The Discipleship.Network Interview
Phil Miglioratti interviews
Dr. Robert E Logan and Dr. Charles R Ridley co-authors of The Discipleship Difference
Phil ~ Bob, why do we need another book on making disciples?
Bob ~ Well, it’s not because I think all the previous books are bad and mine is the one with all the answers. J True, many books have been written on discipleship. Yet because it’s at the core of our faith—the mission Jesus left us with was to make disciples—it’s a topic we need to keep coming back to and reconsidering from different angles. It’s not a topic we’re ever going to fully master and move on from… as least not until Jesus returns.
Phil ~ You wrote "The purpose of this book is to unpack a different perspective" than "assembly-line disciplemaking" and you identified three differences. Please elaborate:
Bob ~ These differences are what I’m referring to when I talk about the need for continually revisiting discipleship. Discipleship looks different across different eras and different cultures. The era of the assembly line—a great invention in its day—is over. We need new wineskins for new wine.
- A different approach ~ We are not all the same. We need to treat different people differently, according to their personality, gifts, preferences, and experiences. Our discipleship approach needs to be individualized to fit the uniqueness of each person. It shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. After all, when we look at scripture, Jesus never took a one-size-fits-all approach. We see how he treated different people differently, according to what they needed.
- A different process ~ Too often in recent discipleship resources, there is an often unspoken assumption that discipleship is quite linear: first we learn and grow, then we reach out to serve and make disciples. Yet the reality is that we can’t truly be learning and growing if we are not acting on what scripture is telling us to do. How can we truly grow if we are not yet serving? For serving helps us grow. When we look to scripture, we see no such “waiting period” of learning without action, of inward growth without outward action. The two happen in tandem, each feeding back into the other.
- A different outcome ~ If we are to make disciples, we should spend a bit of time considering what those disciples should look like. What are we aiming for? How will we know if we have successfully made a disciple? True making of disciples goes beyond a conversion experience, beyond the completion of a class, beyond a baptism, beyond a feeling. A true journey of following Jesus in the steps of discipleship must involve the head, the hands, and the heart. It’s a holistic outcome, and we should see all three of these aspects in the disciples we make and the disciples we are ourselves.
Phil ~ "Jesus had a common goal for everyone-but he approached every person differently." If this is an accurate understanding of how he approached disciplemaking, then what are the implications to our most common methods, forged out of an industrial age culture?
Bob ~ It means that we can’t come in to disciple a person with preconceived idea of what they need to work on and how they need to grow. We need to wait and listen and discern together with the person what the Holy Spirit may be saying. We need to take a much more open posture than an expert posture.
Phil ~ What was the role and significance of research in formulating a different process?
Bob ~ I have loved working with Dr. Charles Ridley on this project. He brings a scientific rigor to the process that prevented us from cutting corners… even when it would have been much easier to do so. By beginning with the behaviors of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels, we took a more objective look at what it really means to live as a disciple and do what Jesus did. Research of this type can help us separate the real, measurable actions of a disciple from the cultural conceptions we think of when we hear “discipleship.”
Additionally, co-authoring with Chuck brought a needed perspective to the project. It’s rare that white and African-American church leaders collaborate on books, but when they do I think the product becomes that much richer and can speak into that many more contexts effectively. Chuck helped me see some of the issues differently than I would have on my own.
Phil ~ You posit "some big paradigm shifts" that change the way we think about making disciples - please elaborate:
- "Jesus started making disciples in the harvest, not the temple"
- When we think of “making disciples,” where do we look? The church pews… the people who are already here. Where did Jesus look? The seashore, the marketplace, the tax collector booths.
- "The disciplemaking journey begins before conversion, not after"
- This is a biggie and it’s easy to misunderstand. The modernist conventions says that first we have conversion, then we have discipleship. But when we look at the Bible, it’s not artificially separated like that. The entire process—beginning at the seashore holding fishing nets—is discipleship. Evangelism is a subset of the larger journey of discipleship.
- "We don' need to become mature ourselves before we can start discipling others"
- At the call of Jesus, Andrew dropped his net and ran to go get his brother. This is before he even knew what Jesus was about himself. Did Andrew wait until he’d gotten all of his theology straight and understood everything? No. He acted on what very little he did know to start spreading that message to others.
- "We cannot separate evangelism and discipleship"
- One of the big failings of some of the 19th and 20th century evangelists was the lack of follow up. They did evangelism, with no additional discipleship to follow it up. That’s a problem, but another problem is that we sometimes try to grow as disciples without expecting to be engaging in evangelism. It’s got to be a both/and.
Phil ~ What makes these paradigm shifts so difficult; accepting them as true or applying them into (what I will call) an old world system of church?
Bob ~ Applying them. Understanding and believing something is the easy part. Doing it is the hard part.
Phil ~ New outcomes are the result of new approaches. Industrial age methodologies must be set aside, but what replaces them? Talk to us about a new "toolkit" for disciplemaking:
Bob ~ Relationships are what replaces industrial age methodologies. What we need now are interpersonal skills and relational skills—things like listening, asking good questions, helping people see things from other points of view, inching one another step-by-step toward where we need to be. These new methodologies (which aren’t really new, but go back to Jesus) include:
- Social modeling ~ In social modeling, people learn through observing and imitating others.
- Questioning ~ Jesus asked many questions of his disciples to help them reflect, examine themselves, and learn.
- Scaffolding ~ Scaffolding is a temporary foundation upon which to learn, grow, and develop-- not intended to be permanent, but to help develop skills moving toward independence.
- Reframing ~ Reframing is helping people see things in a different way, through a new lens, or from a new perspective.
- Shaping ~ Shaping is using positive reinforcement to gradually shape a person's behavior.
- Confrontation ~ Sometimes a direct challenge to a person's behavior is necessary, especially when there is a pattern of behavior that other tools have not been able to change.
- Direct instruction ~ Direct instruction is the teaching of content. This tool should be integrated with experience as much as possible.
Phil ~ Most readers will agree that "Discipleship is not an add-on to the rest of life - it is the rest of life and how we can live it in obedience to God" ... but how many have the capacity to change their approach or process? ... And, what happens if we don't?
Bob ~ Everyone has the capacity to change their approach or process. It’s a matter of willingness. Over time, the most effective methods will need to win out if we are to continue growing as the Church.
Phil ~ Is this what you refer to when you discuss different outcomes? "The kind of life Jesus calls us to... is radically other-centered."
Bob ~ Yes, that’s holistic discipleship. Not just head knowledge, but a heart for others and hands to serve them. All three are necessary—head, hands, and heart.
Phil ~ How can prayer champions (pastors, prayer and small group leaders) make disciples who have a strong personal and corporate prayer lives?
Bob ~ Through the approach outlined in The Discipleship Difference, any area of Christian practice (including prayer) can be passed along. For instance, prayer can be passed along to others by using the practical tools outlined in chapter 9.
Phil ~ One more thing you'd like to say
Bob ~ One of the keys to using this approach to discipleship well is determining each person’s individual starting point accurately. To help people do that, Dr. Ridley and I have created a 360 degree online assessment to measure different areas of discipleship. The results don’t necessarily tell you, “You have to work on this one area.” But they do give you data you can bring to God in prayer and discuss with others who know you well. Sometimes the assessment results will pinpoint a neglected area that you haven’t thought much about and when you see it, you sense the voice of the Holy Spirit focusing your direction. The assessment is available online at www.discipleassessment.com. The book is available on Amazon in both hardcopy and Kindle.
Phil ~ Bob, write a prayer we can pray to become more effective, biblical disciplemakers ...
Bob ~ Jesus had compassion on the people when he looked out over the crowds, describing them as “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). I echo his words when he prayed, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2)
PHIL ~ Readers will notice that your contribution to the book is in the area of research. What perspective/passion/skills did you bring to the writing of this book that make it unique?
CHUCK ~ As a social scientist and academic psychologist, I routinely seek to investigate, explain, and interpret human behavior. Like any natural phenomenon, behavior is complex and is based on sound principles. Too often, we provide oversimplified or unnecessarily complicated explanations of behavior. This is true in ordinary discourse, pop self-help literature, and unfortunately, ministry. One of my passions is to simplify without either oversimplifying or unnecessarily complicating natural phenomena. This is what Einstein did when he postulated that E=MC2. And this is what we attempted to accomplish in The Discipleship Difference, for simplifying disciple making will help disciple makers.
PHIL~ You and your co-author state "The purpose of this book is to unpack a different perspective" on disciple-making "that results in transformation." What role did research play in these areas?
CHUCK ~ Jesus articulated the imperative to disciple making long before he uttered the words, "Go and make disciples of all nations" in Matthew 28:19. He did so through behavioral demonstration--effectively laying out a blueprint for all disciple makers, regardless of time or location. By definition, behavior is observable (we can see it), repeatable (it can have noticeable patterns), and measurable (its frequency can be counted). The three primary ways of making disciples--different approach, different process, and different outcome--all are reflected in Jesus' behavioral blueprint. Bob and I simply gave more detailed and social science explanations of the behavior inherent in the blueprint Jesus set forth.
PHIL~ Talk to us as a research-focused coach...
CHUCK ~ The common denominator in each of these concepts is change. Change exists on two levels: first order and second order. First-order change is change without change (i.e., disciples memorizing scripture but evidencing no demonstrable difference in their lifestyles). Second-order change is change of change or qualitative or transformative difference in the nature of the phenomenon (i.e., disciples who move to a place of making more and better disciples). We attempted to clarify the nature of change as a holistic process based on the integration of knowledge (head), character (heart), and behavior (hands). See chapter 5 in The Discipleship Difference. This way of thinking argues against a commonly fragmented conceptualization of change that emphasizes one of the three areas at the exclusion of the other areas. It also allows us to make practical application change.
PHIL~ Please write a prayer for readers who want to make disciples as they grow as a disciple
CHUCK ~ Lord, we thank you for entrusting us with the high calling of making disciples and the responsibility of growing in our knowledge, character, and behavior. Help us in all our endeavors and at all times to be jealous for the name of God.