The following post is Part One of a five-part series about discipleship from Locking Arms Director Leo Wisniewski. This post includes a word of explanation on the series and what to expect.
Director Leo Wisniewski:
I have spent much of the past 30 years involved in work with young people, as a father, in student services at the college level, coaching football, as well as in my current role teaching and leading a men’s ministry. I have observed in that time some essentials that are a means of grace in our spiritual growth. It is never a perfect path to be sure but a sustained life change that demonstrates Christ-likeness in us. These 5 essential qualities, or VITAL signs, are barometers of the life and joy that emanate from a deep relationship with Jesus and with the body of Christ in the world. Just as blood pressure, heart rate, core body temperature, and respiration rate are indicators of one’s health so too these VITAL signs are indicators of our spiritual health. They are indeed critical to us personally and necessary if we are to reproduce a grace-centered life in people we love through Christian discipleship. The adage applies here, “You cannot impart to others what you have not first received.” The church’s shallow spirituality here in America is due to many factors but chief among them is the substitute of programs for authentic, life-to-life discipleship. I have been the recipient in some key relationships for focused periods of life to life discipleship. There have been a few men over decades who have loved me and been “iron sharpeners” in the faith to me. Only through these covenant relationships will we pass on “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). My greatest joy is experienced as a disciple of Christ, expressed in Jesus’ command, “Follow me.” Then in connection to that great command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” So then being a disciple and making disciples is the normal life of all Christ-followers. This disciple-making requires the experience of authentic community where a disciple is nurtured and grows to establish a healthy foundation. This bedrock is comprised in our connectedness to Christ and the church. So here I go, at the risk of being a minimalist, reducing discipleship to my short list, and putting a burden on God’s people I offer the following 5 essentials to discipleship!
Vulnerability is the quality that expresses our brokenness before God. It is the condition of the heart that cries out for help renouncing personal pride and self-image. It is like the first step in Alcoholics Anonymous where people admit that their life has become unmanageable and they are helpless to change it. This transparency must be expressed to another because it is the entryway for our life with God. This quality was identified by Jesus as the first of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) It is our confession of self-poverty before God. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus came to usher in is expressed through his church in this brokenness and vulnerability. Luke records the Jesus parable of two men who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14) and contrasts how they approached God in their prayer. The Pharisee, religious leader of the Jews, listed many of his “spiritual qualifications” including his fasting, financial giving, and prayerful devotion as he gazed heavenward. Then he offered his delight that he was not like the unbelieving adulterers and particularly the tax-collector in his presence. Tax collectors were Jews who collected taxes for Rome and routinely added their personal levy above and beyond what the governor demanded. They got rich from their position of power, cheating their own people. They were seen as the pariah of Rome in Jewish dress. The tax collector prayed with a very different heart towards God. Unwilling to turn his eyes upward out of shame and remorse for his sin, he said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ Jesus concludes by saying that this man went home justified before God. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 9:14b)
Vulnerability is a sign of our longing after grace and mercy. It is the sign of the Holy Spirit’s deep stirring within us. Like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), we long to confess our secrets and be met in loving mercy. Confession of our sin to one another (James 5:16) is a powerful example of this vulnerability and deep need for God’s family to assist Christ in our healing. Only Christ in the cross can forgive sin but we can take our brother through prayer to Calvary and become to him Christ’s arms of mercy. Peter tells us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Projecting to others that we have it all together is surely a sign of our pride and self-sufficiency. It is a grace-killer in our lives. When I confess my failures within a grace-centered community I am instantly welcomed by hearts that are like mine, hungry for grace and mercy. These are the hearts in which the Spirit of God can work powerfully. Transparency and trust with the people of God will become a catalyst for our deepening experience of the grace of Christ.
Are you experiencing this kind of transparency with a group of Christians? How so?
What things are holding you back from this openness?
Contact Leo Wisniewski firstname.lastname@example.org to respond to this post and with any questions you may have. Check out our Huddles Page to get plugged in with one of our groups that meet regularly around the city!