A Christian Developmental Path

When people have recently asked me this question –“Who is The Journey for?”–I have found myself responding by pointing to this Christian developmental path diagram we have been using around our offices. 

 

 

We’ve found it helpful (without prescribing a rigidity) to show where our VantagePoint3 Pathway fits within a broader understanding of a person’s growth toward maturity in Christ (Eph 4:14-15; Col 1:28-29).  Each chapter along the journey needs attention from an adult discipleship and development perspective. So whether the person asking the question is thinking about the people in their community or about their own particular development, unpacking this path helps identify the discipleship and developmental needs. People at all six chapters along this path regularly participate in the VP3 Pathway

 

Here are some talking points on each developmental chapter. See what you notice about your own place on the path, but also prayerfully consider those in your sphere of influence — what sort of discipleship needs are you noticing?

 


TALKING POINTS FOR A CHRISTIAN DEVELOPMENTAL PATH

 

Turning

How are we helping people learn how to share their faith with people “pre-Jesus”? How can we enter into loving relationships with those whom the Lord is wooing to himself? How do our discipleship efforts help people turn toward God through the work of Christ?

 

Rooting

Once we have made a commitment to follow Christ we enter another place of growth where we sink our roots into the fundamentals of what it means to live the Christian life.  How do we learn to read Scripture and pray?  What does it mean to become a part of a church community?  What about worship, serving, tithing, community, etc?

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The grace we seek

In the eighth century, Christian theologians began describing the relationship among the persons of the Trinity as a dynamic communion, a dance of three persons. Gods triune and dynamic presence creates space within that presence, a space into which we can be drawn. The Son, who is both God and human, reaches out to us, taking hold of our hand and welcoming us into this dance, this perfect love of God.

 

Debra Rienstra [1]

 

At every level, the Christian gospel begins with God’s initiating love: creation, incarnation, redemption, and consummation. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God takes the first step over and again inviting us into his dance, his loving life. The Spirit of Jesus moves toward us freely and graciously and with full knowledge of our particular frailties, resistances, indifferences, vices, and virtues. And he makes space for us to share in this Trinitarian community of perfect love.

 

Jesus describes our relational responsibility when he implores his first disciples to “Abide in me as I abide in you” (John 15:4). The Message translates his invitation—“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” Christian maturity is not a technique or program or formula, but it is a life of learning to keep company with Jesus. Gordon Smith writes,

 

Without an emphasis on union with Christ, spiritual formation will be a frustrated effort to become like Christ. It will eventually become nothing more than self-development. The grace we seek is not so much to be like Christ as to live in dynamic union with Christ, abiding in him as he abides in us (John 15:4).[2]

 

Might some of us be trying to live the Christian life without actually involving ourselves with God? It is foolishness and frustration to strive after an ideal life of Christlikeness without opening ourselves to God’s gracious friendship. God intends to transform our lives—yes—but more fundamentally, God desires to share his very life with us. Our maturity then becomes a by-product of immersing ourselves in this relationship with Jesus. As C. S. Lewis concludes in Mere Christianity, “The whole purpose for which we live is to be thus taken into the life of God.”

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Finishing Well

20 years ago I read an excellent book that I still reread every two or three years – Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians by Eugene Peterson. At the tail end of a chapter on the friendship between David and Jonathan Peterson writes:

 

It’s not unusual for any of us to begin something wonderful, and it’s not unusual for any of us to do things that are quite good. But it is unusual to continue and persevere. The difficulties aren’t for the most part external but internal—finding the energy and vision to keep the effort going. Being good and doing good are seldom adequately rewarded: more often they get us into trouble. The world, the flesh, and the devil are in fierce opposition to the Christian way and wreck many lives that start off beautifully….

 

There are many barriers, obstacles, and distractions that seek to discourage and derail us from a well-lived life of “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).  Good beginnings in the Christian life are a dime a dozen, but good endings are far less common.

 

Over the past six months I have sat through two Celebration of Life/Memorial Services for  friends who I would say finished well – with a legacy of changed lives in their wake. As I have pondered the significance of Randy and Kris’ lives, I have been struck by the reality that finishing well as a person is a beautiful, beautiful thing to behold. But I have also been challenged by the thought that finishing well is not simply a matter of course or an inevitability. Spiritual maturity is not like getting on a train just before it leaves the station and expecting to make it to the final stop or destination (a C. S. Lewis metaphor). More than just showing up in one’s seat is required.  A deep and trusting engagement with the Spirit’s ongoing work in us and through us is required.

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Honoring the particular in every person’s story

lightstock_hands_bible_emily_One of the more powerful experiences in the VP3 Pathway of processes is the composing and sharing of life narratives. So many good things emerge in people’s lives as a result of engaging in intense and prayerful self-reflection, in sharing of life stories, and in hearing the others’ stories around the table. Something seems to actually shift in people’s hearts and imaginations. Honoring the particular in every person’s story has transformational impact—we do not remain the same.

 

Few greater gifts can be offered to a person in today’s largely anonymous and hurried social reality than an honoring awareness of his or her particular life story. Cistercian monk Michael Casey puts this so eloquently:

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