Crippling Shame

Your disciple cannot follow Jesus if controlled by shame. Following Jesus is about belonging and nothing destroys belonging like shame. It is not an issue he can avoid nor will it just go away. It casts a long shadow so even shame from years ago he remembers as if it was yesterday.

Shame comes in various forms and degrees. Some shame is emotionally crippling while other shame has less consequence. There is shame he has brought on himself and shame that was not his fault.  Some was imagined while some was very real.

It could be shame associated with his family or the shame of a mental or physical limitation. A man with a learning disability said to me, Lewie, do you know how painful it is to feel dumb every day of your life? School for me was a walk of shame.

Whatever its source shame makes cowards of us all. It was R.G. Collingwood who wrote:

What a man is ashamed of is always at bottom himself; and he is ashamed of himself at bottom always for being afraid.[1]

Ministries have tried to accommodate people’s emotional fears by creating approaches, curriculum, and programs that limits relational risk for everyone involved, including the leader.  It gives the illusion of love and community but behind the façade there are not the bonds of trust necessary for authentic relationships.

Leading a small group, teaching a bible study, leading worship, and doing service projects can be done in emotional safety.  One can give the appearance of vulnerability but the test of vulnerability is in relationships. Recently I was with a friend who told me how her boss would display vulnerability behind a podium, but in a staff meeting or one-on-one he was anything but vulnerable.

Your disciple needs for you to place yourself in the vulnerable position to love him unconditionally. To place yourself in the vulnerable position of being the first to say,  “I love you.”[2]





[1] Collingwood, Robin G. Retrieved September 17, 2012, from

[2] Brown, Brene (2010, The Power of Vulnerability, Retrieved October 8, 2012, from


Love is the Starting Point of All Religion

Love is the Starting Point of All Religion. So how do we effectively spread love? American Philosopher Richard Weaver observed:

It seems to me that the world is now more than ever dominated by the gods of mass and speed and that the worship of these can lead only to the lowering of standards, the adulteration of quality, and, in general, to the loss of those things which are essential to the life of civility and culture.[1]

path, lead, righteous, snow, Christ, disciple

What path do you take to love?

I am afraid that within Christianity we have sacrificed some sacred things on the altars of mass and speed. An assumption has been made that the larger the ministry and the faster a ministry grows, the more God is blessing. Because of this, churches feel the pressure to produce sizable results quickly.

The problem is that loving relationships, which are to be the mark of the followers of Jesus, cannot be made in mass or quickly. To seek to maintain too many relationships or to try and speed up the relational building process will inhibit the love you are longing to experience.

Although counter intuitive, love limits in order to multiply. When a man says, “I do” to his wife, he says “I don’t” to all other women and when a couple decides to have children they choose a lifestyle that seems confining in comparison to their friends with no children. We willingly set margins around our family so that love will multiply to future generations because to neglect a marriage leads to divorce and to be inattentive to a child results in a wounded person, both of which breaks the love continuum.

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Bridging the Breach

You cannot expect someone to love who has not been discipled. To assume that your disciple has a desire to love God, you, and others can frustrate him because he is aware of the relational expectations you have of him but he knows that he cannot fulfill them.

Fear developed in your disciple because of a void of love. This fear disrupts his relationships, which inhibits love, which brings on more insecurity, and so goes the downward cycle. He is afraid of what he does not know how to do and so to ask him to love God or people is to ask him to face a deep fear. That fear leads to frustration and frustration to anger and you may be the recipient of his anger.

The inability of your disciple to build and maintain healthy relationships is a result of a detachment from God caused by a distorted view of God, which may have been brought on by his Christian experience.  This distortion developed out of the contradiction of his hearing the message of God’s love in sermons, books, and bible studies that did not match up with his experience whether in his family or church.

As Jesus bridged this breach by the laying down of his life for his disciples so you remove the contradiction in your disciple’s thinking by the laying down of your life for him. The message of love now lines up with his experience.

Closing thoughts:

  • You will experience your disciple’s inability to build relationships either by (1) his aversion to connect with you or (2) his outright rejection of you fueled by his fear.
  • Laying down your life for your disciple will cost you. It can be a painful experience.
  • Parents have the opportunity to daily demonstrate love to their children by the laying down of their lives for one another and also for each child.

Jesus Loved First

The example of how followers of Jesus should relate to one another is found in the Trinity. Jesus instructed his disciples that they were to love one another after the pattern of his relationship with the Heavenly Father (John 15:9-12). For eternity the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have loved one another with a familial love and have brought delight to one another as witnessed at the baptism of Jesus:

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

The beauty of love among the Trinity overflows to a love for mankind. We are responders to this love that empowers us to love others. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16) “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)­ God’s love for and delight in your disciple is his basis for relating to others.

Making disciples of Jesus requires simultaneous efforts on your part to help your disciple learn how relate to God and how relate to people. As he deepens his understanding of God’s love for him he will deepen his relationship with people and as he deepens his relationship with people he will discover new measures of his relationship with God.

Meet the Parents 3

It is not possible for your disciple to separate his relationship with God from his relationship with people, as hard as he may try. To understand your disciple’s relationship with God you need to look no further than how he relates to people, including his parents and siblings. His relationships serve as a mirror for him and a window for you to understand how he relates to God. John, in no uncertain terms, irrevocably ties our relationship with God to our relationship with people when he writes:

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21)

It is a contradiction to give the appearance of having a relationship with God and yet have discord, jealousy, selfishness, dissension, hatred, and envy with people. Your disciple’s relationships will either expose a facade of religion or affirm a genuine relationship with God.

In closing,

  • Making disciples in community gives your disciple the opportunity to learn how to love others and to receive love from others.
  • Making disciples in community gives you the opportunity to observe how each disciple relates to the others.
  • Your community’s relationship with one another is an indication of how the community as a whole is relating to God.

Meet the Parents 2

One way to get know your disciple is by getting to know his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents through family stories. Here you are looking for relational tendencies, values, character traits, and dysfunctions that have been passed down through the generations. Most people I disciple have given little consideration to their parent’s relationship to their grandparents, or their grandparent’s relationship to their great-grandparents, even though we are all products of preceding generations. Family stories are a mirror for your disciple to see himself.

Several years ago I wanted to get to know my dad and mom better so I set out to discover some of their childhood stories. My dad is from upstate New York so one summer I loaded him in the car and film in my camera and we toured the places of his youth. Later I did the same with my mom visiting her old stomping grounds in the Indiana Harbor. In both cases they were almost compelled to tell the stories of the past as memories were stirred by revisiting the houses, schools, neighborhoods, cemeteries, and churches of their childhood. I learned about people and events that I would have never known about apart from these trips down memory lane with my parents. Dad told me how as a boy on cold Sunday mornings he would build a fire in the woodstove at the Emory Chapel, which was built in 1833, so that the church would be warm when the congregation arrived since his family lived nearest to the country chapel. Mom told of her Yugoslavian neighbor, Mrs. Horvat, who taught my grandmother how to make stuff cabbage, which to this day is my favorite meal.

The best way to gather information about a person is through stories rather than asking direct questions. Story telling unlocks the memories of the heart. Often I have had a disciple say, “I just don’t remember much from my childhood”, but as you get him telling stories he will start remembering things and then say, “I haven’t thought of that in years!” or “I had totally forgotten about that.”

A couple points in closing:

  • Memories can be locked up by fear and shame. Story telling is a backdoor entrance to your disciple’s heart.
  • Telling his childhood stories can be emotional for your disciple. Just yesterday a guy got choked up as he was telling me about his childhood.
  • Together my disciple and I build a timeline of his life, which helps him remember the stories of his youth and helps me keep his story straight.
  • When possible visit the hometown of your disciple. I find it intriguing that most of Jesus’ disciples were from around the town of Capernaum, which was the base of operation for Jesus’ ministry. Jesus would have known some of his disciples’ families.

Meet the Parents

A helpful piece of advice for making followers of Jesus is to meet the family of your disciple, no matter his age. Within minutes of meeting his dad, mom, brothers, and sisters you will have a deeper understanding of his behavior because it was within the context of these relationships that he developed his approach in relating to others.

Jesus told his disciples: “Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) To follow Jesus is to love others, which means a large part of the disciple making process is teaching your disciple how to love and how to receive love.

For many of your disciples the home was not a place of love. He developed dysfunctional ways of relating to men through his dad and brothers and dysfunctional patterns with women through his mom and sisters. His framework for all relationships was formed by his parent’s treatment of one another, their treatment of him, and how they guided the children in relating to one another or in many cases how they neglected to guide the children.

Usually any façade, concealment, or pretense by your disciple, whether intentional or unintentional, will be exposed by meeting his family. I am often humored at how a person’s disposition can immediately change in the presence of his mom, or dad, or sibling. More than once I have been surprised when I have met the family of one of my disciples. The sooner you can meet your disciple’s family the deeper your relationship will be with him and the more effective your counsel.

The Art of Observation

The objective for your disciple is to live his life as Jesus did. John writes, “This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:5-6) Part of your role is to observe your disciple in different scenarios in order to commend him when he is living as Jesus would and to exhort him when he is not, as demonstrated for us by Jesus with his men. He formed his team and observed them in many situations over three years, including how the disciples related to one another. Sometimes they did well and other times they did not but in each case Jesus was there in the moment both to commend and to correct.

It is not sufficient to obtain information about your disciple just from him. Even the most honest of people has blind spots, fears, and assumptions, which will limit and skew the information he will give you. Incomplete information will result in you giving him bad counsel and so it is important for you to observe your disciple in various scenarios over a long period of time to ensure that you have an accurate picture of him. This essential component of observation necessitates for you to live in close proximity to your disciple to provide the opportunities for you to see him in different settings.

This is one reason why I believe that the home is the optimal place to make disciples. The family setting provides ample opportunities for the parents to observe the behavior of each child in many situations and so they are able to give accurate and therefore effective encouragement, correction, and instruction. At home the children can both observe the parents living out the values of the kingdom of God and also experience those values as the parents serve and love them.

Observing Beauty

Disciple making requires living in close proximity to your disciple in order for him to have the opportunities to observe the beauty of how you and your family live out kingdom values. Although instruction is important, life change comes by witnessing another actually living out these beliefs. It matters little what you say to your disciple in comparison to what he observes from your life. As Marion Wade has said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.” One example of this from the life of Jesus is when the twelve shooed away the children thinking them a nuisance until Jesus demonstrated the beauty of children by placing them into his lap.

My parents have consistently lived out the values of the kingdom for over 60 years. In the 1960’s it was customary for a new car owner to leave the dealer’s sticker on the car window to let every one know that he had bought a new car.  Only after he had paraded around town in his new automobile for a few days would he then remove the sticker. Not Lew Clark. My dad had the dealer remove the sticker from the window before he would drive the car off the lot. I do not ever remember my parents instructing me about humility but that one small act of beauty by my dad did not go unnoticed by me as a young boy and it has made a lifetime impact on my character.

How I View My Disciple #4

Each Tuesday evening our group of disciples has dinner together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This past week during our table discussion there was a frank honesty about our childhoods and how each of us had felt like we had not belonged anywhere while growing up. We had lived a detached existence.

Making followers of Jesus must be done in a group. A large part of the disciple making process is accomplished through my disciple learning how to interrelate with his brothers and sisters in the family of God.  I have wondered how much of Jesus’ training of the twelve was achieved through the disciples learning how to live together for three years vs. the “classroom” instruction of Jesus. I have also wondered how much of the teaching of Jesus flowed out of the conflicts between the disciples not too dissimilar from a parent using sibling discord as a teaching moment for his children.

The essence of our God is the familial interconnectedness of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Their identity is found in the eternal love bond to the other persons of the Godhead. Because we are created in the image of God a disciple can only come to understand his identity and purpose by integrating into a family context with his heavenly Father and his spiritual siblings. In contrast, our culture pushes him toward individualism and independence, which can only lead to confusion and ultimately self-destruction.

Just as a my disciple cannot know himself or understand his giftedness apart from being in this family context, so I cannot know my disciple apart from seeing him interact with his spiritual siblings.  His relationship with God is not visible to me which means he can deceive me into thinking he has a good relationship with God when in reality he may not.  One way I can get a glimpse into my disciple’s relationship with the heavenly Father is through seeing how he relates to others and how others relate to him.