Our current story-sharing series at Mosaix PDX aims at exposing and strengthening two roots of genuine unity: the gospel and discipleship. The following post attempts to paint a picture of the process and the relational context of disciplemaking.
During a recent sermon at our church on Galatians 5:16-26, the speaker suggested that we consider helping one another “walk by the Spirit” by partnering up with another person – someone either older spiritually, younger, or a peer. That, along with my recent reading of Ordinary Discipleship by Jessie Cruikshank, prompted me to place the “walk” metaphor alongside an imagined hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. Here’s how I developed the analogy; you can see a video version of it here.
Thought experiment: Compare the journey of Christian discipleship to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,653 miles long and ranges in elevation from 110 feet above sea level near the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon–Washington border to 13,153 feet at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevadas of California. The route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.
Along the way hikers face challenges to mind, body, and spirit: dangerous animals, extreme weather, grueling climbs, and the ever-present danger of injury. There are also scenes of breathtaking beauty, some of them seductive enough to lure the traveler off the trail to the point of losing sight of the goal. Moments of exhilaration mingle with periods of discouragement and conflict with fellow travelers.
Extend the analogy. The purpose of the journey is to reach the goal while learning trailcraft along the way and helping other hikers do the same. On the path you will see seasoned travelers, expert trail guides who constantly keep an eye out for new or struggling hikers. These mature guides need companionship too – they are not immune to the fatigue, injuries, and loss of focus that can happen along the way.
Another class of traveler is the amateur hiker entering the trail at a given access point. This hiker, while glad to be going somewhere, typically lacks a clear vision of the endpoint and of what it will take to get there. He or she is in poor condition and lacks the knowledge, skills, and tools to make steady progress on the journey.
Along the path you will sometimes encounter someone sitting off to the side. This person started, either recently or long ago, with high hopes and strong intentions. But without proper training, equipment, and encouragement, the rigors of the trail have taken a toll on our hiker, and he or she has lost traction and momentum. Perhaps they've had setbacks in the form of injuries, attacks, or wandering off the path and getting bogged down in irrelevant activities. This person may be hobbled with guilt or shame, having wrongly concluded that they don't have the right stuff to complete the quest.
What do all of these travelers need to successfully navigate the journey? They need supportive companionship and a guidebook that will facilitate the development of their vision, passion, knowledge, skill, and character.
The guidebook paints a stunning vision of what life will be like upon arrival at the destination: a huge, diverse community shaped and prepared by the journey to flourish together in a pristine new land. This vision becomes a growing passion within the travelers, motivating them to persevere and to invite others to join them in the journey. To assure maximal progress, these motivated hikers help one another acquire pertinent knowledge and skills to aid them in developing strength, appreciating the beauty of the trail, and dealing with the inevitable obstacles. Finally, all of these qualities shape character that is humble, hopeful, helpful, joyful, and resilient.