We change differently than we think.
Many of us think that we are, as James K.A. Smith puts it, “brains on a stick.”
We view our bodies as (at best!) extraneous, temporary vehicles for trucking around our souls or “minds,” which are where all the real action takes place. In other words, we imagine human beings as giant bobblehead dolls: with humungous heads and itty-bitty, unimportant bodies.
This is reflected in how we disciple people. We cram people with more information, thinking that discipleship is mostly about absorbing new ideas.
To be sure, learning is important for discipleship. But we need more than new ideas. We need new habits.
The Power of Habit
Your habits are, in fact, one of the most important things about you. Those repeated actions you take over and over, almost mindlessly, reveal your true self over time as much as anything else…
Our habits are windows into the deep things of our souls. “Character,” says Michael Horton, “is largely a bundle of habits.” Take a careful assessment of any person’s habits, and soon you can tell, with very little margin for error, what really captures his heart.
But our habits not only show our hearts, but shape them as well.
Our habits shape our lives more than we realize. It’s estimated that more than 40% of the actions we take each day aren’t the result of decision-making, but habit.
The implications for discipleship are profound. We need to teach people knowledge about God, but we need to do more than that. We need to help our people develop habits that will help them grow as disciples of Christ.
We need to learn, as James K.A. Smith says, habits of desire. If we’re going to be disciples and disciple others, we must learn the power of habit.
Coaching for Discipleship
As a church planter, I’ve been working this past year on a seven-week discipleship program that helps people build gospel habits in their life. It’s called Gospel for Life Discipleship. We’ve developed it not only for our own people but as a resource for other believers and churches to use. It not only teaches key habits for discipleship, but provides live coaching to help people apply the habits within their lives.
Whether you read books like the ones I mentioned, use G4L Discipleship, or chart your own path, it’s essential to think about discipleship through habits. For discipleship and for life, we must rediscover the power and importance of habit.