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Discipleship of the Heart – Going Deeper by John Purcell

Jan 11th, 2012 | By | Category: Coaching and Discipleship

How could you take life-on-life discipleship to the next level? By taking it down — all the way to the heart. Interested?

The life-on-life approach to discipleship is the best way I have seen to bring people to spiritual maturity and build leaders. It’s a combination of coaching, mentoring, and allowing others to do that with you at the same time in a gender-specific small group environment. But most discipleship leaders make the fatal error of approaching discipleship as a curriculum study. Even those who do work hard at going farther into life application of God’s ways most often find that true transformation isn’t occurring.

The answer is that we must learn how to reach the very heart of the other person before real transformation will happen. The heart is the Bible’s metaphor for the center of our being, including our mind, body, spirit, and soul. It encompasses our thoughts, will, emotions, and deep desires. If we only facilitate a study of the Bible or any Bible-based discipleship curriculum, you can see that we will only reach a portion of the heart.

How to reach and shepherd the heart is a huge subject and a journey that I am blessed to have been on for the past three years, with the help of some very special people in my life. Here are some of the elements of what it takes to reach someone’s heart, along with some resources to which you can go for a deeper study.

  • From Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands — Love by becoming a true friend; get to know each other well; share your own story of suffering then give them an opportunity to share theirs; speak into their lives; help them move forward
  • From David Benner in Surrender to Love — Create the environment that allows us to surrender to the Father’s unconditional love and be truly vulnerable with each other. Benner says, “The single most important thing I have learned in over 30 years of study of how love produces healing is that love is transformational only when it is received in vulnerability.”
  • From Larry Crabb in Soul Talk — Think about what’s beneath the surface issues; envision God’s best for this person; think about and deal with what’s going on inside yourself; listen to the person’s story; help them move forward
  • From Larry Bolden of Wellspring Group — Be fully present, listen in 3 directions, effectively ask questions, share your heart, and savor the moment (spelling the acronym BLESS)

You can see that these critical elements will benefit greatly from coaching skills, but they are not the same thing as coaching. A discipleship group is in this together. As I write this, in fact, I’m preparing to take my own discipleship group on an overnight retreat where we will share our life stories with each other in as much depth as each one is willing to do. As the leader, I will, of course, go first. Then, as the others share, I’ll make sure each one is “covered” as the rest of us respond by identifying with the man, affirming him, and sharing from our own hearts how his sharing has impacted us.

If you would like to facilitate shepherding the heart through your discipleship, I would love to discuss it with you.  If you aren’t familiar with life-on-life discipleship, contact me or go to the Transform website.

John Purcell is a leadership and organizational coach, working with churches, businesses, and non-profits through his ministry called Transform. john@transform-coach.com. www.transform-coach.com for churches. www.leadertransformation.com for businesses.

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