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An Autumn Reset? | SKMB

An Autumn Reset?

Is it time to assess, adjust and revive your discipleship?
 
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing.”
Isaiah 43:18 NIV
 
“Today is a great day to start something new.”
Common Proverb 


 Discipleship (noun) – the state of being a disciple and at the same time a pattern of following Jesus.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.” I resonate in my spirit with his sentiment. As we enter the season of autumn, I am experiencing in my heart a deep yearning to weigh how I am currently living out my discipleship. Too often I take it for granted and simply shuffle along. Healthy discipleship does not happen naturally or automatically, it is a deliberate work of the soul. I am convinced that the most effective disciples are those who take time to ponder what God is up to in their lives. Coupled with that, self-understanding is a vitally important pursuit to engage in for any faithful and fruitful disciple. In his book Soul Care, Rob Reimer writes, “Self-awareness is the gateway to life change.”  And so, here we are. What follows is an articulation of my thoughts as I’ve been pondering an autumn discipleship reboot or renewal. 
 
In my mind, a reasonable place to start any dedicated discipleship reset seems to be by looking for some signs of an actual need for it.  In my view, here are ten signs that could point to a need for an autumn discipleship reset:

  • I’m experiencing a spiritual ‘numbness’.
  • I am not balanced when it comes to investing in my work. life, relationships, and my own self-care.
  • I have an insufficient diet of Scripture.
  • I live life by sight more than by faith.
  • I routinely experience either indifference or anxiety.
  • I don’t have a passion for the Gospel; it is not shaping me to be like Jesus.
  • I struggle with my identity in Christ.
  • The influence of social media (culture) shapes my life more than the Holy Spirit.
  • Regarding others, I tend to assume the worst rather than believe the best about them.
  • Joy and peace are often absent in my life.

Engaging with these ten questions will give one a good sense of how they fair on the discipleship wellbeing barometer.  If you are convinced that you require a discipleship reset, it seems wise to conduct a litmus test of your present practices as a disciple of Jesus.  The main thing in discipleship is being a faithful and obedient disciple of Jesus.[i] That being said, there are seven questions that come to mind for me that could be asked about one’s discipleship:

  • Am I keeping the main thing the main thing?
  • Am I seeking to live out the main thing from a space of self-effort and self-reliance or as a Spirit-led, love response to the Gospel?
  • What needs to start, stop, or change as I pursue living out the main thing?
  • What has the Holy Spirit revealed to me about how I am living out the main thing?  How am I acting obediently to the Holy Spirit’s revelation?
  • What are my growth areas, blind spots, and festering sins?
  • Am I daily seeking the wisdom of Scripture and wise counselors?

So, you’re likely now at least thinking about an autumn discipleship reset. I am persuaded that such a venture should start with goal setting. Should one not want to start with the end in mind?  It just seems wise to identify a destination as one charts a path on this quest. The importance of goal setting cannot be overstated. Best-selling author Tony Robbins once penned, “Goal setting is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”  We want to see tangible fruitful practices spring from our intangible hopes and aspirations.
 
The following are some reasons I listed for the practice of goal setting:

  • Goal setting allows one to translate a significant venture into manageable pieces;
  • gives one a long-term vision with short-term motivation;
  • helps best organize one’s thoughts and pathway;
  • helps one choose the resources and skilfully plan one’s time;
  • aids in saying ‘no’ to distractions;
  • provides one with a means to measure progress and it holds one accountable.

Okay.  After understanding one’s ‘sitz-im-leben’ (setting in life) and identifying end goals, what are some reasonable next steps?  Great question.  The following are a few that I believe are helpful:

  • Create sufficient space for a discipleship reset.  Rushing a reset will bear little but frustration.  There is a Swahili proverb that teaches, “Haste has no blessings.”  In a similar vein, the author of Minute of Margin, Richard Swenson, writes, “Very little of spiritual value happens in the presence of speed.”  Consider breaking down your discipleship reset into four stages based upon your needs and goals: immediate, short-term, mid-term and long-term. 
  • Seek the counsel of wise godly believers.  Ask trusted and spiritually mature believers how they themselves have invested in forming healthy discipleship.  Scripture reminds us: “Get all the advice you can, and you will succeed; without it you will fail” (Proverbs 15:22 GNT).
  • Invite the Holy Spirit into every step of the reset.  Prayer is critical.  The Holy Spirit knows us intimately and “helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26 NIV).  He reveals to us the deep things of God – the purposes of God for us – and even the constitution our own hearts.
  • Allow the Scriptures to be your inspired living compass. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 timothy 3:16-17 NLT).

Any discipleship reset needs to involve Scripture.  Scripture is living, transforming, and more than able to serve as a mirror into our own soul (Hebrews 4:12).  It also provides a path forward no matter what life circumstance you bring to it.  Are there some passages of Scripture that serve one well in a discipleship reset?  Yes. I suggest taking some time to recall texts that have already proven impactful in your discipleship.[ii]  Jot those down, choose a handful, and over time meditate upon them.  Using the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina is particularly helpful.  I also recommend some ‘go-to’ Bible texts that keep you motivated when you feel deflated or defeated.[iii]

  • Journal your insights, responses to those insights and action steps arising from the two.  Journaling helps a person better connect with their thoughts and feelings.  It also has been proven to bring clarity to life situations and current behavior. Lastly, journaling facilitates substantive personal discipleship growth.
  • Be prepared for setbacks.  We are after all, human.  Imperfect creatures.  By default, we are self-centered when we should be Christ-centered; we strive for independence when Jesus calls us to greater dependence on him.  We tend to rationalize ‘fleshly’ shortcomings and downplay our ungodly proclivities.  All of these do battle against our efforts at healthy spiritual formation into the image of Christ.  Therefore, any discipleship reset is bound to experience, at best, hiccups of one kind or another.  Be prepared for them and respond with patience, appealing for help from the Holy Spirit.
  • Participate in a discipleship growth group.  If not already, join a group of dedicated followers of Jesus who not only want to learn to be like Jesus but are also committed to disciple-making.  I recommend that the group not just be about Bible study but intentional about sharing their space with those who don’t know Jesus.  Lastly, this group should have an accountability component to it.
  • Invest in serving.  One of the most powerful claims shared with me about healthy and fruitful discipleship was that it comes with a posture of giving one’s life away.  The counsel of Scripture teaches: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).  We enhance our discipleship through pouring our lives into serving others.  So too, we can also reset and revive it through serving.
  • Understand that this is NOT about trying harder.  A discipleship reset is truly about a surrender of ourselves to the transforming and redemptive work of God.  It is a work of grace.  Yes, we play a role, but chiefly it is one of allowing God’s Spirit to do a supernatural reset of our soul.  Such an act of submission is our response of love and obedience.

There is so much more one could say on this matter of rebooting or renewing one’s discipleship.  However, that must be for another time and this piece remain as a primer.  For now, let me close with an anecdote: During seminary training in Virginia, my wife and I would often take autumn day trips into the Shenandoah woods where the trees looked like they were on fire.  The spectrum of red, orange and yellow coloured foliage was simply breath-taking.  It was for us an amazing testimony of God’s creativity, power and love.  In this dazzling display of his creation, we sensed God was doing a new thing all around us, something we were blessed to enjoy.  Like he does in creation, God also desires to do an incredible new thing in our discipleship and for you that may be a discipleship reset this autumn.  May the Lord give you wisdom and insight.  May the following quote inspire you to something new.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
C.S. Lewis

Rev. Philip A. Gunther, DM, SKMB Conference


[i] Matthew 10:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:15,20; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:7-8;

1 Peter 2:9,16; 3:15.
[ii] If your Scripture recall is coming up short, consider the following: Psalm 1, 23,

51, 121, 139; Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 5:1-16; 10; 22:34-40; 28:16-20;

Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 5; Ephesians 2:1-9; 5:1-20;

1 John 4; 1 Peter 2.
[iii] Two suggestions: “…my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm, let nothing move

you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you

know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain” (2 Corinthians 15:58

NIV).  “I can do all things through him who gives me strength”

(Philippians 4:13 NIV).

 

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