Turning Inputs into Outcomes
“Some people have ten years of experience while others have one year of experience, ten times.” That saying is popular because, rather than develop automatically, our personal growth, Christian maturity, and leadership skills depend on what we do with what we’ve got.
Think of the things God has put in your life to form you: experiences & education, people & relationships, and opportunities & challenges. In learning theory, these are called “inputs,” that go through a “process,” and result in a “product.” Processes involve experimentation, reflection, and support. Consider the following inputs.
Experiences & Education
We learn formally (education) and informally (experience), but we are often involuntary participants. We are “sent” to school, we are “placed” in situations. Notice the passive voice? Turning these inputs into desirable outcomes means deciding to learn—from everything.
I knew a college professor who temporarily worked a menial job. That unanticipated experience made her a better instructor. Instead of it being a setback, it advanced her personal formation. Scripture says that even Jesus learned through His experiences (Luke 2:40, 52; Hebrews 5:8).
People & Relationships
Discipleship, the process of maturing as a Christian, is relational in nature. That’s why banding with a small group that deliberately supports mission and growth in each other’s lives is pivotal to our formation.
The Gospels portray Jesus’ relationships with His family, John the Baptist, His disciples, and His closest friends. Jesus’ incarnation, passion, atonement, resurrection, ascension, Parousia (second coming), and other sophisticated–sounding theological terms are important to Christianity. But the Gospels are full of concrete relational stuff too, such as obeying His mom (Luke 2:51), eating meals with all kinds of people (Luke 5:27–39, 7:36–50, 14:1–24), and seeking support from His companions (Matthew 26:38).
Opportunities & Challenges
As John Ortberg points out, Caleb, even in his old age, didn’t take the easier path. In Joshua 14:10–12, he requested, “Give me the hill country” (The Me I Want to Be, Zondervan, 2010).
He knew that every challenge is an opportunity to grow—if we take it. Every failure can be a priceless lesson. Your neighborhood is both your mission field and your training ground. It offers you an arena for experimentation; your group provides a safe place for reflection.
Remember, even Jesus didn’t go it alone. He had a peer group. When He sent His disciples, they went together. George Scott Railton, William Booth’s first lieutenant, was passionate about leading people to Christ. Railton single–handedly set out to save Morocco. He failed. But when he landed in New York with Captain Emma Westbrook and the other “Hallelujah Lassies,” the official work of The Salvation Army began.
Everyone endures difficulties, but God has called us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). Form a group of Christian friends with whom to face the challenges of formation and mission. Nurturing our inwardness is too low an aim when Jesus, our Captain, has given us such a Great Commission!
by Isaiah Allen
The Corps Leadership Development Bureau of The Salvation Army—USA East serves to strengthen local leadership. Contact us to arrange a learning event in your town: firstname.lastname@example.org