We’ve been talking about self-care here on HBTB this week. Did you catch the Feeding The Temple and Bookish Pampering Essentials articles? Today, author Dana Allin is here to chat about his new book SIMPLE DISCIPLESHIP (NavPress, Jan 8) and how we can personalize our own discipleship.
4 Elements of a Personalized Discipleship Plan
by Dana Allin
I was regularly meeting with a man who wanted to grow in his own discipleship. He had taken our Discipleship 360° Assessment and felt that he needed to grow in the area of generosity. This included being generous with his finances, but he also wanted to be generous in the way he related to others; for example, being more willing to give of his time and to forgive. The challenge he faced was how to grow in this area. He knew he needed more than simply sermons on the topic—he had heard plenty of those. He needed a more comprehensive approach to growth. I introduced him to the four dimensions of developing a discipleship plan that I learned from LeaderSource SGA (www.leadersource.org). In my book I call these the four directions to look when developing a personalized discipleship plan.
Look up to God: We need to rely on the Lord to develop in our discipleship. This probably seems obvious, but it is easy to think that we can simply grow in our own power and ability to execute our plans. The reality, however, is that we need to look to the Lord for His example and strength. This young disciple who wanted to become more generous needed to do more than budget to give of his finances and his time. He needed to engage with the Lord in such a way as to experience the depth of the Lord’s generosity in his life. As part of his discipleship plan, he scheduled time in the morning and evening to reflect on the Lord’s provision and love during that day and within his life as a whole. He took some personal retreat time to fast and rely on the Lord’s provision and to immerse himself in Scriptures about the Lord’s generosity. He also prayed daily for strength to recognize opportunities to be gracious toward others.
Look down to truth: When we read Scripture, we are looking down. First and foremost we look down to God’s Word to give us guidance and instruction. We might also look to other books or resources, which, while not the ultimate truth, give helpful insight in the areas where we are trying to grow. The man who wanted to grow in generosity planned to read the Gospels over a two-month period and reflect upon the ways in which Jesus was generous or called us to be generous. He also picked up a devotional book that focused on living a sacrificial life.
Look right to others: God has not called us to walk the path of discipleship alone but has given us the community of believers to support, nurture, and challenge us to grow. We need to involve others in our plans of discipleship. The man seeking to grow in generosity enlisted the help of people close to him. They prayed for him to mature in this area, and they had permission to call him out when they saw him not living generously and to ask him questions on how his plan was progressing. One of the greatest benefits for this man was to have his wife and others lovingly give him real-time feedback and support.
Look left to experience: God gives us experiences that help develop the qualities and characteristics that we need. Many of these experiences happen to us unexpectedly, and we need to be ready for them. We can also actively plan experiences that will help us develop in our discipleship. This man built in a few experiences that would help him grow. He first made sure that he intentionally gave of his time and attention to others every week. This may have meant engaging with a talkative, needy person at work or within his extended family. He also built in opportunities to give financially: Not only did he commit to tithing, but he also sometimes skipped going out to eat or to the movies and used those finances to bless others.
It takes significant time to make and follow a plan that will help you grow, but it is absolutely crucial to have such a plan. Growth in discipleship doesn’t happen quickly or by accident, but with a personal and comprehensive plan, you can see tremendous growth.
Rev. Dr. Dana Allin is synod executive for the Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO). Dana formerly served as the president of the board of ECO, the pastor of Indian River Presbyterian Church in Fort Pierce, FL, and the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, CA. He is an associate certified coach with the International Coach Federation. He lives in Santa Barbara with his wife, Beth, and their three children, Micah, Peyton, and Piper.