In Acts 2 it all seemed simple - just add the Holy Spirit and previously unimpressive people could suddy transform and go on to change the world. It is still true, but it is not the whole truth!
Back when we started in 2004, we were seeing lives changed significantly but we didn't quite know why! It was like the Book of Acts all over again. Participants in our courses and retreats were being transformed in so many ways we couldn’t keep up. And the transformation stuck.
Comprehensive freedom was being found, people were compelled to share their faith, broken hearts were put back together; severe physical and mental illness was healed; hope restored; and on it went.
As we deconstructed what we were doing we saw four essential elements that combine to be a catalyst for transformation. One element was of course the presence and power of the Spirit of God - without Him we can do or be nothing of any merit.
But there were other factors too. We see them in Jesus' method of discipleship, and pretty much any setting where there is a need for the human soul experience whole-person growth.
Jesus method shows it best
As the Master Teacher, Jesus knew how to catalyse growth. When He sent out the seventy-two in Luke 10, it was a deliberate move to mature them somewhat. He had done it previously with the twelve, but here He was taking the opportunity to expand the team to another tier.
We can see from His methods that there was a deliberate yet simple strategy, and also a good degree of success. There are four dynamics of growth in His plan that are universal and effective.
Those four dynamics still work today. They are: Spiritual; Relational; Experiential; and Instructional.
By taking people on an extended journey in groups; by stretching their experience; teaching them new things; and giving them a direct encounter with the Spirit – the disciples were exposed to all four dynamics.
Let’s look at how Jesus did it.
(c) Malcolm Webber
Jesus gave the seventy-two a degree of spiritual authority that they did not have previously. In this pre-Pentecost environment Jesus would draw-down from heaven and imbue these people with the upgrade required to do more than attempt to convince people to embrace the kingdom. They were able to demonstrate God’s power, not just talk about it.
When it comes to our development, remember that 2 Corinthians 3:18 validates spiritual experiences in the transformational process. As we contemplate God’s glory, we grow in glory that can only come from His Spirit.
In our courses and retreats, we were deliberately creating spaces and activities where participants could meet with God. This opened them up to receive His love and grace in powerful ways.
Key application: Within your discipleship culture, include time and space for people to experience a new or increased encounter with the grace and power of God. We include weekend retreats, extended worship and minstry times, and opportunity to work in the gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus’ followers were sent out in pairs, and they were sent to real people. Our 21st century western life has presented us with the option of doing most of our work remotely, or via social media, or in a closed room gazing at a screen. When those who are introverted and task oriented seek to fulfill God’s will in their life, they will default to doing it in that environment.
But God doesn’t want you to connect with virtual reality, Facebook, or computer code. You are designed to engage with other human beings. It is relationships that change people. They need to see your eyes and look into your heart.
If you dwell on the seasons of growth you have experienced so far, it would be rare not to have a face and name or two attached to that process. We grow best when we grow with people.
Our materials are done in groups. Discipleship is done with one or to others. Participants feed off and encourage each other, and they go through their experiences together. The bonds they form in the process are long-standing, and serve to help each person consolidate what has been gained.
Key application: Within your discipleship culture embed a relational dynamic. Ensure people learn and stretch together, not alone.
Jesus sent them to do a practical task. They would go into an environment that forced them to engage with life, not just theory. They would potentially encounter hunger, persecution, disappointment as well as success. But that success wouldn’t come from conquering an app or solving an equation on a whiteboard – they were to engage in the dust and sweat of real people’s push-back and need.
Jesus will use life’s experiences to grow you. The people and challenges around us that we often pray for Him to remove, might be the very elements He wants to use to grow you.
In the development culture we have created, we stretch people to go beyond their previous norms. We encourage them to (over a short period) worship in new ways, to pray longer, and to surrender more. This in effect serves to redefine normal, and grow their capacity.
Key application: Include stretching experiences within the time-frame of whatever program or discipline is being participated in.
These first three elements make up the context in which we grow. Finally, we can observe that content too plays a part.
Jesus had clear instructions and parameters for His followers to adhere to. These guidelines, like river banks that keep the flow of water in the right direction, are obviously a crucial part of the development process.
Good thinking, accurate theology, and practical wisdom will always be important in our growth. Romans 12:2 clearly states that we are transformed by the renewing of the way we think. We just need to be aware that truth alone will not change us in the absence of obedience.
Key application: Provide great, application oriented content. Our courses use quite pointed and principle-based teaching that can be applied to almost any life. The teaching is broken down into daily, bight-sized chunks that allow the participants to chew on and actually apply the concepts. Their weekly group meetings serve to consolidate these principles.
The materials you find on this site are designed to utilise all four of these dynamics to bring whole-person change to people’s lives.
We can train you and your leaders in how to use them, or have you join one of our cohorts.