Is sure sounds hard, at least when you first encounter it. A simple verse in the middle of a small letter in the back of the Bible, packed with implications. Written in a letter to the churches in his old age, the Apostle John makes this straightforward statement, “...whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6) Hmm. Walking as Jesus walked? Yeah, and it does sound kind of hard!
For the past five weeks, the Elders have been working together through Dann Spader’s 10-week workbook, “Walking As Jesus Walked.” Subtitled, “Making Disciples The Way Jesus Did”, we have been both challenged and excited about our journey together. We see this study giving us a vehicle to move to the next level in becoming a church who ‘Make disciples who make disciples who make disciples.’
When you stop and think about it, Walking as Jesus Walked does seem daunting, but must not be impossible or John wouldn’t have said it. In fact, it appears that John is reminding his readers that this is the default view of a Christian! The tension mounts, of course, when we begin to imagine that ‘walking as Jesus walked’ involves living in perfection... it doesn’t take much life experience to become acutely aware of our shortcomings! Perhaps the pressure might be relieved if we consider the possibility that the outcome might be a bit less important than the process?
In the old rabbinical tradition, a disciple was one who attached himself to a master teacher and then began the process of becoming a replica of his Rabbi; observing, mimicking, walking, stumbling, studying, fumbling, learning, and exploring as he walked with that teacher through everyday life. The expectation was, that over the course of time, similarities would begin to emerge with the disciple progressively reflecting more and more of his master’s ways in thinking and in action. It was a very organic and personal process, with success being measured in personal and relational terms as much as in the results.
In Spader’s book, “Four Chair Discipling,” he puts it this way: “When in doubt, don’t ask “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do?) First study to see W.D.J.D. (What Did Jesus Do?). Jesus showed us how to live in a sin-soaked world, and He did it perfectly. Our ultimate goal is to become like Him in every thought and deed.” Note the subtle change from the more common challenge, “What would...” to “What did...” The process moves away from formulating abstract ideas about what Jesus might do to knowing well the heart and ways of Jesus by studying what He actually did!
This might explain how one could become a Christian, attend church regularly, even have a regular quiet time, and still have little change in thought or actions. The WWJD can leave out the knowing, where the WDJD invites us to become like Him. Warts and all. Stumbling. Fumbling. Becoming.
Spiritually mature and yet emotionally stunted? Bible scholar but emotionally unaware or socially immature? It’s possible. In fact, it happens more frequently than we might like to admit. In his book, 'The Emotionally Healthy Church', author Peter Scazzero writes, “Despite all the emphasis today on spiritual formation, church leaders rarely address what spiritual maturity looks like as it relates to emotional health.” He goes on, “The roots of the problem lie in a faulty spirituality, stemming from a faulty biblical theology. Many Christians have received helpful training in certain essential areas of discipleship, such as prayer, Bible study, worship, discovery of their spiritual gifts, or learning how to explain the gospel to someone else. Yet Jesus’ followers also need training and skills in how to look beneath the surface of the iceberg in their lives, to break the power of how their past influences the present, to live in brokenness and vulnerability, to know their limits, to embrace their loss and grief, to make incarnation their model for loving well, and to slow down in order to lead with integrity.”
Mr. Scazzero got my attention when I read the book again this summer, challenged by his assertion that poor emotional health was an overlooked factor in our effort to become a disciple-making church. As I read, I considered my own journey, of my past struggles with anger and anxiety, as well as more subtle problems caused by passivity, perfectionism, and a brittle sense of worth. I recognized that these things hampered me until they were subdued. In fact, these issues, and several others that have come to light, have, for decades, negatively impacted my family, my leadership, and ultimately, the ministry of FCC.
As our Disciple-Making Ministry Team continues to move us toward a more comprehensive model, it was obvious we should address this directly. Bitterness, anger, depression, habitual sins, shame, guilt, self-hatred and a host of other emotional issues are addressed in the Bible, which offers solutions if we’re willing to accept them. Often we’ll say, “you need counseling,” when we should be saying, “you need healing!” For nearly 20 years, we’ve addressed these emotional and spiritual issues one-on-one from this perspective and found healing for unaddressed heartaches, traumas, and wounds; open sores of the soul that often have their genesis years, and sometimes decades, before. Having seen the dramatic changes, it is clear that there is little hope for spiritual maturity to blossom unless we address a disciple’s emotional health, as well. We concluded that it was time to offer these tools to the rest of the Body.
A true partner and mentor in this kind of ministry, Pastor Brad Smith, from Lifechange Fellowship here in Tillamook, has been invaluable. So much do I regard Brad’s wisdom and understanding, I’ve often noted that Brad is my go-to guy when I need a pastor! So it seemed right to ask Brad to join us in leading, teaching, and coaching as we ask -- and answer -- the question, “Does your Emotional Health affect your Spiritual Maturity?” It does, but healing and restoration are available!
Starting Monday, September 9, at 6:30pm upstairs in Room 3, you’re invited to join us on this journey. The plan is to finish the first round in about 11 weeks, repeating twice more through the rest of the school year.