MODULE  5 RESOURCES

Meeting 1

ASSIGNMENT: Now it is time for you as the Disciple to create your own Timeline by using the resource below. Take note: it takes about 2 hours to complete the whole exercise, so be sure to set aside the time to do so! But if you ever need to pause and come back to it later, then that’s perfectly fine.

Creating Your Timeline

By Megan Koch, Inspired by Don Miller's Book Storyline: Finding Your Subplot in God's Story

One important aspect of following Jesus is understanding how God has used your life experiences to form you into who you are today. We often think our lives are chains of random, meaningless events. However, when we encounter Jesus, we realize that we have a God who is present in all of it—even the difficult times. We are often so overwhelmed with simply living our lives that we rarely have an opportunity to step back and ask, “What does it all mean?” This exercise will do just that.

 

You will identify 8-10 of the most pivotal events of your life story and plot them on a timeline, just like a screenwriter would do. (Some people may identify more than 10 events, some less.) Once you’ve identified these events, you’ll begin to build a redemptive perspective and recognize how God has used these seasons to shape you into who you are today. Once you see that, you’ll begin to understand your purpose and calling in new ways.

 

You’ll need to set aside about 2 hours to complete this timeline, so plan accordingly. Don’t rush. If you need to leave this project and come back to it again to complete it, please do so.

Meeting 2

ASSIGNMENT: If you as the Disciple are ready to move on after discussing your timeline, then begin to discern a Life Theme using the resource provided below. Come back with the completed assignment ready to discuss with your Discipler.

Discerning a Life Theme

By Megan Koch

As you begin to identify the most significant events of your life and plot them together on a timeline, you will begin to uncover details you’ve never noticed before.

 

Spend time between now and your next meeting simply studying your timeline with God. Consider the positive and negative turns, and the redemptive perspective you’ve gained.

 

How have these events worked together to shape you into who you are today?

 

Where was God speaking and acting within them, even if you didn’t realize it at the time?

 

What unique qualities thread these events together, even if they previously seemed unrelated?

 

Begin to identify patterns and themes within the timeline. The ways God repeatedly works in and through our gifts, passions, failures, suffering, and victories are bright clues into our purpose and calling.

 

For example, many who have suffered with addiction recognize that God is redeeming their past in order for them to help others with the same struggle. Similarly, some who have endured the loss of loved ones are uniquely gifted to help others grieve.
 

The goal of a Life Theme is to identify the ways God has woven your life events together to make you into who you are today, but also something to hold on to as you live toward tomorrow. It is helpful to be able to say it in a clear, short sentence that describes who you are and what you’re here for.

 

Some possible life theme examples:

Reclaiming joy.

Helping others find freedom. 

Words that move.

Creating belonging.

Freely giving.

Ridding others of shame

 

Obviously, each person’s theme will be unique! Feel free to prayerfully and creatively discern what your Life Theme will be, using the guidance of your Discipler if you need help. Once you know what it is, write it down.

My Life Theme Is:

Meeting 3

ASSIGNMENT: Read the essay, Friendship Is Discipleship, attached below.

Meeting 4

ASSIGNMENT: In preparation for the Module 6, Generosity, read the “Reading Parables” resource below.

Reading Parables: The Good Samaritan

By Megan Koch

Jesus often taught by telling stories called parables. The word “parable” means something like a puzzle or riddle. Parables also have a “metaphorical” quality to them, meaning that certain characters or events in the parable point us toward something in our world. However, we shouldn’t get too carried away with finding similarities between something in the parable and our world; it’s not supposed to be a perfect comparison. Rather, it points us to a broader truth, often in a very unexpected way.

 

Read the parable of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25–37. 

 

As stated above, parables are metaphors: they symbolize something that relates to our world,  But remember, not everything in the parable stands for something else (Bible readers in the past have gotten tripped up by trying to find hidden meanings that aren’t there. For example, the donkey in the parable we just read probably doesn’t represent anything else. It’s just a donkey). However, there are certain elements of the story that do point us to something in our own world. These are called points of reference.

 

A point of reference is something that the reader needs to understand in order to get the point of the parable. We have points of reference in jokes, too. For example:

 

Q: How did Harry Potter get to the bottom of the hill?

A: By walking. JK, Rowling!

 

What are the points of reference in this joke? In other words, what do we need to understand in order to get the joke? First, we need to know what Harry Potter is. A spaceman who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter books would immediately be at a disadvantage here. Second, we need to realize that the author of Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling. Finally, we need to understand the fact that “JK” is commonly used (especially in text messaging) to mean, “just kidding.” If the hearer understands all this, then they are prepared to understand all that’s going on in the joke, and hopefully get a laugh out of it!

 

Parables work the same way. We need to understand the points of reference. Here are some important ones for the parable of the Good Samaritan:

 

1. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was known for being a dangerous place to be, so it’s no

surprise someone would get mugged on that road.

 

2. Priests and Levites (Also known as “temple assistants” in the New Living Translation) were considered to be holy men for Jesus’ hearers. In other words, they were the ones who would be expected to do the right thing.

 

3. Samaritans were despised and considered religious heretics who profaned God by worshiping him improperly.

 

4. If the wounded man was nearly dead, then the Samaritan would risk being “ceremonially unclean” (see Numbers 19:11. This basically means he would’ve done something he wasn’t suppose to do, triggering a bunch of rules he’d have to follow to become “clean” again). This could help make sense of why the Priest and Levite avoided the wounded man, and makes it all the more courageous on the part

of the Samaritan.

 

5. When the Samaritan gives the innkeeper two coins (denarii) to care for the wounded man, it was a very generous amount—about two day’s wages!

 

In order to understand a parable, we must understand the points of reference as the original audience did. With the information above, we can almost re-write the parable for our culture in the United States. It could go something like this:

 

  1. There was a homeless family on the side of the road, poor and worn out. A Catholic Priest came upon them, but he was in a hurry to get to mass, so he pretended not to notice. Next, a local Pastor came along, but he was late for a board meeting, so he switched lanes and kept driving. Finally, the leader of the local Atheism organization passed by. When he saw them, he pulled over, welcomed them into his car, and took them to a motel where he paid for a week’s stay. The next few days, he helped the father find a job and made sure they had everything they needed.

 

This modern retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan creates a similar response among us as the original story would have had among its original hearers: the people we identify most with don’t help, and the person we’d least expect to help does. This was to provoke a shocking response from the crowd: How could a Samaritan (or an Atheist) demonstrate loving one’s neighbor better than a devout Jew (or a Christian!)? 

 

Jesus ends his parable with the command to “Go and do likewise:” To generously love those we’d least expect in ways that obtrude our normal day-to-day lives.

 

In Module 6, we’ll be learning to practice generosity. What radical lessons does this parable teach us about this topic?

Friendship Is Discipleship

By Jake Thurston

For many churches, the common understanding for discipleship is “the process of becoming like Jesus.” Ancient Christians referred to this process as “spiritual formation,” which included a number of practices that would craft us, shape us, and form our spirits into Christlikeness and holiness. These practices are commonly referred to as spiritual disciplines, which include prayer, Scripture reading, worship, fasting, silence, solitude, confession, self-denial, awareness, hospitality, and so much more. In fact, much of the Discipleship Pathway is built around learning and practicing these disciplines! For the entire history of the Church, these were the necessary practices to grow in God.

But what about friendship?

Rarely do we consider friendship making the list of spiritual disciplines that forms our holiness. Friendship just doesn’t feel like it’s holy enough to be considered a spiritual discipline. We may add “Christian community” to the list, or we may even call it “Christian fellowship,” but we normally shy away from specifically using the verbiage “friendship” when talking about this stuff. Why is that?

Let’s think about this for a second. We are designed for community. God hardwired our brains as these remarkable social organs that are molded, shaped, and influenced by the people we surround ourselves with and the communities we immerse ourselves in. Have you ever noticed you start to act like the people you hang out with the most? You start picking up on their phrases, mirroring their sense of humor, moving about with their gestures. For example, chances are someone from the east coast who moves to South Dakota never once in her life said “oofda” when they were surprised or perplexed about something. However, after living in South Dakota for a couple years, it’s only a matter of time before “Oofda!” becomes a regular part of her vocabulary.

We are literally formed by our friendships. They shape us and mold us into what we love, what we do, how we live, and who we are. To put it simply, you are who you’re with. So if God is the greatest friendship we can possibly have, then he is the greatest force that forms our character into his likeness when we spend time with him (hence why the spiritual disciplines are so important. They’re ways to “hang out” with God).

But what happens when we’re friends with other believers whose lives are founded on that same friendship with God? We become even more like Christ because we’re rubbing shoulders with friends who are like Christ! In other words, we become Christlike when we’re with Christlike friends. You are who you’re with. Plain and simple.

In a way, friendship is discipleship. This is why it’s so necessary we immerse ourselves in Christ’s body of believers: The local church. In all reality, we could do all of the spiritual disciplines, like prayer, worship, scripture reading, and so on, in isolation by ourselves. Most people would

consider that good spirituality! But it would be absolutely terrible Christianity. 

 

Discipleship and spiritual formation are always done in community. To know Christ is to be a part of his church. Therefore, a lonely Christian is a contradiction. Someone who labels themselves as a Christ follower who isn’t embedded into Christ’s community is about as out of place as a fish out of water. No one should be lonely in Christ’s church.

Now, certainly there are some spiritual disciplines we need to do by ourselves, like silence, solitude, and private prayer and Scripture reading. But doing these disciplines alone can’t be the only way we go about them. Discipleship and our pursuit of Christlikeness are only magnified when we do so with friends who are after the same thing. True discipleship can’t even happen without friends! Our spiritual friends give us guidance on major life decisions, help make sense of situations that completely blind side us, snap us out of the lies we tell ourselves, and act as the voice of God to us when he seems silent. They sharpen our perspectives, teach us to think differently, laugh with us, mourn with us, worship with us, and pray for us. 

You can attend a weekend church service without being noticed, and you can do the spiritual disciplines all by yourself, but if you’re not friends with people who are helping each other become Christlike, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest joys of the Church. A lot of churches offer discipleship programs, small groups, weekend serving teams, and social gatherings as opportunities for people to develop these friendships and experience the joys of Christian community.

Friendship is discipleship. If we want to be guided into who God is forming us to be, then spiritual friendships are a must have. Author Brian Edgar sums up this point perfectly when he says, “Virtue cannot be achieved in solitude. Friendship, specifically virtuous friendship, is at the heart of Christian community. One needs friends in order to be holy.”

Friendship is discipleship. If we want to be guided into who God is forming us to be, then spiritual friendships are a must have. Author Brian Edgar sums up this point perfectly when he says, “Virtue cannot be achieved in solitude. Friendship, specifically virtuous friendship, is at the heart of Christian community. One needs friends in order to be holy.”

The Discipleship Pathway is a collaborative work between

Pastors Phil Wiseman & Megan Koch of Table Church and Pastor Jake Thurston of The Ransom Church