Healthy things are created and sustained by need-meeting habits. Just consider the core habits needed for a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating and regular exercise. Both habits meet many of the body’s core needs. The first for nutrition, the second for musculoskeletal health. Not only do these habits largely determine our physical health, but they are also easily neglected.
In the same way, disciple making cultures are built and sustained by a few need-meeting habits. The list isn’t long or particularly surprising but they do drive disciple making outcomes. Like healthy eating and exercise, they are also easily neglected. Their power comes from being applied over and over again. Let’s look at the three most basic…
Habit 1: Aspiration
Within our first ten seconds of life aspiration begins. The first breath we take is in, not out. As air fills our lungs it triggers radical change; the placenta no longer sustains us, from now on our lives are sustained by the exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen. Breath by breath, our lives are built. Aspiration is the foundation.
In the same way, disciple making leaders begin building a disciple making culture through aspiration. Just like an infant is to fill its lungs with air, church leaders must fill their lives with Jesus. I’m not talking about mere belief, moral behavior, or the ability to quote Scripture. No, the filling that’s needed is driven by humility and compels obedience. From the outside it looks like someone who is in love—not just the passion-filled days of young love, but also the loyal devotion of mature love. When a person is filled with Jesus she breathes in His personhood, His teachings, and His mission, then she’s transformed into a person who walks, acts, and looks like the Savior.
Such spiritual filling leads to another kind of aspiration that must also be intentional, repeated, and transformative. Disciple making cultures need people who also take the time to see what is and then dream about what could be. Being filled with Jesus naturally moves a person to aspire, to envision a future that involves others, a future that’s better than today. Someone who cares enough to consider what it takes to build such a future is the first step in developing a culture of disciple making.
Habit #2: Connection
A newborn baby can see only 8-12” away. This is the perfect distance to gaze into her parent’s eyes. Not only is it a favorite activity for most babies, but it’s also a need. A baby that doesn’t connect with another adult may not survive. The connection stimulates caring and the bond ensures that the baby has someone to respond to his cries for food, a clean diaper, and comfort. Connection doesn’t just happen through eye contact, it also grows through physical touch and conversation. Not surprisingly, we continue to use eye contact, conversation, and physical touch to make connections throughout our lives.
Disciple making cultures are built through connection. When a person is filled with Jesus’ heart, vision, and will then connecting with others allows them to spread the fire that is within them. Jesus did it with the disciples. Paul’s fire spread to Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. As connections deepen so too, does the vision. Disciple making cultures are never built alone. Instead, they are created by intentional leaders who aspire and then invest in others. Cultures are built when groups become teams and teams impact those around them. As love grows between each person on the team, others are attracted. It’s love that draws others to Christ and verifies that Life is present. Together they work to model what they hope others will become.
Habit #3: Expression
Finally, we impact others.
An infant expresses itself almost immediately. It does so in cries and grunts, but in deeper ways as well. Think about how quickly family members are changed by a baby’s presence and very being. Relatives often simply sit and marvel at a newborn. It doesn’t end there, as the individual grows he’s able to express and impact more and more. Since each of us is created in God’s image, we have indescribable value. God gives each of us work to do, people to love, space to mature, and fruit to bear. As we develop we embrace these opportunities and realize the calling God has given.
Cultures work similarly. Thomas Carlyle said it this way, “The great law of culture: let each become all that he was created capable of being.” All great cultures exist for the good of the people. Disciple making cultures embody this sentiment. They exist so that each person can become all that God desires of them. They inspire individuals to fill themselves with Jesus, to connect with others, and to express and impact others with the life God has grown in them. It’s possible for individuals to develop in unhealthy cultures, but disciple making cultures make it easier for individuals to thrive and multiply.
Designing, building, and sustaining a disciple making culture is difficult work. It takes time and the rate of growth differs from place to place. Yet, regardless of place or pace, aspiration, connection, and expression are habits that must be developed and continued for a healthy disciple making culture to exist. It’s no surprise that the same habits are needed in the life of each disciple.
Before you go consider these three questions: How are those habits going in your life? How are they going in the life of your church? And finally, how can you intentionally develop them in the few weeks and months?
By Justin Gravitt. Article originally posted here: