Discipleship: A Holistic View. Head, Hands and Heart Work

Discipleship: A Holistic View. Head, Hands and Heart Work

In the beginning…

We are born with joy and curiosity. Everything is new. Every encounter fresh. In this regard we are a lot like Adam and Eve. Their home was without flaw. As children, we see the world as blameless and pure? How then do we lose our way? We are made in the image of God but somehow few ever realize their potential. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” We want to blame Adam and Eve for tasting the fruit that led to the knowledge of good and evil but somewhere along the way we take a bite of the same fruit. Once eaten there is no turning back. Instead of seeking the purity of our youth we seek the pleasure found in a different fruit. The fruit is delicious but not satisfying.

Let’s start here

Perhaps we should start where we first find evidence of God, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis1. 26, NIV) As we look at the previous 25 verses through the lens of verse 26 what do we learn about God? I’ll discuss two observations here; God said, “Let there be” (to create) and “God saw all that he made , and it was very good” (to celebrate). God loves to create and He loves to celebrate! Are we not most alive when we are creating something new? Or, when we are celebrating? Is creativity and celebration where we are most alive? If we are to live out our true nature perhaps it is the pursuit of finding true self that solves this mystery.

Human Ontology

This is the essence of human ontology; being or becoming the person we were created to be. In my opinion, this is every person’s mission; and, our strategy is found in the Shema.(1) Specifically in the Shema as found in Mark 12:30, 31: Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Four Great Church Movements in the 20th Century

While studying to become a minister I heard Jim Garlow say there are four kinds of churches; thinking, doing, feeling and being. Later when developing a discipleship strategy I found a discussion of these same four competencies in Building Leaders(2) as outlined below:

  • Emotions (feeling) Heart work
  • Character (being) Soul work
  • Knowledge (knowing) Head work
  • Skills (doing) Hand work

One more point of view regarding focusing on our thinking, emotions and behaviors is found in some of  Amy Morin’s work:

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

To understand mental strength, you have to learn how your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are all intertwined, often working together to create a dangerous downward spiral…This is why developing mental strength requires a three-pronged approach:

  1. Thoughts – identifying irrational thoughts replacing them with more realistic thoughts
  2. Behaviors – behaving in a positive manner despite the circumstances
  3. Emotions – controlling your emotions so your emotions don’t control you

Morin Got It Right

I believe Morin has it right in more ways than simply developing mental strength. I propose that our souls are transformed by head work, hand work and heart work. Thinking, doing and feeling become who I am. If we are doing this, are we not living in the kingdom of God? God loves all of us unconditionally and the natural response of Christians would be to demonstrate their thankfulness for all He has done and who He is. We do that with our head, hands and heart. We find a closeness with God when we worship Him; feeling or heart work, when we demonstrate our love for Him and have compassion for others. No Christian would argue with this.

We have the mind of Christ by thinking or head work. We grow in our love for God and people when we are serving others or hands work. In these things we are living in the kingdom of God.

A Holistic View

Institutions (and people) tend to empasize one or two aspects of these to the detriment of the others. If we are made in God’s image and He delights in our love and praise in Him by feeling, doing and thinking, should we be surprised that we long for the same joy? Is this joy defined as living in the kingdom of God? I believe this is the essence of true discipleship: become the person God created me to be and teach others to develop this for themselves.

Therefore, Christian leaders either over simplify (which I may be accused of by this very post) or make disciple making too complex. With the explosion of work on discipleship in the Christian leadership community in the last several years, why is there no answer to the question of discipleship? So how do we become like Jesus? I can only become like Jesus when I am doing, feeling or thinking like Jesus. I can only make disciples when I am teaching others to do the same.

About the author: Creed is an accomplished leader and Professional Certified Coach motivated by a passionate drive to help individuals and organizations reclaim their clarity for personal achievement and organizational effectiveness.

  1. Shema: http://www.jewfaq.org/shemaref.htm
  2. Building Leaders, Malphurs and Mancini, pp 147-152

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