Tag Archives: discipleship

The difference between counseling and discipleship?

Is there a difference between counseling and discipleship? If so, how would you articulate the difference? Is it merely a matter of intensity (counseling being more focused and intense)? I’m interested in your opinions as to (a) whether there is a difference, and (b) what that difference is.


Filed under christian counseling

Teen Missions Int’l feature in Christianity Today

The print version of February’s Christianity Today arrived at my home. In it is a short story about Teen Missions International(TMI) based in Merritt Island, FL.  I can’t find the article on the web yet, but here’s why I enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading the short story:

24 years ago (1983) I reluctantly agreed with my parents to register for a TMI summer missions team. I would be giving up the summer between my junior and senior years in high-school to go with a group of teens somewhere in the world in order to do construction and evangelism. Why didn’t I want to go? I wouldn’t be able to train for the fall cross-country season and I was intent on being the #2 runner on the team (#1 was impossible since he was the New England regional champ). So, I set limits. I would go only if I got my first choice: Austria. Not sure why that was my first choice having never been to Europe. I would only go if the money I raised came in without me having to do much asking, since I hated sales. Well, I got my first choice and the money “magically” appeared within very short order. So I had to go.

I know that some have significant doubts about the value of short-term missions trips. Is it worth the cost? Who really benefits? And while the concerns are not without merit, I am fully persuaded that the summer of 1983 changed the course of my life. No, I wasn’t on the road to drugs and alcohol. But, the faith of my parents really hadn’t become mine. But by the end, I had begun to mature in my faith and committed myself to some sort of full-time Christian service.

So, what is this TMI, you might be asking. Youth and adults join teams at Merritt Island, FL. You live in tents for 2 weeks in a true bootcamp environment. The water smells like rotten eggs. There are chiggers and mosquitoes. Daily, you do bible study, learn construction skills (e.g., laying brick, mixing cement, digging footers), and train as a team on a serious obstacle course. No phones, no ipods. You wash in a bucket and you flush with a bucket. You wear work-boots all the time. Then after 2 weeks of work and bonding, you gather your army bags and travel with your team to your part of the world for the rest of the summer to do whatever your team intended to do. My team traveled to Austria by plane and train. We were to begin construction of a building for a ministry to addicts (if memory serves). We had all sorts of trouble with the site (mud slides) but accomplished building some of the base structure. We did some evangelism. But the largest construction was to our souls. I went from knowing about Christ to knowing Christ. When you are out of your comfort zone and away from family, you have the opportunity to consider your life, your values, and are primed to hear from the Lord.

There are a million great stories and experiences (e.g., riding the train across Germany at night only sitting on a jump seat, being accosted by a hoodlum in the train station, staying up all night to shoot scenes in a film called, “Blood, Sweat, and Cheers”, bathing in a ice cold stream and using pit toilets in the woods). I won’t bore you with them but they were life shaping. You cannot easily live the same once you see the world from the perspective of another. You cannot easily live the same when you expose yourself to the larger Kingdom of God.

I still have one friend from that summer who drops by this site.  Maybe Don will give his take on the time. Oh, I came back weighing about 25 lbs less due to a food shortage on the team and because of the muscle loss, I was fourth on the x-country team. Disappointing but in the scope of things, not important.

If you ever have the opportunity to send a youth to this (or go as an adult), take the chance. It will change your life.


Filed under missional, stories

Students as consumers or disciples? Or both?

I’ll let you in on a snippet of a faculty meeting. We were discussing how best to give students regular feedback beyond letter grades a brief comments–especially those who might have some particular struggle: academic, spiritual, interpersonal, etc. While we offer academic degrees, part of what we do as a Seminary pays attention to spiritual formation. That’s a broad category of course. But any student or group issues (and cohorts almost always have some group issues) have the opportunity of being formative teaching/pastoring moments. But I digress…

In the midst of this conversation, some faculty noted the consumerist mentality that some students have. They are coming here for MAs, MDivs, or DMins and the program should serve their interests and at the end they should get a degree that will get them a job. Nothing really new here. Most wouldn’t spend 20+K on an MA or 40+K on an MDiv just for the enrichment of it. Other faculty noted that some consumer mentality is appropriate. Students are coming here to buy a product and we need to sell the best version of that product.

So, here’s my question, can student as consumer also do a good job being student as disciple of Christ? Where’s the line between wise consumer and self-focused/demanding consumer?

This past month my credit card company submitted my check to them TWICE to my bank. That means they took a significant amount of money out of my checking account without my consent–and it could have caused other checks to bounce. I was not happy. Calls to the bank quickly resulted in our getting back what was rightfully mine. I was not happy with the bank for letting it happen and I was not happy with the credit card company for making the mistake. I want them to know that I’m not happy and to assure me it will never happen again. Ultimately, I want them to make me happy all the time. I want them to never let me down. And if they do not make me happy? Then I’ll take my business elsewhere.  Isn’t that how we approach most of our consuming? If my favorite restaurant stops pleasing me and treating me as a king, then I’m not likely to go back.

Do students bring this attitude into their education? I think so. I think I did as a student. I noted every failure of my profs. I rarely brought my concerns to them (for fear of looking petty) but more than once I’m sure I complained (shared my feelings) to my peers. Where does it lead us? Grumbling and complaining. Looking at the faults of others rather than our own. Defending rather than being appropriately self-critical. Not sure it is easy to be a disciple when I’m grumbling and complaining.

So, the challenge for students is to bring legitimate concerns and complaints to their professor’s attention, avoid gossip, and consider the formation opportunity in front of them (e.g., life when things don’t turn out as expected). And faculty/administration have the challenge before them to make sure they listen to said complaints, avoid defensiveness, repent where necessary, and pursue both their own and their student’s formative learning moments. Teachers and program administrators must remember that they too are disciples on the same journey as their pupils.

May we all pursue excellence as servants of the kingdom.  


Filed under conflicts

Ask your pastor this question: Who disciples you?

Recently I’ve taken to asking my pastor clients this question: Who disciples you?

Typical responses? “Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that…don’t know…nobody, I guess…does —– count (nationally-known preacher they listen to or read on a regular basis)” I used to ask, “Where do you feed spiritually?” However, the discipleship question moves beyond that of being fed to being discipled and mentored.

Our shepherds are also sheep like us. They need discipleship and mentoring. One wonders if ministeriums could be resuscitated to provide true discipleship.

I’m writing a piece about pastors and their need for care. One study found that while a goodly number of pastors would be open to getting counseling, most do not think their stresses and needs reach a level where counseling is needed (It could be useful but I don’t think my problems are that big). Another study found that most pastors do not have close relationships with others outside their spouse.

If this is true, then most of our pastors are without any discipleship. Is it any wonder then that problems like pornography and other misconduct are frequent among pastors?


Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership