The nature of impartation
Training is a broad term, but there is one aspect on which I would like to focus: impartation. The kind of training I am interested in goes beyond the transfer of knowledge. If what we learn about God doesn’t ultimately affect the way we live our lives then we must question if it’s worth devoting our time and brain cells to retain it or to teach it.
Think back to the most influential teacher you had in high school or college. I bet you can’t remember a single fact they taught you, and yet you consider them influential. Why? They imparted something beyond just facts. (This is not to denigrate facts–they are necessary for wisdom.)
Worth listening to
There is a perception in our culture that knowing a lot of facts is what marks a wise person or an expert worth listening to, but that is a false assumption. How many of us change the way we live because 4 out of 5 dentists, or a group of “scientists”, say we should? Unless facts find root in the fear of the Lord, they do not guarantee wisdom as a result. For example, knowing how to build a fighter jet is very different from actually flying one. It is a testament to the engineering “facts” when the jet flies without crashing. In other words, it is in the fruit of a person’s life that we recognize the validity of the “facts” that make up the foundation. Jesus said it this way: “the fruit validates the tree” (my paraphrase of Matthew 7:20).
Early on in my biblical studies I enrolled in a distancelearning program from Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. After the first two New Testament lectures from Rikk Watts I closed my eyes, bowed my head, and with tears welling up asked God to give me what Dr. Watts had. The material was outstanding, but that was not what I was asking for. Rather, it was his ability to impart a thirst for engaging God in Word and in Spirit in a way that addressed the way I live. I felt I literally “had to have” this. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was asking for the ability to impart to others.
The classroom of life
It is this intangible (but perceivable) aspect to discipleship that I want to make sure we do not neglect. Relaying facts and principles is easy. Impartation through the overflow of what God has done and is doing in us is the real substance behind those things. It is deeper than principle – it is the deep-seated place of values and attitudes. This is why our Newfrontiers USA leadership training program, Trilogy, contains a significant local mentor component. It is not a classroom with four walls, but the classroom of life that produces disciples.
I came across an interesting blog post from Mike Breen entitled Why The Missional Movement Will Fail. He used the analogy of mission being like a car and discipleship the engine. His conclusion was that the missional movement would fail because those involved are making converts and not disciples. I think Breen is onto something. I think an improvement on the analogy would be associating the baptism in the Holy Spirit with fuel for the engine (see Acts 1:8).
I share these things to bring us to two questions to ponder in regards to training. First, who are we spending time with in such a way that we are imparting attitudes and values and not just knowledge? Secondly, are we drawing from the well of God so that we have something of the kingdom to impart? How we answer these questions will also be the answer to our present and our longterm effectiveness as a family of churches. For more information on our training initiatives, visit our training page.