Gladhearted Disciples: Equipping Your Congregation with Generous and Enduring Faith

Gladhearted Disciples: Equipping Your Congregation with Generous and Enduring Faith

by Christopher Folmsbee


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781630884239
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 05/19/2015
Pages: 110
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Chris Folmsbee is the director of discipleship at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. He is the author of numerous books on spiritual formation, practical theology and missional living. He is a sought-after speaker, and consults with dozens of churches around North America each year.

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Gladhearted Disciples

Equipping Your Congregation with Generous and Enduring Faith

By Chris Folmsbee

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2015 Chris Folmsbee
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63088-424-6


A New Apologetic for a Post-Christian World

The modern era was a time when rational arguments and logical reasoning was the primary way of convincing nonreligious people to turn to Jesus. Those days are gone and those methods of helping nonreligious people find and follow Jesus are dead. In the place of those methods is a new apologetic characterized by human aesthetics, imaginative expression, and inspired living.

This new apologetic makes more innate sense to the faithfully skeptical than the circular arguments and facts about Christianity that they have come to justifiably scrutinize. This scrutiny is largely based on the observations they make about Christians not the facts about Christianity. For the church to most faithfully engage today's skeptic, it must move away from an apologetic based primarily on reason and logic and inspire people toward exploring God through the recognition and participation in the story of God.

This new apologetic is interesting to skeptics and explorers of the Christian. This new apologetic heightens the senses of everyday people in everyday life, legitimizing the gospel and kingdom life for all who see, touch, hear, taste, and smell it. Gladhearted disciple making is the new apologetic. We need to embrace it, or the gospel story will remain nothing more than something for skeptics and explorers to scoff at, disparage, and explicitly dismiss. The Christian church is God's promise and God's plan to serve the world. Gladhearted disciples, therefore, are to be the agents of such an apologetic. The sanctifying church must become the kingdom society that helps its current and future adherents turn innate missional instincts into outward missional expressions and embodiment.

Where Missional Instincts Come From

Missional instincts are found within each one of us. God fearer or not, the native impulse to help someone who is in need (whether acted upon or not), to smile at the sight of two people in love, to weep with another in a time of remembrance or loss, and to shout for joy alongside another in a moment of celebration unequivocally comes from the missional instincts born into the heart, mind, and soul of all of humanity. We are heirs of the examples above as well as a host of other emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, and social native impulses. Each one of us has been created in the image of God. Missional instincts come from within wholly because they were breathed into each one of us when God chose to imaginatively and outwardly express what was a native impulse from within. It was the native impulse of God that birthed humanity and creation.

To be created in the image of God simply means that we bear something of God's likeness—God's nature, splendor, wisdom, and morality. We resemble God. Therefore, we are God's promised and planned medium in which to deliver the enduring message of peace (salvation) and justice that works itself out through hope and healing to the shattered world around us.

We best comprehend and actualize the image of God through three key lines of thought—natural, political, and moral. Each of these three concepts uniquely provides a divergent angle in which to explore accurately what it means to have been created in the image of God and to live into that actuality.

We've been created with spirit, just as God is spirit. Unlike God (the Father), however, we have also been created with flesh in which to hospitably accommodate our spirits. John Wesley once alluded to the idea that God did not create humanity as merely matter and out of a meaningless, unintelligent clump of mud, but as a spirit just like God. We've been created in the natural likeness of God. We have missional instincts because we share the natural likeness of God.

This natural likeness means that in our spirits we've been created with the wisdom and understanding that allows us to know evil from good, the desire or will to do the good we know, and the absolute freedom to choose between a life that follows God or an anthropocentric life characterized by self-satisfaction, narcissism, and a host of other indulgent and ignorant traits.

Along with being created in the natural likeness of God, we've also been created in the political likeness of God. Humanity is not only in relationship with one another but also in relationship with the entirety of the created world. We've been formed to participate with God in caring for humanity and for the natural world. We have missional instincts because we share the political likeness of God.

We've also been designed in the moral likeness of God. We've been decidedly and distinctly created to worship God with truth and the righteousness of our lives in order that we might reflect the holiness of God. We have faithful instincts because we share the moral likeness of God.

The natural, political, and moral likeness in which we've been formed and are being formed is precisely where the innate desire to live faithfully is born and takes up residence. With that said, it is imperative for gladhearted disciples to help nonreligious people notice God's likeness within them; it really isn't about how far skeptics are from God but rather just how closely they've been created to resemble God. This truth begins to shape a new way of apologetics. It isn't reason, and it isn't truth as told by us that captures the heart of the nonreligious person. It is, instead, the connection to the missional instincts or native impulses that helps close the believability gap—the space between dogma and everyday religion where we find Jesus-centered mission.

Hence, the desire to do right, to live wholly, to be about the things of God takes residence within each one of us. It is this inner disposition and our posture that guide us toward becoming people of intentional mission. Likewise, it is expressly the instinctual mission that guides gladhearted disciples to live out God's story through missional expressions of hope and healing.

What Missional Instincts Involve and Imply

To be missional, gladhearted disciples is to participate in God's redemptive work of restoring the world toward its intended wholeness. Missional living is a participatory life that is without center or circumference. There is no specific geographical or other position that holds us near or keeps us from afar. People of mission, of generous and enduring living, are unambiguous about joining in the activity of God in every possible place, be it urban, suburban, rural, and so on.

As gladhearted disciples we are people who:

• Consider ourselves missionaries who are always looking for ways to contextualize the gospel story

• Learn about others through intentional listening as opposed to calculated arguments

• Practice forbearance towards those who don't believe as we do

• Celebrate the multicultural composition of God's kingdom

• Seek to be formed through an ongoing commitment to spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, and so on

• Ask and allow others to ask questions about God without offense

• Connect ourselves with sociological concerns and implications

• Care for God's creation through efforts to live environmentally conscious

• Trust in the conversation consisting of self, others, and the Holy Spirit

• Are comfortable with doubt as a key ingredient in faith formation—both in self and in others

• Are keenly aware of social injustices in a local, regional, and global context

• Use the imagination to evoke inspiration and welcome illumination

• Value the unique personalities and idiosyncrasies of others and seek to build healthy relationships with them

• Embrace and endorse the mystery of God, realizing that God's work is neither predictable nor conventional

• Believe that the church is the anointed and appointed earthly body of Christ sanctified to be the primary agent of God's restoration

• Inspire others through a life of generosity and hospitality

• Find deep meaning in both the context and meaning of Jesus's birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension

Involvement with God's mission has implications. Some implications are unique to us based on our own circumstances, occasions, and events of life. Other implications, however, we share with all other Christians throughout the earth.

Missional instincts direct our life. Out of these missional instincts gladhearted disciples re-narrate meaning, purpose, and hope, causing us to live into a new story. These instincts are not to remain internal. Ultimately we are to allow the Holy Spirit to take the instincts within each of us and turn them into missional expressions—evidence of a life as God designed it to be.

What Missional Expressions Reveal

If the image of God, in which we were unquestionably created, is the impetus for the missional instincts found within gladhearted disciples, then the action taken because of those instincts is the energy for the missional expressions that we choose to live out. These expressions are precisely how we resemble God or live into the image in which we were so thoughtfully and wonderfully created.

When missional instincts move to become missional expressions, the nature, splendor, wisdom, and ethics of God are exposed to the world. In a sense, humanity opens the elements of God's nature to the world, profoundly revealing the missional heart of God. God's heart is filled with an assortment of forms of divine consideration toward creation. God's considerations for all of creation are simple. God's missionary heart reveals an intention to restore the world toward the wholeness in which it was designed. The anthem of God's distinction is one of salvation and justice to a world otherwise left shattered and hopeless. We are the express image of God so that the world would be made good, right, or better still, beautifully whole. Gladhearted disciples are the image of God so that the world we come into contact with might know, above all else, that God has not forgotten them.

Every moment of our participation in God's mission to restore the world is a declaration from God. Every kind word, every dollar given, every hand held, every meal served, every gospel story shared, every house repaired, every thirsty mouth quenched, every wound bandaged, every blanket meant for warmth, every shout of joy or tear of sorrow shared with another, every hospital bedside visit, every smile meant to brighten the day of another, and so on and so on is a missional expression declaring to the world, God has not forgotten you. In that declaration the world finds hope, healing, and eventually heavenly peace or shalom. Not the kind of peace that we think of in opposition to war (although I hope that to be the case too) but rather the kind of peace that arrives out of union with God, harmony with self, community with others, and delight in all of creation.

Gladhearted disciples are beautiful. When I refer to beauty, I am not speaking merely of the kind that is emotional or mystical. I am talking about the kind of beauty that is seen through our eyes or felt throughout the depths of our heart and soul. Although the kind of beauty that one might find in another human, the beauty from a mountain vista, or the beauty found in canvases hanging on the wall of a gallery are certainly genuine and significant, I am referring to a beauty that can be found among the most impoverished areas of a city, in the utter lack of loveliness in another or the complete darkness of divorce or the pain of a memorial service or funeral. I am referring to a beauty that endures regardless of how undiscovered or unnoticed or absent it might be or appear to be. I am referring to a beauty that is quite simply the ultimate dialect of God, love.

The sacredness of the gladhearted disciples' existence is not the life we live—it is the love we live. It is out of love that life is generously and enduringly lived. A beautiful life is not one measured only by splendor, attractiveness, or excellence. Love almost single-handedly measures the essence of beauty. In the midst of the worst or the best, God is love. Love exists because God exists. Love is felt because God is present. Where God is present, God is fully there—not giving a bit of God's love, but giving all of God's love. God speaks love, and love takes the abstraction out of truth and puts the concrete in it. We know God is truth because God is personal. Gladhearted disciples know God personally and have ongoing encounters with the personality of God.

I am fully aware that there are many places in this world where love is not articulated, displayed, or felt. One of the people in my small group shared with the rest of us that she is "100 percent sure" that her dad doesn't love her. I don't know if that is true or not, but I do know there are many, many places where love is evidently absent. That doesn't mean, however, that God is not love or that God is not present. It simply means that humanity is not acting on its most basic natural impulse or missional instinct, love.

Nothing is beautiful without love. Even matters outside the realm of humanity, but within the realm of creation, such as a painting, a song, a sculpture, a flower, or an animal, are not without love. God is love and God is everywhere and, therefore, in everything that is beautiful there is God and God's love. Gladhearted disciples are driven by God's loving presence.

Missional expressions of gladhearted disciples are born out of the missional instincts gifted to us through the image in which we have been created. Missional expressions declare that God has not forgotten us, and that salvation and justice provide the hope, healing, and peace necessary for a world to be made good, right, and ultimately whole—to be made just the way that God intended it to be.

Missional expressions reveal that God is love and that love is indeed what measures the essence of beauty. A theology of love, as applied by the gladhearted disciples' life, is the footing for a new apologetic.

The Death, Burial, and Nonresurrection of Modern Apologetics

I am not implying that love was not the foundation or at least the intended foundation for modern apologetics. Nevertheless, one of the fundamental differences between the new apologetic (missional living) and apologetics of yesteryear is not exclusive to how one postures oneself to resemble God but is rather the posture of the ones on the other end of the resembling. For the skeptical, whether seeking or not, the posture may very well be one of inquisition and analysis. However, there is a very good chance that the queries of the nonreligious are not inherent in apologetics that most of Christianity has been equipped to give. Is it not possible that the nonreligious don't care about our "truth"? Is it even more possible that the nonreligious may have a question that we can't answer, making our series of anecdotal apologetics irrelevant?

I can't remember the last time that I had a conversation with one of my next-door neighbors, friends, family members, or complete strangers that began with the evidences of the divine inspiration of the Bible, the fulfilled prophecies, the unique historical accuracies, the unique structure, the scientific accuracies, or archeological findings that support the Bible. At least, I haven't had conversations with the before mentioned at the beginning of their inquisition or even in the center of their disbelief and uncertainty. Many of the apologetic triumphs previously employed to convince nonreligious people to turn to Jesus are not remotely relevant to the nonreligious person's life or pertinent to the questions they are asking.

What I can vividly remember from conversations with everyday people about God, faith, and life, however, are matters related to everyday living. They are matters related to the person who shot and killed a doctor who performs abortions or the conduct of priests and church leaders (don't merely think Catholicism here) toward little boys and girls or massive oil spills that are killing entire ecosystems. Other common questions revolve around the inability of most Christians to carry on a conversation about faith or religions of another kind without it turning into an argument, trial, or at the very least, a "blame storming" exercise. In fact, in a conversation with one of my neighbors regarding the church, he said, "Nothing beautiful can come out of the church." Therein lies the impetus for this book. I believe the church filled with gladhearted disciples is the very society called to missional living, and the key to missional living is the making of gladhearted disciples.

There was a day when modern apologetics were helpful. That day is no more. Rationalizing God, faith, and life through logical lines of reasoning for the purpose of a systematic account of all things Christian and to expose the flaws of other worldviews leaves modern apologists looking absurdly unaware and boorish. Gladhearted disciples know that their life is the most helpful apologetic for today's post-Christian culture.


Excerpted from Gladhearted Disciples by Chris Folmsbee. Copyright © 2015 Chris Folmsbee. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Gladhearted Disciples Defined xi

How to Use This Book xvii

Part 1 Making Disciples: A New Apologetic

Chapter 1 A New Apologetic for a Post-Christian World 3

Chapter 2 What a New Apologetic Looks Like in a Post-Christian World 14

Part 2 Gladhearted Disciples and Their Ways of Holiness

Chapter 3 Taking Up Residence with God 21

Chapter 4 The Organization and Essence of Community 25

Chapter 5 Revisiting Christian Perfection 30

Part 3 Gladhearted Disciples and Their Embodied Practice

Chapter 6 The Gospel of Peace and Justice 39

Chapter 7 Creating "Do You Remember When?" Stories 43

Chapter 8 Understanding the Reason and Role of the Church 48

Part 4 Gladhearted Disciples and their Commitment to Yielded Guidance

Chapter 9 Catching the Wind: The Holy Spirit and the Gladhearted Disciple 55

Part 5 The Gladhearted Disciple-Making Leader

Chapter 10 The Gladhearted Disciple as Leader 63

Chapter 11 Five Key Factors for the Mission Ahead 68

Chapter 12 Questions and Applications for the Gladhearted Leader 73

Notes 89

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