Training Disciples - Part 1

What is the Goal of Spiritual Formation? (part 1)


Randy Pope

President of Life on Life Ministries



Well, I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to watch the first video introduction. If you did you know that there are two sets of seven videos, one dealing with making disciples, the other with training disciples. What you’re about to see now is the introduction to help us understand training disciples.

I hope you’ve had the opportunity first to listen to making disciples. You certainly don’t have to have watched it already, but I would encourage you if you haven’t seen those, be sure and give a few minutes to that too. I think you’re gonna find it to be extremely helpful as well.

After 42 years of pastoring, I can say with great integrity that the single greatest discovery that I ever made in ministry has to do with this idea of life-on-life discipleship. As I tell the story, I think you’re going to understand why I would make such a statement. So this is going to be the first of six questions that I’m going to answer to help you understand the training of disciples from a life-on-life perspective. At the end of that, there’s going to be a seventh, very brief four-minute video. That’s going to be an animation. And I think it’s going to give you a great summary perspective of what we’re talking about. So let’s now look into this first question.

What is the target or goal of spiritual formation? What are we really asking? So, let me tell you a bit of the background story. It was about seven or eight years into the life of Perimeter and my pastoring. And doing so, I found myself in a mountain cabin where I was wrestling with the issues of spiritual formation. I was a bit confused. I literally sat with a pen in my lap, and said “Lord, please give me understanding to what it is that’s given me this sense that we’re just not where we need to be.” I know this, I was sitting there thinking about our ministry, and at that time we were being applauded fairly significantly as a young church that was growing very rapidly. We were seeing a lot of conversions. There was a depth of spiritual teaching. There was a gospel-centeredness about what we were doing. And I looked at all of the big issues that are so important, but I still knew there was something missing.

And so as I was there at that mountain cabin, I sat with a pen in my lap, and I just began begging, “God, please show me, what is it? What is it?” And I had this picture come to mind, kind of a strange thing. I’m sitting there and I see myself as an archer. I don’t know why because I’ve never done anything in archery, but I picture myself with a bow and arrow in a big, huge room. And I had this bow and arrow, and I pull the bow back, and I’ve turned away from the wall. I let that arrow fly, and I see where it hits. And I picture myself just thinking what if I were to pick up a magic marker and go over to that wall and see where that arrow hit and then draw, very conveniently, a circle around that dot and then begin celebrating a bullseye. What a great archer that I am! Oh, that would be ridiculous. In fact, that’s as ridiculous as it would be to try to lead a church without ever trying to figure out what the target is. What is the goal of the most important thing we do, which is to help people in spiritual formation? So, as I sat there and began to contemplate, I began to say, you know, “We don’t have a target. That’s our problem.”

We were being applauded for how far we can shoot our arrow. And there were other churches that I was very familiar with that were shooting their arrow much further, and they were being applauded a lot more. But the goal is not how far we can shoot our arrow, e.i. how fast we can grow, how big we can get. Those are not significant issues. The big issue has to do with spiritual formation. And so with that, I began to say, “Well, what is the goal?”

Initially, I thought the goal might be to help Christians grow in their commitment to Jesus and knowledge of the Word of God. The more I thought about that, I said, “No, I don’t think so. I think it has to be something far different than that.”

And, and then I thought a little further, “Well, maybe mature and equipped.”

Those two words came to mind, and I thought maybe that’s it. Helping Christians become mature and equipped followers of Christ. I thought this way: If someone’s going in commitment to Jesus and in the knowledge of the Word, they may not be mature and certainly may not be equipped. But if somebody is mature and equipped, then I think that they would be growing in commitment to Jesus and knowledge of the Word of God. And so with that, I said, “I think I found the target.”

Now the next big question was, what is an adequate definition of mature and equipped? They’re biblical terms, but what does that person look like who is mature and equipped? And I thought, “If we can figure that out and know that’s our target, then we can start figuring out to get there.”

In the next video, we’ll talk about an adequate definition for a mature and equipped follower of Christ.


If you would rather read this series, you can download the Making and Training disciples booklets here.