All posts by Dr. Charlie Self

A Peaceful Revolution in Discipleship: Living in 5-D

Praying for a peaceful revolution in Christian discipleship, with millions of “ordinary” believers awakening to God’s presence and power in the midst of daily life. It is possible to enjoy God, become more whole, have healthy relationships, live with purpose, and do today’s tasks as worship. We have more resources than ever before for growth, but often see believers living emaciated lives. We need a fresh vision of “normal” that can inspire hope and propel institutional and personal transformation. Thank God for all our fine pastors and good resources. But there is an “Aha!” moment that must capture our imaginations for real progress.

Here is the revolutionary key: reconceiving the Christian life in terms of dimensions and outcomes instead of categories and classes is the key to fruitfulness. Sermons and Sunday schools, Bible studies and small groups, online and print programs: all of these are the means to a desired end, not the end in themselves! Check out this special Assessment for further understanding: www.discipleshipdynamics.com.

Life is dimensional and integrated, not just a “to do list” of boxes to be checked (yes, it is good to order our day’s activities!). The challenge for each person is understanding what “there” looks like. In other words, what are we aiming for, in principled and practical terms? Hebrews 13:7 offers this advice: “Consider the outcome of their (spiritual leaders) way of life and imitate their faith (both belief and action).” The next verse says, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.”

Being a follower of Christ means imitation Jesus’ attitudes and actions, dispositions and disciplines, with a desire to love God, love our neighbor and make more disciples from every culture. What does this look like in real life? There are five dimensions to our lives that are all part of God’s plan and therefore they are all “spiritual” there is no sacred/secular divide, no separation of Sunday ecstasies and Monday’s ethics. Here are the five dimensions:

  • Loving God with all our being: enjoying and growing in intimacy with the Trinity. This is true spiritual formation and includes all the classical disciples of prayer and Bible study, church attendance and Sabbath-rest, etc.
  • Personal wholeness is an organic fruit of true intimacy with God. We lean to overcome our painful history with hope, manage our negative emotions, see ourselves as loved by God, forgive others and discover inner peace.
  • Healthy relationships are the implication of “loving our neighbor as ourselves.” This include healthy boundaries, sexual purity, good friendships and much more…think of all the great “one another” texts of the Bible.
  • Vocational clarity is the fulfillment of Ephesians 2:10: we are designed for a purpose and we are always more than our current job. Knowing our natural and spiritual gifts, the dignity of our labor and serving with humility should inform our lives daily.
  • All of these dimensions are worked out as we live in a world of economics and work each day! Whether paid or unpaid, labor or leadership, private or public, almost everyone spends their waking hours actively doing something. This is not our secular life nor are our activities merely a means to an end…our work matters to God.

Imagine millions of God-fearing friends awakening to the fullness of God’s intentions and offering all daily activity as worship to God. Imagine seamless integration of evangelism and compassion, for-profit and non-profit efforts, and prayer and the pursuit of justice. A peaceful and powerful revolution indeed.

Inconvenient Insights, part 2

The American and European public squares are replete with extremism, polarizing language, and moral cowardice. Yes, that is correct: moral cowardice. Political correctness and an unwillingness to confront facts are deceiving millions into buying into false historical narratives and feeling paralyzed about making any absolute statements. Here are some paradoxical realities that deserve critical thinking and deep reflection, not platitudes and soundbites.

Islamic jihadists do not believe in fostering a pluralistic society, with liberty of conscience/religion, free speech and diverse worldviews learning civility and common good unity. While the vast majority of Muslims live peaceably with neighbors of all faiths or none, the agitators are proposing either a gradual or abrupt takeover of the West (and the rest) in the name of their faith. Extremists defend the subjugation and even extermination of all opponents of Islam and in chilling Orwellian fashion, declare that true “freedom” is only found in submission to their version of Islam.

What makes the above particularly nefarious is the cozy relationship between the pagan-secular Left and radical Islam. The political Left will persecute artists and bakers for refusing to endorse same sex weddings but turn a blind eye to the jihadist’s oppression of women, anti-Semitism, and blatant denunciations of gender and sexual liberty! This is moral cowardice where hatred of Jewish and Christian morality triumphs over history and reason.

Abortion kills babies. While a tragic necessity in rare cases of the mother’s survival or baby’s unviability, “pro-choice” advocates are now celebrating the termination of life at all stages, from early gestation to infanticide. And anyone who disagrees is depriving women of reproductive rights. The missing part of this “pro-choice” extremism is the choices men and women make that lead to conception and the irresponsibility of fathers in particular to care for the fruit of their intimacy. While incest and rape may be presented as exceptions, the vast majority (97%+) of abortions are elective due to economic or emotional issues. This is moral cowardice.

The refusal of many conservative Christians to face the realities of emotional and sexual abuse, racism, and sexism within their histories and current structures is also moral cowardice. In a convoluted desire not to bring shame to the church or the gospel, leaders that cover serious transgressions or make excuses for a lack of justice actually do greater harm to Christian witness. Regardless of ecclesial traditions, no person should feel disempowered or marginalized by any church. Becoming intentional about lamenting our tragic history of racism and sexism can lead to new friendships and true reconciliation. Victims of abuse must be heard and helped, and perpetrators brought to justice.

Moral cowardice can be overcome with humility and love, intentional repentance and resolution, and fostering new friendships across the barriers we create, and Jesus died to destroy and transform.

Inconvenient Insights for a Polarized World

This week after Groundhog’s Day and in remembrance of the Bill Murray comedy of reliving the same day over and over again, it is right to reflect on some enduring challenges:

We have miles to go in our pursuit of justice for women and men of all classes and cultures.
We can celebrate Christian contributions to social progress, and we must deeply lament historic ecclesial complicity with oppression.

We can criticize Israeli policies, but most of the responsibility for lasting peace rests with Arab leaders acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. Israel is not a western colonial imposition, but the historic home of an ancient people. The new plan presented by President Trump (and quietly endorsed by some Sunni Arab states in the region) is an opportunity that the current Palestinian Leadership is willfully ignoring.

Billions have been lifted out of poverty in my lifetime due to global trade, with access to new markets. We still have too many food, banking, and job deserts in our own American cities.

Our national debt and deficit spending reveal cowardice and a lack of concern for generations yet unborn. Both parties are guilty, and it will take both parties cooperation to find solutions.

UN officials admit that their proposals for climate change amelioration are of little practical use, except for the transfer of trillions in wealth. Unless China, India, and Russia sign on, little progress can be made. Every proponent of free trade and/or climate change skeptic must also care more deeply for the ecological life of our planet. Good environmental stewardship means a good economy for our grandchildren.

Let’s find a new way to fund education of all kinds without a lifetime of debt on graduates and ever-increasing tuition prices.

A rebirth of civility begins with an affirmation of the dignity and worth of each person we meet. We must end caricature, insults, and stereotyping of those different from us.