Monday, October 08, 2012

BookPastor >> "Becoming a Healthy Disciple"

We all like to talk about discipleship in the Church. Often, we keep asking the questions of how, and fail to see that there are already materials that show us how. We need a inner desire not just to talk about discipleship, but to fervently look for ways to do discipleship beginning with ourselves. This book is one of such resources. This review was first published on May 21st, 2010.


Title: "Becoming a Healthy Disciple" - Traits of a Vital Christian
Author: Stephen A Macchia
Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004 (256pp)

Stephen Macchia is a distinguished Gordon-Conwell alumnus (see bio here), and founder of Leadership Transformations. he begins the book by thinking back to that fateful September 11, 2001, commonly known as "Nine-eleven." Calling out 9-11 helps to remind many Americans about the time where people remember the words like:
  • "God bless America"
  • Firefighter, Police, Rescue Worker
  • United we stand; Freedom
  • .....
If such words can evoke memories of unity, patriotism, community spirit and all the positive aspects of human beings, what about the Christian? Does the Christian has a known set of characteristics that can be floated up? What are the basics of discipleship? Macchia lists ten traits of a 'healthy disciple' as a sequel to his popular "Becoming a Healthy Church" published in 1999, also by Baker Books.

Short Preview of "Becoming a Healthy Church"
Main Point: "A healthy church is prayerful in all aspects of church life and ministry, reliant upon God's power and the authority of his Word, and values the following:" (14-16)
  1. God's Empowering Presence
  2. God-exalting Worship
  3. Spiritual Disciplines
  4. Learning and Growing in Community
  5. A Commitment to loving and caring relationships
  6. Servant-Leadership Development
  7. An Outward Focus
  8. Wise Administration and Accountability
  9. Networking with the Body of Christ
  10. Stewardship and Generosity
In his book about healthy disciples, he made an important observation about Christians.
".. Jesus is our example to follow, the ideal to achieve. Our tendency, however, is to focus on two primary attributes of Christ and his teaching - his prayer life and his evangelistic outreach in need. This gets translated into our day to the quiet time and the testimony. When our understanding of discipleship is wrapped up almost exclusively in these two areas, we tend to miss much of what Jesus said to his disciples in the first century and what he desires to say to us today. " (17)
What about the Healthy Disciple?

Well said. Indeed, the goal of healthy discipleship is to imitate Christ in loving God, and in being faithful to practice what he taught us. Macchia defines a healthy disciple as:
"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." (18)
Macchia makes no extra effort to re-invent his ten traits. In fact, just as a healthy disciple flows out of a healthy church, his ten traits for a healthy disciple, flows out of his previous book on healthy church. In summary, his ten traits for a vital Christian are:
  1. Experiences God's Empowering Presence
  2. Engages in God-exalting Worship
  3. Practices the Spiritual Disciplines
  4. Learns and Grows in Community
  5. Commits to Loving and Caring Relationships
  6. Exhibits Christlike Servanthood
  7. Shares the Love of Christ Generously
  8. Manages Life Wisely and Accountably
  9. Networks with the Body of Christ
  10. Stewards a Life of Abundance.
My Comments
I have previously posted a comparison of the 2 books here. Most of my thoughts about the two books are there. Let me add one more. As I look at this list, it is quite impossible to pin-point which is most appropriate for any disciple of Christ. Safe to say, if I am one looking to grow in discipleship, and Macchia's 10 points are listed before me, I will do the following.

Firstly, I will pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me which part of the spiritual journey I am now in. This is important because, being human, thoughts change. Feelings alter. Acts differ from time to time. What is normal yesterday cannot be easily assumed today. Neither can today's high be easily translated into tomorrow's ecstasy. The same can be said for other forms of emotions.

Secondly, I will seek out mentors and mature Christians to probe me about my spiritual condition. Sometimes, in ministry, we can try to help others so much that we forget to look at our own. This easily leads to hypocrisy in ministry.

Thirdly, I will look at this list, and force myself to pick out 1-3 specific traits. Like many self-tests and personal surveys, every time we take the test, our results can differ drastically. If I were to choose one of the traits as my top need right now, it is basically #1 - to experience God's empowering presence. Well, as an additional pointer, do this periodically, say each quarter.

Having said that, there is one more thing for the uninitiated. If you are not exactly sure how to go about doing discipleship, maybe, as a start, just treat each trait consecutively. You will begin to see the logic of Macchia putting #1 as one, #2 as two, #3 as three and so forth. Maybe, along the way, you will suddenly feel the Spirit prompting you, "That's right! That trait is the one I need to address right now."

Have fun.


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