Disruptive Discipleship

NEW RELEASE — The concept of disruption has roots in family therapy. The observation was that a family develops patterns that, over time, lead to stagnancy. Therapists would disrupt these patterns to make room for new patterns, believing that simply removing an old pattern would make room for good to emerge.


But does good automatically emerge? According to marriage and family therapist Paul Johns, disruption needs direction. “A tree can certainly grow best when it has space and freedom to do so. But it can reach its fullest potential when it grows toward the sunlight; a path for which it was designed.” For Paul, a Christian, that path is toward Christ.

“Disruptive Discipleship explores how to get unstuck and say yes to the good reality we were created for. We don’t learn or grow just by getting new information. We have to risk experimenting with new practices, experiences, and challenges. Sam Van Eman is an enthusiastic, honest, and seasoned guide to this adventure.”
Mark Scandrette, author of Free, Practicing the Way of Jesus, and Belonging and Becoming

When Jesus invited the rich young ruler to follow him, he wasn’t asking for something impossible (Luke 18:22). But it felt impossible for that guy—because that guy already had his life in pretty good order. What’s it like for those of us who also struggle with pride? Or fear? Or regret, guilt, or insecurity? Try asking King Herod to deny Salome’s request in front of a crowd (see Mark 6:26). He wouldn’t. He didn’t. He liked John the Baptist, but he liked being liked even more. He was stuck.

Too often we remain stuck because we live in a mix of faithlessness and faith. We feel hopeless and hopeful simultaneously. We refuse love and yet also extend it in one breath. In other words, we’ve got enough of the good to make us okay with the bad. Life is like this: vibrancy and stagnancy, renewal and atrophy, all sharing the same space, which means it’s normal to be somewhere along the continuum. How will we know whether our faith, hope, and love are closer to alive and free than dead and stuck? We need to test them. We need to step into new moments that reveal our current status and trajectory. These moments—designed experiences—offer more than we expect and often take us to places we did not expect.

Going somewhere unknown requires courage to admit there is somewhere to go to that is not here. Courage also helps us admit that Jesus is talking to us, not just to first-century listeners, when he asks, “How can you be so blind?” And courage enables us to name the ignorance or insecurity—or whatever has us stuck—so we can begin to move toward a maturity that reflects being a disciple of Christ. Disruptions can open our eyes.

However small the portion of faith, hope, and love we discover in ourselves, we recognize it as a gift from God. Imagine, then, what can happen when we acknowledge the ways this gift has been underused and also confess the ways it has been misused. It will take courage. We won’t be thriving at a higher level yet (Jesus has work to do and so do we), but we can grow because we’re on our way.

—Adapted from chapter one, “Feeling Stuck”


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