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The Seven Habits of Highly-Formed Christian Disciples

There are the Bishop’s working notes for a presentation he made on June 1, 2013 to the clergy of the diocese. 

#1: A secure awareness of a relationship with God in Christ, in the company of the Church.

  • Basically … “knowing the Lord” (saber vs. conocer)
  • (sadly) Often the result of being raised outside TEC!
  • Often the product of a mountaintop spiritual experience (retreat, Cursillo, etc.) from which they continue to draw strength
  • This person can weather the personal relationship storms that inevitably beset parish communities, because, as much as they value their human relationships, their bedrock relationship is with Jesus … they will “be there” through thick and thin

#2: An ability to verbalize that relationship with confidence and clarity.

  • Can I tell my “Jesus story” (not just “God”)? … naturally, organically … either concisely or in detail, depending on the circumstances
  • Again, this ability is not native to the “skill set” of cradle Episcopalians
  • We need to change that among the relatively few cradle Episcopalians we continue to produce! and …
  • We have remedial work to do among everyone else … this is doable, there are strategies and techniques that can be taught and learned

#3: A basic familiarity with the long arc of the narrative of scripture.

  • Creation … Fall … Promise of Redemption
  • Covenants: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Exiled Israel … all pointing to JESUS
  • Key events of the gospels (even if “harmonized”)
  • Key events from Acts: Pentecost … Peter’s preaching … Paul’s conversion … Paul’s missionary journeys … Paul’s arrest and final journey to Rome
  • Revelation and the consummation of salvation history (not a code book of future predictions)
  • This, too, is doable … there are resources

#4: A habit of corporate worship on Sundays and daily private prayer, along with related spiritual disciplines.

  • Mass on Sundays, Principal Feasts, Ash Wednesday, Triduum
  • Daily Office (some form thereof)
  • Private Prayer (lectio, discursive meditation, Rosary, colloquy)
  • Self-Examination & Confession 

#5: An awareness of vocation—an instinct to ask the question, “What is God calling me to do?”

  • “true humility & self-abasement” – it’s actually NOT “all about me”
  • “your life is not your own; you are bought with a price” (I Cor. 6)
  • Vocation confronts us at several levels: lifelong (marriage, career), life transition (new venues), near- and mid-term opportunities/challenges
  • Discernment is not formulaic, but there are techniques

#6: An awareness of one’s spiritual gifts, and a passion for exercising them.

  • Our baptismal theology links font and Spirit inextricably
  • Is there a greater (or more scandalous) instance of “money left on the table” than the undiscovered and therefore unused spiritual gifts among the baptized people of God?
  • There are LOTS of tools and resources in this area, some better than others. I have personally developed a process that I used with some degree of success in two parishes. Ask me if you’re interested.

#7: A cultivation of the classical Christian virtues.

  • (theological) Faith, Hope, Charity
  • (cardinal) Patience, Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude
  • Moral discernment growing out of virtue (& holiness) rather than grounded in visceral instinct
{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Rod Matthews June 2, 2013, 5:59 pm

    I commend the following book to any person interested in the topic of discipleship and formation of disciples of Jesus Christ. Becoming a Healthy Disciple: Ten Traits of a Vital Christian, by Stephen A. Macchia ISBN-13 978-0801091414

    Becoming a Healthy Disciple: Ten Traits of a Vital Christian

    The healthy disciple is prayerful in all aspects of personal life and ministry and reliant upon God’s power and the authority of his Word. Specifically, the ten traits of a healthy disciple are:

    1. Experiences God’s empowering presence The healthy disciple understands the role of the Holy Spirit and lives daily with a fresh reality of his power and presence.

    2. Engages in God-exalting worship The healthy disciple engages wholeheartedly in meaningful, God-focused worship experiences on a weekly basis with the family of God.

    3. Practices the spiritual disciplines The healthy disciple pursues the daily disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and reflection in the quietness of one’s personal prayer closet.

    4. Learns and grows in community The healthy disciple is involved in spiritual and relational growth in the context of a safe and affirming group of like-minded believers.

    5. Commits to loving and caring relationships The healthy disciple prioritizes the qualities of relational vitality that lead to genuine love for one another in the home, workplace, church, and community.

    6. Exhibits Christ-like servanthood The healthy disciple practices God-honoring servanthood in every relational context of life and ministry.

    7. Shares the love of Christ generously The healthy disciple maximizes every opportunity to share the love of Christ, in word and deed, with those outside the faith.

    8. Manages life wisely and accountably The healthy disciple develops personal life management skills and lives within a web of accountable relationships.

    9. Networks with the body of Christ The healthy disciple actively reaches out to others within the Christian community for relationships, worship, prayer, fellowship, and ministry.

    10. Stewards a life of abundance The healthy disciple recognizes that every resource comes from the hand of God and is to be used generously for kingdom priorities and purposes.

    A Disciple’s Prayer

    Lord Jesus, as you called your first disciples into an intimate relationship as your children, I too respond to that call today. Help me along my life’s journey to lean fully in your direction so that I may hear your voice calling me. As you invite me into a deeper relationship with you, give me the discipline and grace to respond in love and obedience. As you initiate on my behalf, give me the eyes to see your handiwork, the ears to hear your footsteps, the heart to know your unconditional love, and the hands to serve your watching world. I count it pure joy to be called your disciple-child. Lead me onward in healthy, life producing ways. For your glory and for the expansion of your kingdom, I pray in your precious name, Jesus. Amen.

    From Becoming a Healthy Disciple: Ten Traits of a Vital Christian, by Stephen A. Macchia, pp. 18-19

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