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What is 'The Course of Your Life'?

Course of your life cover image

Author, Tony Payne, explains...

[More information coming soon including a more precise release date (currently estimated for early November in Australia).]

A couple of years ago, I accidentally wrote a bestseller. Colin Marshall and I put out a small and uncomplicated book called The Trellis and the Vine, in which we argued from Scripture that all Christians are involved in God's great work in the world. We are all not only disciples but also makers and growers of other disciple—each in our own way, according to our circumstances, opportunities and gifts.

This is hardly an earth-shattering idea, nor are we the first ones to say it.

But the reason 'The Trellis and the Vine' struck such a chord with so many readers was that it not only restated what most of us have always believed about ministry and church and discipleship, but pointed out the ways that we don't tend to do it. All the programs and structures and apparatus of church life tend to squeeze out this vision of people-focused disciple-making ministry. The 'trellis work' takes over the 'vine work', and we find ourselves doing very little disciple-making, nor training and equipping of the congregation to be disciple-makers.

As Colin and I have talked about this with pastors and leaders around the world, one very common issue emerges. Many are keen to begin the difficult process of refocusing their congregational life on people and 'vine work' rather than structures and programs. But the first pressing question is: how can we spread this vision within our congregation? We may be keen to train everyone as disciple-making disciples, but what if other people are not so keen? What if they already feel busy and over-overcommitted? How can we fire up people with the desire and commitment to give themselves to God's work in the world: to making and growing disciples of Jesus? How can we inspire them with the vision of how great God's plans are, and how extraordinary it is that we have a part to play in them—that we all have a part to play? How can we get people to take their eyes off their small ambitions and their daily struggles, and catch the vision of being a disciple-making disciple in every aspect of their lives?

This is not a structural problem, nor one that can be solved by better programs or snazzier church services or more impassioned appeals by the pastor for people to "get involved". It's a heart problem. It's about what people passionately believe to be important. And therefore it is also a mind problem—since what we really love and long for (our heart's desire) is intimately connected with how we think about the world and ourselves, and what we think is important.

So if we want to see our congregational culture change, and individual members give themselves to being disciple-making disciples, we need to see hearts change. We need to blow people's minds with the wonder of God and the gospel, and to fire their hearts with a new love and joy and enthusiasm for serving Christ not only as a disciple but as a disciple who longs to make and grow other disciples.

How do we do this? How does that kind of revolution happen? Well, the Bible tells us it happens as the Spirit of God wields the word of God like a sword to change our minds and transform our heart. If we want to see people change, we need to dig deeply and prayerfully into the Scriptures.

That's essentially what this course is for—it’s a framework to help you apply the word of God to people's lives prayerfully and intensively to help them grasp the vision of being a disciple-making disciple of Christ in every area of their lives.

In other words, the course is seeking to do what is often difficult to do in week by week sermons, or in regular small group Bible studies. It aims to focus intently and intensively on the central and profound issues of who God is, what he has done in Christ, what his extraordinary plans are for the world, and how that relates to each of our lives.

So the goal is to revolutionize people's minds and hearts by bringing the Bible's teaching together in a focused and compelling way.

How does the course do that? Through three integrated components:

• The heart of the course is really the seminars—there are nine of them, and they can be run weekly or fortnightly or in whatever format best suits your context; each seminar runs for around 90 minutes and consists basically of Bible study, prayer, discussion and some input to draw it together (either done by the course leader or by using the teaching segments provided on the course dvd).

• The second strand is a two-day Intensive which happens towards the end of the course, which can either be run over a weekend, or over two consecutive Saturdays—or again in whatever way best suits your circumstances. The Intensive pulls together all the material, and gives participants the chance to really think through what it means for each aspect of their lives—for their work life and family life and church life—and their future.

•And the third component is one-to-one Bible reading. Over the duration of the course, participants get together in pairs to read through the book of Colossians, using a variety of one-to-one Bible reading methods. This not only reinforces and strengthens the content, but almost without them realising it, the participants learn a basic and invaluable ministry skill—of being confident just to open up the Bible with someone else, and read and pray together.

Now these three strands or components reinforce each other. And taken together, it's not a small commitment of time or effort, either on your part as a leader or for those doing the course. You're asking people to stop and to rethink what their lives are about, and to commit some real time to do that. In my experience the time and commitment involved in this has actually been a real positive—it communicates that this is something serious, worthwhile, and potentially life-changing. You're not asking people to do just another Bible study or another low-demand, low-impact activity. It's higher demand, but under God a much higher outcome.


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