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Measuring genuine success requires first having the right target.

In their early years, a doctor examined each of our children, comparing them to existing norms or targets for size and for skills such as hearing, speaking, and walking. These norms were identified to measure whether a child’s growth was healthy. For the most part, these tests and measurements are an accurate indicator of the physical health and development of a child. Measuring spiritual health and development is not so easy. 

As we continue to wrestle with the vexing issue of evaluating the growth of disciples, we must consider the right target or goal of making disciples. 

With many measuring tools of spiritual growth, the unstated presumption is that activities such as attending church meetings, reading the Bible, praying, evangelizing, and tithing are indicators of a person’s spiritual health and development. This may or may not be accurate. As indicated earlier, I wonder what the results would have shown for these activities in the life of Judas Iscariot.

What these tools measure is a person’s performance of certain religious-type behaviors. But is the performance of these activities the aim or goal of a disciple of Jesus Christ? 

The goal for making disciples

In the post “What is a Disciple?” we examined the goal or target of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is to become more like Jesus Christ. Of course, this should include gathering together with other followers of Jesus, reading the Bible, praying, and giving our resources for the needs of others. It should include these activities because Jesus did them – but Jesus is far more than these activities. 

First, becoming more like Jesus is about a transformed heart, not about behavior modification. For instance, we could go to church, read the Bible, recite prayers, and tithe by determining to do them, much in the same way children brush their teeth, recite the alphabet, and say “please” and “thank you.” That is behavior modification. 

When our hearts are transformed toward the likeness of Jesus Christ our thoughts, words, and actions take on a different character. We gather with other Christians because our hearts delight to be with them; we read the Bible because we desire to hear God; we pray because we yearn to keep company with God; we give because we want to bless others.

Second, becoming more like Jesus is not simply about a religious compartment of our lives. Our whole life and being are undergoing transformation. It means no area of life is excluded. This transformation reaches into your heart and impacts how you think, speak, and act in private and public, in every arena of everyday life. Genuine discipleship is not a short-term course or a dose of religious education. Every encounter and every experience in every day are teachable moments in which you can be transformed more into the likeness of Jesus by God’s Spirit.

So, how do we evaluate progress toward this goal of becoming more like Jesus? That comes next.

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, The Matthew Paradigm: reclaiming an ancient way for being and making disciples. To get further resources and news subscribe here.

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