By Dan Williams, Director of Spiritual Integration
A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
Over the past six weeks, we’ve wrestled with the idea of integrating discipleship—intentionally creating opportunities where hearts can be transformed and developing the means for that transformation to be expressed. As we conclude this series, what I want to suggest is that discipleship is essential for true flourishing.
When we talk about flourishing, it’s important to think holistically—spiritually, materially, personally, and socially. If we only think about flourishing in the silos of our life, we will experience progress in these areas but miss the whole-person transformation we were created for.
Flourishing happens when people have the material resources they need to meet their needs. But if material sufficiency is our only measure of flourishing, we risk trading the pain of material lack for the endless pursuit of more.
Flourishing happens when people understand their God-given dignity and can use their God-given gifts. But if we only look to improved self-worth as our only measure of flourishing, we risk trading in the shame of failure and poverty for the pride of success and wealth.
Flourishing happens when people have good relationships with their neighbors. But if improved relationships are our only measure of flourishing, we risk prejudice and racism and hate being swept under the rug to preserve a façade of unity.
So how do we experience flourishing instead of just progress? The Sunday school answer applies here: Jesus. Jesus came to reconcile all things. This includes our relationship with God, but it also includes our relationship with the material world, our relationships with others, and how we view ourselves. He commissioned His Church to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. And the way that He commissioned us was with a charge to make disciples. He bids us go out and disciple people to understand His design and desire for each area of our lives. Discipleship is how we get beyond seeing progress to experiencing the holistic flourishing that God desires.
If discipleship is key to flourishing, then discipleship needs to grow beyond church programs. If we relegate discipleship to isolated chunks of time—Sunday mornings, weekly small groups, the occasional coffee meetup or prayer breakfast—we will be fighting an uphill battle because, as we discussed in Week 5, we are all being discipled toward something, whether we realize it or not. We need to integrate discipleship into the jobs and roles that God has given us, into the lifestyle of the Church that is active in every sphere of our communities.
So let us explore ways that our hearts and the hearts of those around us can be continually transformed by God’s incredible love. And let us explore ways that we can express the change we have experienced to the world around us.
Did you miss any of the other blog posts in this series? Read them here.
Dan joined HOPE in 2011 and has served in a variety of roles, currently serving as director of spiritual integration. He studied international business at the University of South Carolina and served for 2 1/2 years as a missionary in Niger. He and his wife, Ashley, and daughter, Maelyn, live in Durham, NC, where they are active members of Christ Central Church.
Featured image: A savings group in Burundi