Steve Johnson, Pastor, Scottsdale, AZ
MY JOURNEY WITH THE JOURNEY
Steve Johnson, Pastor of Discipleship and Global Outreach
Having been a pastor for almost 50 years, one can well imagine that I have seen just about every form of “discipleship” study…and I think I have in one fashion or another. So, when I was approached by Rich Trayler to consider the Journey, I was at first both intrigued and somewhat hesitant about another ‘program.’ We have been working for over a year as a leadership team to answer the question, “How can we create a culture of discipleship at IC, not just have a bunch of men’s and women’s and youth’s one-offs?” The Journey seemed like just one more ‘program’ to consider.
I became even a bit more hesitant as I was graciously provided all the books and materials. The allegorical foundation upon review seemed somewhat ‘trite’ and forced – it came across as being a replacement for, not an addition to Scripture. Of course, that was before I actually decided to join the Journey. Reluctantly, I committed to the two-hour weekly meeting[s], as well as the hours to read, do the STAR studies (which I did not do all), prepare to guide certain weeks, and pray for my group.
I was confident that being part of the group would allow me to evaluate closely the impact of the individual parts of the Journey, as well as its overall effect on our group. Here’s what I would say looking back on the process:
- While the “allegorical” books seemed uncomfortable to me at first, the final book was a perfect bookend to our process. I almost wish I read that one first. I could have better grasped and been comfortable with all the images in Journey into the Inner Chamber.
- I believe that the Journey does, in fact, deal with the key issues involved in following Jesus, living for Him, and being an influence for Him with others. While I was not necessarily thrilled with the process of reading slides each week, the Scripture, the explanations, and for the most part, the questions were well-designed to help me evaluate my personal and intimate abiding relationship with Jesus. I was most encouraged with this section.
- The sections on Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual warfare were very well presented and I would hold them up as some of the best material and interaction on these topics from a cessationist perspective.
- I believe that the group process could be improved by changing most of the questions that call for a YES/NO answer to those that call for an explanation, application, or defense.
Having provided some “opinions” about the course, let me speak personally and honestly. I went into the process reluctantly, not truly believing that it would ultimately be worth my time or efforts, since I know the material and the biblical foundations, and have been actively involved in a growing and abiding relationship for over 50 years. And the truth is, I did not “learn” a whole lot new.
I did, however, become a member of a new small fellowship of men, committed to growing in Christ and to one another. It was refreshing to have others pray for me weekly (and most of the time during the week between meetings) with whom I could interact about the sessions, how they impacted my week, etc. And I did see real transformation in the life of one of our team members. This was the most encouraging to me.
As I think about recommending the Journey for the season ahead, one word comes to mind– YES! Yes, because it is biblical, well–organized, challenging, encouraging, dependent upon interaction and accountability, and at the end of the day, a great environment in which true discipleship can take place and “influencers” can develop.
As a pastor deeply committed to the development of a culture of discipleship, I can wholeheartedly say that the Journey will serve as a key tool in our pursuit of seeing that culture created among men, women, and youth for the glory of God!