Phil Miglioratti Interviewed Kevin and Sherry Harney, authors of Organic Disciples
PHIL >>> Sherry and Kevin, you begin with three foundational questions - Why is it important to first rethink how discipleship works before adopting or adapting a specific program?
SHERRY >>> The heart of Jesus is to lead you and me to the center of the Father’s will. If we are going to end up where the Lord wants us, we need to be crystal clear that we are headed in the right direction. The three diagnostic questions at the beginning of Organic Disciples are designed to help us set the course of our lives, as disciples, in line with where Jesus wants to take us. These questions are:
1. How can I know I am growing as a disciple?
2. Is discipleship bigger than my relationship with Jesus?
3. What is the relationship between Discipleship and Evangelism?
KEVIN >>> If we are headed the wrong direction, we won’t arrive at God’s prescribed destination. As the Organic Outreach International team has studied churches, ministries, and believers around the globe, we have discovered that many sincere and Jesus-loving Christians don’t have clear answers to these questions. We would encourage every reader to pause right now and ask, “How would I answer each of the three diagnostic questions above?”
What we have discovered is that many people who love Jesus and desire to follow Him would answer the first question by admitting that they don’t have a clear picture of what their spiritual growth might look like as they become more like Jesus. They want to grow and hope they are taking steps forward in spiritual maturity, but they don’t really know when this is happening in a meaningful way.
The second question is often answered completely wrong. Many Christians believe that discipleship begins and ends with their personal relationship with Jesus. The truth is, God’s vision for discipleship is not just about me and Jesus. Instead, we are called to be influenced by others in our faith (to be discipled) and also to influence others to grow in following Jesus (discipling). But it does not end there. The people we help grow to be like Jesus are also called to reach out to other people and impact a next generation. A growing disciple is part of a continual generational chain of lives impacting lives until Jesus comes again!
The response to the third question is often misunderstood. Far too many Christians and church ministries treat Discipleship and Evangelism like rivals or distant cousins. They miss the beauty of God’s plan to marry Discipleship and Evangelism together to make them one. When we keep Evangelism (Organic Outreach) and Discipleship separate, we cripple the impact of the local church and our impact as believers. When we bind them together in a sacred and sacramental marriage, these two movements of God support each other and propel forward the mission of our God in this world.
[Note: The following topics comprise a template of components the Harneys believe connect your journey to discipleship with a passion for the world to meet the Savior you know and love.]
SHERRY >>> As we have led the movement of discipleship at Shoreline Church, we felt the need to identify specific practices of Jesus that every Christian (young and old) should be emulating. So, we spent about a year gathering with leaders from our children’s, youth, and adult ministries. As we studied the life of Jesus, we identified seven distinct practices of our Savior that every believer can and should see growing in their life. They are: Bible Engagement, Passionate Prayer, Wholehearted Worship, Humble Service, Joyful Generosity, Consistent Community, and Organic Outreach. Discipleship is about becoming more and more like Jesus. We can be confident we are developing as his followers when we see these seven markers increasing in our lives.
PHIL >>> Bible Engagement: Why must we reappraise how we incorporate Scripture into our discipleship journey?
SHERRY >>> We address the importance of Scripture in our journey as a follower of Jesus first because everything else is built and based on this part of our spiritual growth. We would not have any idea what a mature and growing life of faith would look like if we did not have the Scriptures. We would not know what it looks like to grow as a disciple of Jesus if we did not have the gospels, the four distinct and beautiful accounts of the life of our Savior. When the apostle Paul was inspired to write these words, the church received a powerful picture of what the Scriptures can do in our lives and the world, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
KEVIN >>> In the longest book of the Bible, in the longest chapter, we read these words, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97). The psalmist is declaring a passionate love for the Holy Spirit inspired message of heaven, the Scriptures. We do not worship the Bible…we worship only God. But we should love the book that points us to Jesus, teaches us how to live, shows the pathway to holiness, and reveals the very heart of the Father! Loving the Bible is not enough. If we are ignorant about what we love, do we really love it? Notice that right after declaring love for the Scriptures, the psalmist proclaims that he ponders, thinks about, meditates on the text and teaching of God’s Word “all day long.” We need to know the teaching of the Bible, study the whole book, get to know the content of the Scriptures, and lock it in our heart and mind!
But this is still not a fulfillment of what God desires for his children. Once we Love the Word and grow in knowledge of biblical truth, we are to follow what it says. In the book of James, we read this piercing exhortation, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Our heavenly Father delights when his children love, know, and follow his teachings found in the Bible. To put it simply, we must keep the Bible in the very center of our discipleship journey because everything else is guided by the Word of God.
PHIL >>> Passionate Prayer: How can we reconceive what a biblical prayer life is intended to be?
SHERRY >>> The best and easiest way to grow in prayer is to study the life of Jesus and imitate His example as best we can. Jesus prayed all the time. He prayed alone, in small groups, and with the masses. He actually prayed with His eyes wide open!
When the apostle Paul called us to “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17), he was not saying that we have to pray every moment of every day. He was letting us know that we get to pray at any time! The door of heaven is open. The curtain has been torn wide open and the most holy place is available to you and me at any time (Matt. 27:51). Every moment of life is the right time to communicate with our heavenly Father, so pray often. Pray with your eyes open and closed. Pray as you walk along in every part of your life.
PHIL >>> Wholehearted Worship: Where do we begin to re-envision a worshiping lifestyle as essential to being/making disciples?
KEVIN >>> Worship is often seen as gathered formal services that are planned for Sunday or some other set day of the week. There is nothing wrong with this. But worship is so much more. Worship is a lifestyle. The Apostle Paul was crystal clear that when we offer our whole life, body and soul, as a living sacrifice to God, we are engaging in true and proper worship (Romans 12:1). This takes worship out of the church building and into the street, our office, school, neighborhood, home, and everywhere we go. When we see it this way, we identify wholehearted worship as what we do in the flow of every day and not just what happens for an hour or two each week. When we live this way, the world sees us worship and surrender to God in everything we do. This is the desire of our heavenly Father.
PHIL >>> Humble Service: Why is it important, timely, to rethink compassion and caring as radically countercultural
KEVIN >>> Our world has always been a hard and hostile place. All we need to do is read the Bible or a basic world history book to learn this. But things seem to be getting even more polarized and conflicted in recent years. Family members and friends are finding themselves on the opposite side of issues and a growing number of divides. How do we build bridges? How does a disciple break through the increasing number of walls? We believe humble service is a powerful witness in the world. In particular when Christians serve people who believe and live differently than we do, we shine the light of Jesus and he tears down those walls.
SHERRY >>> We lived in the same neighborhood for more than a decade and a half as we raised our three boys. From the beginning we offered our home, backyard, trampoline, kitchen, and the things we had to others who needed (or would enjoy) them. Our home became a rallying point in the community because service was a lifestyle. We treated neighbors like loved family members and helped whenever we could and however we could. Friendships were forged. On 9/11 our neighbors (Christians and non-believers) gathered in our home to talk, pray, cry, question, vent, and pray some more. We did not invite them…we didn’t have to. They just came. Over the years, many of them told us that it was service (with no strings attached) in the name of Jesus that revealed his presence. We believe it still is!
PHIL>>> Joyful Generosity: How does reprioritizing the stuff of our lives (resources, relationships) capture the attention of not-yet-believers?
SHERRY When followers of Jesus recognize that everything they have is a gift from above and that God has been good to us, we live with open hands and hearts. We share what was never ours with people who wonder if there is a God who could provide and care for them. Our example of giving and the prioritizing of generosity reveals the heart of God, the most lavish being in the universe. In a world that is growing progressively self-centered and skeptical, Christians who follow Jesus on a journey of radical generosity stand out. Spiritually curious people are drawn to us as we live for things that last forever and not just for a few months or years.
PHIL >>> Consistent Community: How can the way Christians love each other reveal Jesus to the world?
SHERRY >>> Think about it. What did Jesus say was the key to showing the world that we are his followers? Jesus did not say, “they will know you are my disciples by your pure doctrine,” as important as this is. He did not say, “The world will know you are my people by the beautiful buildings you construct,” though having a place for the church to meet is a real blessing. What Jesus said was, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). The way we do community sends a powerful message to the world. It reveals the presence of Jesus. This includes how we behave toward members of our church, other believers we meet, and other congregations around town. The way we do community opens the door for the gospel.
KEVIN >>> One thing we have learned through the years is that we can destroy our witness to the world if we are bitter, jealous, and conflicted with other Christians.
We compromise the message of Jesus when we compete with other Christian churches around town. If we can’t love our family members (in the family of God), how can we love the lost in our world? One thing we do at Shoreline Church, almost every week of the year, is we call another local Christian church in the Monterey County area and we ask how we can pray for them. Then, as a congregation in Sunday worship, we pray for that church and pastor by name! We have had many non-believing visitors
say that this practice surprised and encouraged them.
PHIL >>> Organic Outreach: What changes when disciples reorient their life toward an outward expression of God’s love in Christ?
KEVIN >>> When we hold the hand of Jesus, we are led wherever he goes. If you read the gospels, you discover that our Savior loved to go toward the broken, lost, hurting, and wandering. So, every step we grow forward as disciples draws us nearer to Jesus and closer to the world he loves and died to save. If you wonder if you are growing as a disciple, consider asking yourself this question. Am I growing in my love for the lost and increasing in actions to share God’s grace with others.
PHIL >>> Please write a prayer of commitment to a lifestyle of being and making disciples who make disciples...
SHERRY >>> Lord of amazing grace, draw us to your heart. Increase our love for you and help us take the hand of others and help them grow in their faith. Give us the courage and discipline to teach them to do the same. Let the journey of discipleship that began when you said “Follow me” over two thousand years ago continue through our lives until you come again.
KEVIN >>> Yes, Lord Jesus, I agree with this prayer. And, increase our love for the lost and broken in the world. Help us see people with your eyes and love them with your heart. May wandering sheep come home to you, Savior. And may they then go out and reach others with your love and truth. For the glory of Jesus, for the strengthening of your church, and for the sake of the world, Amen!