by the other's attitude or actions. Likewise, different people can be treated differently even though their actions are identical. When practicing discipline in love, our focus is toward the future (seeking redemptive change), whereas the focus of justice is on the past (matching the punishment to the crime).

Discipline in love is never the product of an angry loss of self-control. Discipline is a carefully measured response to observed behavior or attitudes. Anger may be incorporated into a disciplinary discussion for the sake of emphasis. However, such anger would be an "anger without sin" (Eph. 4:26) because it is not a selfish reaction to the violation of one's personal rights. Like Jesus, who demonstrated anger when cleansing the temple, we may realize that some people will listen only when we demonstrate a certain level of indignation.

In our earlier definition of love, the disciplinary aspect can be seen in the phrase, "for another's good" rather than simply, "for another." This is because what another wants and what that person needs may be completely different.

The Emotional Aspect of Love

The emotional needs of other people are important as well as their practical needs. Therefore, true biblical love is committed to meeting legitimate emotional needs when possible and appropriate. If we serve others in a cold and unfeeling way, we are loving sub-biblically. The examples of Christ, who wept for the sheep of Israel who had no shepherd, and who wept at Lazarus' tomb, as well as the many examples of nurturing emotion found in the writings of Paul both demonstrate the importance of emotional encouragement, disclosure, empathy and compassion. Scripture calls on believers to be "kind and tender-hearted" and to speak words that edify (Eph. 4:29,32).

According to the biblical picture of love, our focus is not merely on trying to constantly feel strong sensations of affection, sorrow, or ecstasy for another. Rather, our focus is on expressing these emotions based on the truth. Thus, emotional expression can and should go beyond the immediate feeling of the one expressing it. The larger context of the relationship may dictate that I express affection and care, even when I do not feel spontaneously compelled to do so. Such expression would not be manipulation or dishonesty, because what I express is actually true, and because I am expressing it in order to give, not to take. In fact, expressing nurturing emotion often more truly reflects the truth about a relationship than would a lack of such expression.

In theory, as we learn to express emotions, the present experience of those feelings becomes more frequent and real. As in other areas life, believers can find their feelings coming into line with what they know to be true. The emotional aspect of giving in love is expressed in our earlier definition by the phrase, ". . .in every area. . .." This phrase is important for those who would give in other areas, but who would not easily give emotionally.

Those who are already strongly emotional may need to consider how they express emotions as well. Negative emotional expressions should be controlled. If we feel justified in "venting" our feelings, even though they are unedifying or even destructive to others, we are practicing a selfish form of love alien to the Bible. Likewise, if we demand that others express certain emotions in certain ways we violate the concept of sacrificial love mentioned above. These are love demands, which are antithetical to the notion of self-giving.

On the other hand, we might find it appropriate to take loved ones to task for their lack of emotional expression, but only if such confrontation is for his own good. Anyone who cannot express caring emotion has a problem with will inhibit relationships. Therefore as seen earlier, we may be moved by the principle of discipline in love to approach others with their need to change lest their own relationship (perhaps including the ones with us) suffer.

Deficiency patterns in love: "Love Spheres"-- Who We Love

When helping people to relate maturely, we can refer to "love spheres." Love spheres refer to our patterns of choices regarding whom to love. Two terms are used to describe this area: the Tribal love sphere, and the Diffuse love sphere.

The Tribal Love Sphere

Some people form relatively few relationships and remain in those relationships as long as possible, even if they are destructive. Such people usually selfishly cling to old relationships because they find the process of building new relationships burdensome or even frightening. In extreme (though not unusual) cases, some people's circle of relationships is no larger than the nuclear family.

This type of relational pattern is could be called tribalistic. The term tribalistic comes from oral cultures where members of other tribes are often viewed as sub-human. Tribes commonly use the same word for both the name of their tribe and for "human being." When people look at the world this way, they have little interest in relating to members of other tribes on a personal level. Relationships with outsiders are usually limited to a very superficial level involving business or diplomacy.

Many Westerners demonstrate the same mentality, defining their family as their "tribe." Relationships with those outside the tribe are neither sought nor welcomed, except on a very superficial level. People outside the tribe are treated virtually like symbols rather than actual people. Meanwhile, relationships within the tribe are expected to completely meet all relational needs. Such expectations are really love demands, and other family members may feel burdened and suffocated because they can never fulfill such demands.

When tribalistic people need to form new relationships (perhaps because one's tribe is gone), this presents a serious problem. Overly tribalistic people will have difficulty forming new relationships, reaching out to the lost with God's love, using their gifts in ministry, and valuing people outside the tribe.

When we try to help people relate maturely, we realize some people naturally lean toward a tribalistic pattern of relating. Strangely, we observe that narrowness in relational life is often connected to a general narrowness or rigidity in most areas of life. Tribalism in non-relational areas of life is called "functional tribalism." The functionally tribalistic person derives a sense of security from "sameness." Even though the status quo may not be particularly satisfying, it's better than changing to something new. Therefore, tribalistic people tend to live with a great deal of routine in their lives. The same schedule every week and every day will tend to be comforting to the tribalistic person, while not knowing what is going to happen next causes anxiety. The diffuse person (see below) would feel trapped by the same routine that makes tribal people feel secure. For functionally tribal people, messiness is very disturbing, while a diffuse person often has no problem with messiness. This characteristic rigidity may extend into all areas of life, reflecting a desire for structure and predictability. The tribalist's insistence on a strict routine may interfere with the need to adapt to new conditions at work or elsewhere. In extreme cases, the tribalist may eventually lose the ability to function in any but one way.

This desire for predictability may lead to a form of relating based on controlling loved ones. The tribal person may interpret another's submission to their control as love. Yet, as the love feelings resulting from control of, let's say, the other's schedule wears off, the tribal lover feels the need to exert further control in other areas just to keep up the same feelings. Those who love tribalists may end up jumping through incredible hoops to avoid punishment.

In marriage, this desire for control may also result in a variety of sexual dysfunctions. These could range from the need to have sex in only one way, to complete frigidity or impotence when the person feels unable to enter into an intimate, yet uncontrollable situation requiring improvisation and vulnerability. Paradoxically, some tribalists may come to interpret their spouses agreeing to sex as submitting to control. They then may begin to constantly demand sex as a sign of love.

Control is a key word for understanding the tribalistic love sphere. Extreme tribalists often develop control-related neuroses. Various phobic complexes can result from the inability of the tribalist to control some aspects of the environment. Anxiety can come to play an increasing role as the tribalist worries that he/she may lose control of the situation or of the future.

Family members who realize that they are expected to meet all of the tribalist's needs often feel repelled. Ironically, tribalists often end up with quite alienated relationships even within their own tribe. The in-grown environment breeds relational ill-health, in-fighting, and simmering resentments. Hysterical episodes sometimes afflict extreme tribalists who feel they are losing control.

The Diffuse Love Sphere

The diffuse person is the opposite of the tribalistic. Diffuse people demonstrate a tendency to become quickly involved in a new relationship, and to immediately feel "close." However, they typically fail to invest sufficiently in the relationship especially after the initial enthusiasm wears off. Relationships tend to become "boring." As relational problems arise, the diffuse person often finds it easier to form a relationship with someone else than to resolve problems in existing relationships. Of course, even tribalistic people may decide to form new relationships in some cases, but the diffuse do so much more often. The result is usually a series of superficial relationships. In extreme cases, diffuse people may never actually form any relationships at all. They may simply meet people and interact on a sub-relational level, seeking stimulation which they interpret as love.

Just as the tribalistic individual desires structure and control in life, the diffuse person desires stimulation and freedom. Lack of stimulation leads to boredom, restlessness and often resentment toward loved ones. Diffuse people may find stimulation in either the functional area (video games or job changes) or in the relational area (moving from one romance to another).

Present Love Feelings vs. Permanent Love Values

When working with people to achieve balance and maturity in their relational lives, we may refer to the stimulation sought by diffuse people as "present love feelings." Diffuse people falsely believe that the cravings within, such as the need for drug intoxication or public acclaim, will lead to happiness. But we know that they really long for present love feelings--the present sense of being loved. Present love feelings are evident when teenagers "fall in love." Such feelings are tangible sensations of excitement which generally cannot be maintained over a long period of time. To the diffuse person, present love feelings are love. Anything else is an unsatisfying imitation of the real thing.

Tribalistic people appreciate a different type of love feeling referred to as "permanent love values." The sense of security and relaxation that some people feel when sitting around their parent's or their own house in a familiar chair, with family members around them, are examples of permanent love values. Although we experience little sense of excitement associated with such love values, and often little overt emotional response at all, tribalistic people find such situations very attractive.

As diffuse people pursue present love feelings, they may develop assorted emotional disorders. Typical types of disorders are drug addiction, alcoholism, obesity, and inability to succeed at a job, finish school or complete other complex tasks. This is because the failure to build deep relationships results in a sense of boredom, emptiness. or void which demands solution. The diffuse person typically reacts to such feelings by seeking stimulation. The particular type of stimulation sought may vary, but any satisfaction derived thereby will be only temporary. Diffuse people who turn to intoxicants for stimulation will take more and more in an effort to achieve the same temporary level of excitement, often resulting in addiction.

In marriage, a diffuse people may refuse to invest in a relationship now considered "old hat." Diffuse spouses may struggle with constant feelings of dissatisfaction in the marital sexual relationship because it isn't as stimulating as other immoral relationships, or even as the married relationship was at the beginning. Divorce is very common among diffuse people for the obvious reason that their spouses are dissatisfied with the level of involvement in the marriage, and/or the diffuse one becomes convinced that another person would be more rewarding than the present spouse. Diffuse people are prime candidates for adultery. Their spouses often complain that they are never home.

Balanced Love Spheres

When helping people learn how to love maturely, our goal in the area of love spheres is neither to eliminate tribalistic or diffuse tendencies, but to achieve a relative balance between them. A mature biblical lover should be able to build deeply within a tribal framework, while retaining both the ability and the desire to establish new relationships and care for those outside the tribe.

The scriptural mandate for such a balance is clear. Jesus critiques extreme tribalists in Matthew 5:46, where he rejects the idea of "loving only them that love you." This is sub-biblical selfishness because it ignores the needs of those outside one's family or affinity group. Likewise, the Pharisees' attempt to evade responsibility to love outsiders was rebuked by the example of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). All of the passages that call for outreach to the lost (cf. Matthew 28:19) are also, by implication, against excessive tribalism.

Excessive diffuseness would be antithetical to the biblical call for deep love relationships, such as Eph. 5:25-29. The principle of "remaining in that condition in which you were called,"(I Cor. 7:20) is antithetical to excessive diffuseness also. Stimulation is a poor substitute for real love.

Balance can be enhanced by two means: 1) Learning to appreciate the missing love sphere, and 2) Recognizing and limiting excesses in the preferred love sphere. We will consider practical ideas for both of these later.

When dealing with love spheres, we may encounter a confusing twist, especially with men. Some people are functionally tribalistic, and relationally diffuse. Others are relationally tribalistic, and functionally diffuse (although this is more rare). In the first case, the man will be a rigid, dominating family man, but also may have an occasional affair with his secretary. The functionally diffuse will have no interest in new relationships, but continually begins new hobbies, sports, or maintain a gambling habit for stimulation.

Some people are already relatively balanced in the area of love spheres. These people's problems are likely in other areas, such as failure to give in all areas, or failure to forgive or discipline.

Applying the concepts in this model

When trying to help people grow in true, biblical love we usually follow a progression:

  1. First helpers must spend time understanding the tensions and pain in their friends' lives During this process, you should "invest" relationally because the resulting love feelings will be a key motivator in change.
  2. Next you help your friend develop a theoretical and doctrinal understanding of his problems and of biblical ideals in the relational area. Attempting to change others without them understanding and agreeing to the goals involved usually amounts to manipulation rather than biblical instruction and admonition.
  3. Finally, if you can persuade your friend to take appropriate action (often involving relational activities in community) it could provide an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to bring in permanent change.

For instance, a friend who is unbalanced on the tribal-diffuse continuum should engage in activity that will tend to strengthen the opposite value. So, the person who is diffuse and addicted to stimulation (or present love feelings) may need to spend measured periods of time during the week in a situation involving routine, low stimulation (but not unimportant) work, and/or permanent love values. He may need to try building a lasting relationship with another, and learn how to resolve problems, persist in giving, and not move on to an easier, diffuse relationship.

Depending on the level of tolerance already present, the period of time may have to be quite short and infrequent at first. The helper may have to accompany his friend in this activity to insure that there is no faking, and to make it easier. For example, it may be that the diffuse person does not know how to spend even one hour studying without talking or doing something else. You should be willing to join your friend for an evening combining a period of quiet study with a period of social stimulation afterward.

A wise discipler should seek to assure that there are tangible rewards to such activity. If diffuse people are convinced of the rightness of discipline and consistency in their lives, and they see valuable rewards coming from investing in low-stimulation activity, they will likely build more affinity for such activity, and be able to branch out into other, similar areas. Eventually, tangible rewards may become unnecessary as your friend begins to enjoy a disciplined way of life and the fruit that naturally flows from it. However, it would be easy to underestimate the amount of time needed for such a transition. Careful and patient work is called for in effecting lasting change in these patterns of living.

In a similar approach, you could teach permanent love values through a combination of counseling, teaching, and practice. A married couple with one or both partners exhibiting diffuse imbalance, (a poorly developed appreciation for permanent love values) may be asked to practice a carefully structured evening of involvement.

Since the goal of the evening is to develop habits in the area of tribalistic love values, the environment should be relatively controlled. There should be no interruptions from outsiders, which usually means the phone should be off the hook. If the couple have children, the evening might be partly devoted to family tribal activity including the children. They could prepare special dinners, and tell stories, or other activities that are not rich in stimulation, but are rich in family "togetherness" values. After the children go to bed, the couple should engage in a period of interaction that you plan beforehand.

Since such couples have often lost the ability to talk to each other, or may never have developed it in the first place, specific plans are usually necessary. Some men may have little idea how to initiate and sustain a conversation that make their wives feel loved. Here you may have to suggest the specific types of questions that would lead to a constructive period of communication. Typical questions that might bear fruit could include:

"How have you been feeling this week?"

"Why do you think you have been feeling that way?"

"How have I made you feel this week?" "Why?"

We can anticipate that a relationally weak man will find it very difficult to ask these questions and carefully listen to the answers. Of course many kinds of discussions could lead to understanding and love feelings on the part both spouses. Sometimes, the wife may be urged to spend some time working with a husband who interprets working together as love, or engaging in other activity that he interprets as "fun" (i. e. love feelings).

These examples should suggest how you can creatively match an understanding of relational deficiencies with creative projects devised in advance. Many other types of projects can be used depending on the situation. For instance, single people can be urged to relate more deeply with roommates.

If you use care in developing a progression of projects, your disciple should gain substantial relational experience focused at the area of his/her weakness. Although we will realistically never see a complete change of personality, and weaknesses will always remain, sometimes even minor movement in these areas leads to considerable relief in troubled people's lives. Disciples should be urged to build life-long habits along the lines of healthy relational patterns in precisely the areas they are weakest. Walking Christians who succeed in this long-term outcome report remarkable relational improvement.

Organic Discipleship - Helping People Build Their Marriages

From the book:

We have to work with married disciples on the biggest area of their lives: their family. Again, marriage and family counseling are such vast areas of need that we can only mention some of the most common areas and refer the reader to further reading.

  • Some marriages are “unequally yoked.” (2 Cor. 6:14) In an unequally yoked marriage, one spouse is far more interested in pursuing the things of God than the other. Sometimes one spouse may be a non Christian or an ambiguous Christian, in the sense that their testimony is unclear and you see no evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the uninterested spouse.
  • Sexual dysfunction is also common in marriages, and may come up in discipleship. Here, some good reading in the field of marriage counseling can help.1
  • In the field of parenting we commonly see two areas that may need attention: failure to invest and avoiding extremes in the permissive-controlling continuum. If you share insight with your disciples in a way that helps them win their kids over to a life centered in God and his values, you will have helped both your disciple and the kids in a profound way.

More ideas for helping people with their marriages

Unequally-yoked marriages

In all these cases, the whole church has to become involved in an effort to win the unwilling person over to commitment. You, as the discipler, are typically working with the committed spouse, so you need help from those of the opposite sex in trying win over the reluctant spouse. The most natural choice for a helper is your own spouse.

These situations are painful to both spouses, and have to be handled with care and patience. Consider calling on the committed spouse to hold back in some areas of involvement for the sake of the uninterested spouse. Some new believers who get too involved in Christian activities too quickly fail to win their reluctant spouses. But spouses who agree to drop all involvement in the church usually fail to win them as well. Common sense tells us that a spouse who suddenly begins leaving the house several nights a week poses a threat to the status quo of the marriage that will be hard for a disinterested spouse to accept. Sometimes, these marriages are distressed, and the spiritually eager spouse is happy to have an excuse to get away from her partner. This is wrong. We have to persuade our disciples that their future with the Lord needs to include their spouses, and put the burden on them to bend over backwards to win that reluctant spouse.

Consider with your disciple: is her recent conversion to Christ making her more appealing or less appealing as a spouse? Nagging and browbeating are harmful. But she does need to lodge periodic appeals—perhaps offering to trade off on interests. “I'll go to the game with you if you try out my home group.”

Situations where the man is the reluctant partner are particularly difficult, and seem to be more common as well. Many men don't like the idea of being told what to do by their wives. Some wives have seen good results from simply asking their reluctant husbands questions about spiritual matters on a regular basis. By asking the reluctant husband, “What do you think this passage means?” or “Why do you think our friend is so uninterested in God?” the wife creates a leadership vacuum that tends to make the husband feel like learning more. Whereas her coming home and telling him why some of his ideas are in the wrong has the opposite effect.

Our main goal is to get some kind of action from any reluctant spouse. Then we have something to encourage. If a reluctant wife finally agrees and comes to a Bible study group or church service, her husband will hopefully be in a position to share how “So and so was saying how much she enjoyed you.” Anything like praying together, or discussing something spiritual should be viewed as a big opportunity to shower appreciation and praise on any reluctant spouse.

One thing is clear. Groups that only win one spouse end up in big trouble. Their discipling ministry will not go forward easily, because a reluctant spouse is usually in a position to stalemate the ministry of the eager spouse.

Sexual Dysfunction: General Tips

First, we are usually safe to assume that enhancing the personal part of the marriage relationship will also enhance the sexual part. Re-read the chapter on friendship building with your disciple in mind. Can you help him become a better friend in his marriage? Does he invest? Does he take an interest in her apart from sex? Is the relationship warm and positive? Any seriously sexually dysfunctional marriage should really go into marital counseling. Unless you see big results soon, plan on trying to persuade the couple to go to counseling.

Secondly, you should check on whether your disciple is erected any barriers to successful sexual relations. For instance, we know of cases where a wife or husband are unhappy with their spouse's disinterest in sex, but have overlooked the importance of their own fifty pound weight gain. We have found ourselves engaged with disciples in efforts at weight management because over-eating is causing serious heartache. Disciplers have to be ready to engage in any area for the good of those they love. Usually, joining a disciple in a diet or exercise regimen does the discipler no harm, and can become a clear area of victory to celebrate together.

Other obvious barriers could include pornography addiction on the part of the husband. These secrets come to light surprisingly often in close discipleship relationships, especially if the discipler is being open about his own sin problems. Western culture has reached a point today where raw porno is piped directly into people's households in unlimited quantity and virtually free of charge. We have abundant evidence today that pornography is rampant in the church in America. A husband who gratifies himself with pornography may reach a point where he prefers pornography and masturbation to sexual intimacy with his spouse. One of the main appeals of pornography for married men is the ease and convenience that comes without messy relational overhead. In a word, this kind of sexual gratification is selfish. No progress is likely in a marriage (or in other areas of spiritual living) when a man is hung up on porno. If a problem like this surfaces, don't just pray that it will go away. Work together on realistic, practical solutions like porn blockers,2 good reading,3 and learning to confess to an accountability partner.

Thirdly, most sexually dysfunctional marriages involve a demander and a refuser. One spouse wants more sex, and the other wants it less, if ever. If our disciple is the demander, we have to persuade them that demanding is the worst thing they can do for their sexual relationship. Healthy sex involves winning the attentions of your partner, not demanding it. Anyone who is even partially uninterested in sex becomes more uninterested the more they see it as a duty. Legalism kills sexual responsiveness. Grace will gradually enhance it. Instead of demanding sex, work out a strategy for becoming more of a servant at home.

If, on the other hand, your disciple is the refuser, try to work on the idea of gradually seeking for responsiveness and taking the opportunity when it appears. Praying along these lines can really help. Teach disciples to watch for Satan accusing their spouses to them. Satan relentlessly seeks to divide Christian marriages.

Above all these issues, however, the most potent help for most sexually dysfunctional marriages is enhancing the quality of their personal relationship. Failure to communicate is at the root of most problems in marriage. Your church may offer marriage communication seminars. Or you could go over one of the numerous quality books on the subject. The best situation is one where you and your spouse can work with your disciple and his or her spouse as a couple. We often see noticeable improvement over time in these situations. See a larger discussion of this area in Spiritual Relationships That Last

Finally, if your disciple refuses to play the kind of role in marriage that God prescribes, you may need to be ready to put some godly pressure on. See the chapter on discipline in Organic Disciplemaking.

1 Titles we have found helpful include Neil S Jacobson and Gayla Margolin, Marital therapy : strategies based on social learning and behavior exchange principles (New York: Brunner/Mazel,1979); John M. Gottman, Nan Silver, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999); Leslie Vernick, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2001); John Gottman, A Couple's Guide to Communication, (IL: Research Press, 1979); Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Crucial Confrontations, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004); Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen, Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999).

2 Anyone hooked on porno, but unwilling to introduce a porno blocker on each and every computer he has access to, is fooling himself about his willingness to change. Even though some of these may be a nuisance, serious believers are willing to pay that small price for freedom. Cyber-Sitter blocks porn successfully, and can also block peer-to-peer file sharing, which is essential. Peer-to-peer is the premier way for many to acquire pornography. For adults, we suggest configuring it so that only adult, sexually-oriented sites are blocked (instead of including violence, hate, and the other blockers that are default, but which cause over-filtering). A less-restrictive approach is accountability software that sends a record of your web access to other partners. XXX Church offers a free program, and there are several other commercial packages. While porno blockers won't stop a determined person from accessing pornography, they do reduce the temptation caused by constant, easy access to porno (the so-called, crime of opportunity). We find that those who have the desire to avoid pornography do much better when they set things up so that accessing more porno would require a deliberate series of actions, like going to a porno store or trying to defeat a porno blocker.

3 We suggest Bill Perkins, When Good Men are Tempted, or Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam (for married men)

Organic Discipleship - Helping People Overcome Avarice

From the book:

Typical areas to counsel: Avarice

In our opinion, materialistic greed is the greatest enemy of spirituality in the American church. The Bible teaches strongly against greed. Paul says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.” (Eph. 5:3) The word for greed is pleonexia, which means a continual thirst for more. Here we see greed in the same list with sexual immorality, which should give us an idea of the seriousness God attaches to this danger. Jesus warned against greed as well when he said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) He also taught that “You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mat. 6:24) Paul goes so far as to say, “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5) Greed is really idolatry, according to Paul because money becomes the thing around which our lives revolve. People caught up in materialistic avarice never seem to have time for the things of God. They are so preoccupied by their careers and enjoying their money and possessions they never can develop quality ministries. With their frequent absenteeism and divided loyalties, they are unable to build quality relationships or engender true love of God in others. One of the saddest side-effects of greed is the way it chills our love for God and for others. Just as Jesus warned, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:21) All too many American Christians simply cannot match the enthusiasm and thrill they feel for God with that they feel for their la test SUV, home theater, or room addition. With this area, like others, a simple pastoral counseling approach can bear fruit.

Awareness and understanding. As with other areas, blindness is our first obstacle. We rarely meet people who affirm that they are materialists. Most people look to those richer and more obsessed than themselves as materialists. They view their own level of greed as only normal. As Americans, we live in an ocean of wealth, unprecedented in the history of the world. We have come to view affluence as so normal and necessary, how would we know if we had a problem with materialistic avarice? Americans need to begin with a careful study of God's word. (You can begin with Appendix 9). As Christians, we know that happiness in life comes from the spiritual and relational side of life, not from possessions, power, prestige, or money. If we can convince our disciples of this truth, we will be sparing them a life of emptiness, and freeing them to enter into the “true riches.” (Luke 16:11)

Practical Ideas. How do people get out of the mindset of avarice? Think through with your disciples what practical steps (like regular giving, reassessing purchases, changing goals, etc.) might help effect change in this area.

Support and encouragement. Watch for shifts in attitude and action that may follow. Never miss the opportunity to encourage such shifts.

More Ideas for helping people overcome avarice

We suggest letting God speak to people through his word. Try a study of basic finance principles with points like these. After reading the verses together, ask your disciple if she sees anything questionable about any of the points:

  1. God owns the world and all that is in it. (1 Cor. 4:7; Ps. 24:1; Job 41:11; 1 Chron. 29:12-15)
  2. Believers should acknowledge God's right to control their wealth because private property is stewardship - not ownership. To this end:
    1. God has entrusted His possessions with you, so private property is affirmed by the Bible. Therefore, no one has the right to force you to use your property in a way against your will. (Acts 5:4; Eph. 4:28; II Thes. 3:12)
    2. But God holds you responsible to acknowledge his ownership of your property and to use it in a way which advances His purposes. (Matt. 25:14-30; Acts 4:32; Lk. 12:41-44)
  3. If you cannot give away any or all of your possessions, you are an idolater. (Col. 3:5; Luke 14:33; 18:18-23)
  4. Our possessions should be considered a means for ministry and therefore an opportunity for spiritual growth. (Lk. 16:11; Gal. 6:6-10; Rom. 12:8; Phil. 1:5;4:15: 1  Tim. 6:17-19)
  5. Worrying about money or trusting in it is a sin, because this attitude denies the faithfulness of the owner to his stewards. (Matt. 6:24-34; Phil. 4:6)
  6. In the New Testament, wealth is in no way a sign of God's blessing or spiritual success. (Matt. 19:23,24; Luke 12:13-21; James 5:1-6; Rev. 3:17,18)
  7. Wealth should be viewed with caution because it tends to stunt spiritual growth. (Matt. 6:21-23; 13:22; 1  Tim. 6:9,10; Prov. 30:8,9)
  8. Wanting to or deciding to get rich is wrong. (Matt. 6:19; 1  Tim. 6:9,10; 1  John 2:15-17; Phil. 4:12; Heb. 13:5; 1 Cor. 5:11)
  9. Serving the Lord for the sake of financial gain is disgraceful. (Matt. 23:14; John 10:12,13; Acts 8:20; 2 Cor. 2:17; 11:20; 1 Thess. 2:5; 1  Tim.3:3,8; 1 Pet. 5:2)
  10. Showing partiality to the rich is prohibited. (James 2:1-7; Acts 20:20,27,33,34; 1  Tim. 6:17-19)
  11. The poor (especially the Christian poor) should be cared for. (1  John 3:17; Gal. 6:10; Prov. 14:31;17:5; 21:13;29:7)

You can also go over this study on Giving God's money to God's work, based on a study of 2 Cor. 8,9

  1. Giving is based on grace, not on law. (8:1)
  2. Giving is a privilege, not a task. (8:4)
  3. You may give whether rich or poor. (8:2; I Cor. 16:1,2)
  4. Giving begins with yourself, then your possessions. (8:5; II Cor. 12:14)
  5. Giving should be a response to the example of Christ. (8:9)
  6. You should give from what you have, not from what you don't have. ( 8:12)
  7. Giving should be done willingly and cheerfully, not under compulsion. ( 8:12; 9:7)
  8. Giving does result in blessing, though not necessarily financial. (9:6)
  9. God will provide for our basic material needs, including the means to give to God's work. (9:8-11)

As we have argued earlier, lasting motivation comes from deeply held biblical convictions. Unless we can convince our disciples that God's perspective is right in the area of personal finance, they will almost inevitably succumb to the materialism that surrounds us all in modern America and the rest of the western world.

You could try having a discussion with your disciple on this list of questions:

Values and decisions related to personal finance:

Ask yourself these questions, and discuss possible answers. Interact with scripture wherever possible.

  1. Do I distinguish between "needs" and "wants"? If I do, how do I define that distinction?
  2. Is it right to have a proportional relationship between what I make and what I buy? In other words, should my standard of living increase as my income increases?
  3. Of money spent on myself, should I make any distinctions between those things which are greater and lesser in spiritual value? (For instance, a reliable car that can get me to my ministry venues, versus a car with leather seats.)
  4. Am I equally stable in conditions of abundance and scarcity? If I am not, what does this mean?
  5. Do my actions show that I realize greed can lead to the destruction of my spiritual walk? (1  Tim. 6:7-10) How so?
  6. Aside from normal time allotment for vacation, school, family and sleep, where is my free time usually invested: in material and personal gain, in enjoying my possessions, or in spiritual growth and ministry?
  7. Do opportunities for my spiritual and material advancement ever conflict? If they do not, what could this mean? If they do, how do I routinely choose?
  8. Do I ask for spiritual counsel regarding my personal finances (i.e. major purchases, job changes, saving and giving plans, etc.)? Is there a relationship between my answer and my view of possessions?
  9. Have I demonstrated the ability to “draw the line” with my job's demand of my time? Am I willing to pass up promotions, or even get a different job if it conflicts with my spiritual growth and the advancement of my personal ministry?
  10. Do I have concrete short-term and long-term goals for my spiritual growth and personal ministry? If not, what does this mean?
  11. Do I give substantial amounts of money to God's work in a consistent way? If not, why not?
  12. Do any of these questions anger me? Why?1

As Christians, we know that happiness in life comes from the spiritual and relational side of life, not from possessions, power, prestige, or money. If we can convince our disciples of this truth, we will be sparing them a life of emptiness, and freeing them to enter into the “true riches.” (Luke 16:11)

1 Adapted from Xenos Christian Servanthood class

Organic Discipleship - Helping People With Parenting

How couples handle their children is an important question, but even in the church, this area is often considered private and personal. Couples are often relatively closed to input in this area. Parents tend to feel they know what they are doing with their kids, even though the evidence often suggests otherwise. Our first suggestion in this area is: proceed with caution. Parents don't want to be told that they are doing things wrong. We have found that parents will accept input if we stay positive and make our suggestions as ways to further enhance parenting, rather than as criticisms.

Certainly if you are a family person yourself, and you work with family people, you will be discussing parenting plenty. If you feel you have noticed a problem in your disciple's parenting style, why not read one or two quality books on the subject that you know will make the points you feel you should make. This way, it comes from someone else, and you can just affirm what you see.

Areas to watch

Some parents fail to invest relationally in their kids. They don't spend time with their kids in a relational setting. We should urge parents to spend time going out with their kids, building the kind of relationship that will yield huge benefits in future years. Children are really the premier disciples given by God to parents. They should view them that way, and set up special times where they invest into their kids just like they would an adult disciple. They will never regret the time they spend going out with their kids. And when the kids reach the teen years they will be glad they built a close relationship, because that relationship is the only thing that will keep their kids out of serious trouble.

Today, evangelical Christians are losing their kids as followers of Christ in huge numbers. George Barna has demonstrated that relativism and New Age spirituality have taken over a large percentage of youth today from Christian families. But surprisingly, teenage rebellion is virtually unknown in traditional cultures. In a typical African or Asian village the kids grow up without ever questioning their parents' beliefs and values. Only in the industrial west do we see the phenomenon where kids become alienated from their parents and their parents worldview when they hit their teen years. Why is this? We would suggest that in the first place, western parents are too busy to build good relationships with their kids. Also, western culture is changing at such a rapid rate that kids find themselves a part of a culture very different from that of their parents. Too often, parents are unable to accept these differences in culture, and try to fight against their kids' cultural tastes. This is especially true with Christian parents, who often view new cultural tastes as too “worldly” to allow. They try to disallow the music, dress, cinema, and language preferred by their kids' friends in high school. The result is teenage rebellion.

This brings us to the question of the difference between permissive and controlling parenting styles. Studies show that children of permissive parents grow up deficient in many of the basic traits needed to be successful in life. They tend to lack self-control, have difficulty in long-term relationships, have a low threshold of frustration tolerance, higher delinquency rates, lower academic scores, and higher rates of drug and alcohol dependency. God placed parents in the family to lead and bring a level of discipline into the lives of their children. Permissive parenting is a disaster for kids.

But the picture isn't that simple. Consider the diagram below:

Graph of transition from external to internal control

As children progress in age (the bottom axis) our goal is to see them moving away from external control to internal control. When a kid operates under external control, their parents make their decisions for them, and compel them follow those decisions. Virtually every decision in life is made by the parents when a kid is five years old, and rightly so. Parents tell the kid what he can eat, when to go to bed, what to wear, and what shows he can watch. But we know that by the time the child reaches eighteen years of age, he will make all his own decisions, and parents can do almost nothing to prevent this. We hope by then our kids will have internal control. They won't need parents or others making decisions for them, because they have the moral sense and wisdom to make their own decisions maturely and in God's way.

Here is the catch. Kids don't go from 100% parental control to 100% internal control on the day they turn eighteen. Wise parents realize they need to see clear evidence of good internal control well before they leave the house. This is the only way we can know they have been equipped to live healthy adult lives. That means that the transition from high parental control to low parental control needs to start some years before they reach eighteen. But many parents, especially Christian parents, try to keep parental control high way too long. These parents could be described as over-controlling parents.

Graph of high-control parenting

With high control parenting, even at fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age, the child's parents are dictating many decisions. The result of such restraint is often teenage rebellion. The child senses he is old enough to be making these decisions for himself, but his parents won't let him. The resulting tension pits the child against his parents as he strives for freedom, and they strive to control him. This is a dangerous situation, because one casualty of teenage rebellion is the loss of relationship between parents and their kids. Rebelling teens won't share anything with their parents, and often describe their parents in contemptuous terms.

We already argued that permissive parenting is not the answer.

Graph of permissive parenting

When parents are permissive, even twelve and thirteen year old kids make most of their own decisions. The lack of boundaries at this age harm the child's development. Too often, permissive parenting is a symptom of single-parent families, where the parent is too preoccupied or too tired to give sufficient guidance to children. But even intact families sometimes move to this style in a mistaken reaction to the high control they experienced in their own families. Others simply have bought into humanistic theories that kids know what is best for themselves. Some permissive parents are even reluctant to control anti-social behavior in their toddlers because they believe all controlling behavior is harmful. Research proves this is very misguided thinking.1

Consider an equipping style of parenting:

Graph of equipping parenting

In the equipping style, the parents' goal is to foster internal control in their kids. They openly discuss this project with their kids, and negotiate agreements where freedom is traded for proof that the kids can handle it. The object is to reach a point where the kids demonstrate good internal control (strong Christian values, ability to resist peer pressure, and do their work) well before they ever leave the house. Only when we see our kids demonstrating internal control in our presence can we assume they will have it away from our presence. This means the process has to begin early in the teen years. By the time kids are seventeen, they will hopefully be making most of their own decisions (still with accountability to their parents).

Another problem we see often even in Christian families has to do with the values being communicated to children. When parents go crazy at sports games, and carefully reward and punish performance at school grades, but hardly notice a child's spiritual accomplishments (or lack thereof), what are we saying? Aren't such parents really extolling the values of the world but not of Christ? Especially as kids move out of early childhood and begin to make their own spiritual decisions, parents should be alert for any developments. Ask your disciple how her kids are doing spiritually, and see how coherent and definite the answers are. Another question would be: "Are there any spiritual areas you worry about with your kid?" Or, "How do you reward and encourage spiritual development in your kids?"

If you share insight with your disciples in a way that helps them win their kids over to a life centered in God and his values, you will have helped both your disciple and the kids in a profound way. In our ministry environment, we work with families some of whom have now been in our church for twenty and thirty years. Their kids are now in high school and college in large numbers, and we see the fruit borne by different patterns of parenting. Some couples have raised kids who love their parents and the Lord in a wonderful way. Others have suffered the tragedy of losing their kids to the world. While even the best parenting can never guarantee kids will follow the Lord, equipping parenting makes it far more likely.

1 Briggs reports on research findings: “Over permissiveness was not the cure-all it was supposed to be, in fact, the results were disastrous. These children were more disturbed than those reared under authoritarianism…. [they] were self-centered and demanding. They failed to consider the rights of others. Their social relationships ran afoul, and they had trouble adjusting to the limits of classrooms and society in general. They expected others to cater to their whims just as their parents had, and they were invariably disappointed. Dorothy Corkille Briggs, Your Child's Self-esteem, (NY: Doubleday, 1970) 239. Heatherington confirms, “permissiveness is associated with lack of self control.” Mavis Heatherington, "Family Interaction and the Social, Emotional and Cognitive Development of Children Following Divorce." Paper presented at the Symposium on the Family: Setting Priorities. Sponsored by the Institute for Pediatric Service of the Johnson & Johnson Baby Co. Washington, D.C. 1978.