Some Principles
by Paul Hazelden

Discipleship: Index
Introduction   |   The Usual Way   |   A Proposal   |   Some Principles


Discipleship is all about learning. Discipleship is a lifestyle, not an event, so it is about continuing to learn throughout our lives.

What I describe here is simple, but it is not familiar to most people in the Church today, so it can be hard to understand and apply. Here are a few brief observations to help you live it.

A Few Basic Principles

  Learning is Difficult

Learning is never easy. Learning involves change, and change is always painful. We do not change, and we do not learn, unless we have to.

The fundamental challenge, before we can even get started, is the question of motivation.

  How do we learn?

Very few people learn anything important through academic teaching, and when we do, it is always because the right teaching is being provided at the right time, and in the right context.

The right time for teaching is when we know we need it. The process usually goes something like this.

We learn by doing, not hearing. The problems we discover through doing make us open to to learning. Our failures give us a reason to change and grow. Our undeserved successes remind us that we cannot succeed without God doing the things we cannot do ourselves.

  When do we learn?

We learn best when we are able to do something which matters. Working at something which does not matter saps the spirit. More than that, if I do not have a strong incentive to make something work well, I will not be willing to invest in learning in order to achieve this goal.

We only learn when the outcome is not certain. We plan things to avoid the possibility of failure and risk, because this is what our culture tells us to do. But while the people work hard in this system, the system does not work for the people: they cannot learn and grow in such an environment.

Risk and failure must be present but managed: the activity needs to be safe enough to be sustainable, effective enough to be worthwhile, challenging enough to be enjoyable, and impossible enough so that we cannot do it without God.

  What do we learn?

This is one of the deep challenges: when we do learn, we do not always learn the right lessons. We lock up criminals to 'teach them a lesson'. The lesson they often learn is how not to get caught.

We learn most often by our own mistakes, but we rarely learn the right lessons that way. We usually see mistakes more clearly in the lives of other people.

We need mature, experienced people: we need their example, and we need their help and guidance to reflect on what we see and do in order to make the connections between the things which damage other people and the things which are wrong in our own lives.

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http://hazelden.org.uk/discipleship/d004_principles.htm was last updated 15 August 2014
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