Transformational Discipleship: Revelation, Obedience, Transformation

by Chad Harrington

As I stepped back from interviewing Dave Buehring for Season One of The Disciple Maker’s Podcast, I knew one thing he said would stick with me for a long time — how transformation actually happens, which looks something like this:

Revelation -> Obedience -> Transformation

The reason this paradigm stood out to me so much is because it pieced together what had seemed disparate and fragmented: how transformation actually happens in the life of a follower of Christ.

Dave has written on obedience-based discipleship before, but I wanted to supplement what he’s written by articulating this trifecta of transformation in my own words. His progression of how transformational discipleship works emphasizes an important element of discipleship that we need to remember in our world today.

transformational-discipleship

It Starts with Revelation

Jesus’ relationship with the Father is our model for knowing God. Everything that was the Father’s belonged to Jesus as well. Jesus took from what God revealed to him and has given it to us: “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15). This is the revelation of God to his people, and it can lead to transformation. While most people seem to recognize God through the created world — not everyone seems to be aware of divine revelation that comes to us on earth, here and now. This is the first step toward obedience.

It Moves Toward Obedience

Jesus clearly expected his disciples to obey him (John 14:15). Through the incarnation of Christ, God has revealed himself in the person of Jesus “all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col 2:9). Our response to the incarnate Christ (revelation) is our obedience.

It Leads to Transformation

It’s obedience by the power of the Spirit that transforms. God reveals himself so that we act on it, and once we act differently, he does a work in our lives that makes us increasingly holy.

This stands in contrast to a commonly practiced form of discipleship today: informational discipleship.

Informational Discipleship

When a disciple maker’s primary goal is to transfer data from one mind into another, this is informational discipleship. It’s easy for North American’s to fall into this trap for at least three reasons:

  1. Our education system. While our education is advanced in world history, some ingrained pedagogical difficulties seem to have stunted our growth as persons. Most schools teach through lecture to transfer information. Students listen, take notes, and regurgitate information in various forms, and it’s problematic when we try to teach in the Church — people are used to information transfer, without the necessity of transformational knowledge.
  2. Easy access to data. With the rise and proliferation of Internet sources of data, we can access just about any piece of “information” anytime we want to. Websites like Wikipedia and WebMD (among many more) are examples of easy access to data.
  3. Consumeristic tendencies. To add onto those external realities, many North Americans (in my experience) seem to have an inward thought-life that seeks to consume more than to give back. We’re all engrossed in that mentality, just to varying degrees.

Together, these three challenges are strokes against us as a people, and they make our obedience to Christ a challenge. Even more, they leave us *untransformed* by God’s revelation.

Transformational Discipleship

A different form of discipleship teaches us to obey Jesus. This is transformational discipleship, which lies in the realm of subjective knowledge. If informational discipleship is more about objective knowledge (facts, history, and data), then transformational discipleship is more about subjective knowing (experiences of God in the everyday occurences of our lives). The progression goes like this:

  • God reveals himself and what he desires for us to do
  • We obey God
  • Once we obey God, He brings transformation both in and through us

This is transformational discipleship.

From God’s revelation to our transformation, we become more like Christ. It’s simple, yet challenging; It’s divine, yet practical. Only by the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Father in the ways of the Son are we able to enter into the vast riches he has for us, which are “more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).


*The post was inspired by Dave Buehring from “E05: Dave Buehring w/ Jeremy Camp and Loren Cunningham.”

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