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10 Surprising Keys to Discipleship

It has taken me 25 years to figure out what Jesus taught his disciples in three years. And now I’m going to try to distill 25 years of living into one blog.

So much of what I’ve learned about discipleship has been a surprise—it’s bucked the conventional wisdom that I was told was normal for Christians.

Growing up in Columbia, Missouri was good and bad. The good was the small community church where I was known and accepted. The bad was that I had to leave that church in order to learn most of what Jesus had to share with me about discipleship.

If I could give you any gift, it would be the ability to understand and apply what Jesus said about living an abundant life. So, here’s my best effort. Here are ten things that I learned.

1. Mistaken Identity

Somehow I thought that I was as good as my grades and my accomplishments. I was what others said about me.

But I’ve learned that my identity has little to do with my performance. I’m God’s child and his love for me is unconditional.

I didn’t really start wrestling through core identity issues until I left home and began to ask, “Who am I?” If you’ve never left the environment that defined you growing up, you may never really grow up. Jesus spent 30 years in one town and then walked away from that and into his calling.

2. Journey

Have you ever thought about why Jesus walked around so much? I mean, why didn’t he just stay in one place like most of our religious people do?

He takes his disciples on an extended journey. Then in Luke 9 and again in Luke 10, he sends his disciples out on mini-journeys within that three-year journey.

As I looked at the ways that God has grown me, I saw that it was often in the context of a physical journey. As I looked at Scripture, I realized that all the people God called out as leaders, he sent on a journey, a kingdom journey.

In the context of a journey, spiritual movement parallels physical movement. As comfort zones narrow, spiritual possibilities expand. Journeys destabilize the false self so that your spirit man can wake up.

It’s what I’ve devoted my life to helping others experience. I believe in the idea so much, I wrote a book about it. If you’re in a stagnant place spiritually, consider that you may well need a journey to recover what you’ve lost. God gives us restlessness as a whisper that there’s more for us if we’ll just leave the place of our stagnation.

3. Listening Prayer

God speaks to us in many different ways. But when he spoke to me inwardly and personally and told me he loved me, everything changed.

We can preach about a personal relationship with God, but until our monologue becomes a dialogue, we’re making stuff up. And it all starts when we begin to listen for God’s still, small voice.

God desires to speak to us, but in this noise-filled world so crammed with distractions, he wants us to create space where dialogue can happen. A generation is growing up that desperately desires connection but substitutes social media for the silence that God inhabits.

I’ve become such a believer in the power of listening prayer that I have asked our ministry staff to teach others how to listen to God’s voice on the short-term mission trips they lead.

We will never know the power of the Holy Spirit or possess real spiritual authority until we begin to listen to what God is saying and trust him enough to obey.