Discipleship from the Inside Out

By Rusty Rustenbach, People Resources Team

In our sin-marred world, we all experience disappointments, hurts, deficits, and abuses. For some, the wounds are minor; for others the dysfunction is crippling. In our ministries we increasingly encounter people weighed down by emotional baggage that the traditional training we may have received does not seem to penetrate. Their hearts are deeply broken, generating emotional difficulties and compulsive behaviors that we are not sure how to handle.

Much of what we learned in our discipling and training was aimed at helping people to learn how to walk with God. We reasoned that if we helped others to have a daily quiet time, memorize verses, study the Bible, and immerse themselves in the “basics,” eventually the life of God would trickle down to deeper struggles and underlying deficits they grew up with. Perhaps this approach worked for many. But for some, even though they were faithful to the basic spiritual disciplines, their inner struggles and secret battles remained unresolved. 

In The Emotionally Healthy Church, author and pastor Peter Scazzero observed this problem in his own life and church in New York City and described it this way:
Many Christians have received helpful training in certain essential areas of discipleship, prayer, Bible study . . . or learning how to explain the Gospel to someone else. Yet Jesus’ followers also need training and skills in how to look beneath the surface of the iceberg in their lives, to break the power of how their past influences the present, to live in brokenness and vulnerability. 

What can help us look below the surface of our lives and break the power of the past over the present? Over the last 10 years, God has been teaching the People Resources Team some additional approaches for bringing healing to these deeper, hidden areas. We are convinced that it is time to take these life skills to the field. The need is so great that we yearn to see every Navigator laborer complement the basic tools we excel in and become better equipped in helping with the “below the waterline” issues. 

So what are these practices? We’ve developed a diagram of a tall ship to help illustrate five Discipleship from the Inside Out approaches.

Listening to God
The wind that fills the sails and moves the ship ahead is developing a lifestyle of listening to God.  A lifestyle of listening to God is the entryway to ever-increasing intimacy within the Trinity, Spirit-led direction, deepening ministry to others, spiritual transformation, and a fuller experience of our God-given identity. 
Listening to God moves us beyond the limitations of dealing with problems through mental analysis only, ushering us into the unseen reality where God operates. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake” Isaiah 55:3 (nlt).

Inner Healing
A person cannot listen to God for long before the Trinity will begin to address their brokenness. Inner healing involves healing prayer, which is the PRT ministry most solicited by staff, churches, and people from other ministries. Healing prayer is listening to God with someone over inner areas of pain and woundedness so that the Wonderful Counselor can reveal the roots of a persistent problem and set the person free. Healing prayer is an inside out tool that, with training, every laborer can add to their arsenal. 

Relational Healing
One of the most persistent difficulties hindering the advance of the Gospel is relational conflict. In recent years, God has been stirring our ministries so that many people are no longer content to sweep conflict under the carpet. Getting conflict on the table and talking about it opens the door to reconciliation and true biblical forgiveness. It enables God’s grace to flow into damaged relationships. God has given PRT a time-tested relational healing process that every Navigator can be outfitted to use.

Getting Sexual Purity Struggles into the Light
Our global society is increasingly saturated with an obsessive emphasis on the sensual and the sexual. Many Christians struggle with sexual purity, gender confusion, and other sexually related issues, which are made worse by the shame and hiding they engender. We need help, encouragement, and safe small groups where these problems can be brought into the light so that the healing power of the Spirit of God can bring newfound freedom (1 John 1:6-10). Over the last four years, God has graced PRT with positive experiences in helping men and women break free from habitual sexual sin, and we would like to help you become better equipped to minister to those struggling in their sexual purity. 

Rest, Margin, and the Stewardship of Design 
Every believer has God’s life within them, along with spiritual gifts and a special design for a specific function within the body of Christ. Little attention has been given to helping us discern how God has gifted us and how to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us. As a result many end up burned-out and disillusioned. We need special training to discern our God-given design, develop healthy margin, and function within our area of gifting.

The Ocean of Biblical Community
Inside Out Discipleship is most effective when applied in an ocean of true biblical community. Certainly, God can accomplish inner healing in any situation, but a healthy environment makes it easier for people to thrive and flourish.

If you ask us, we will come
We would like to come to your area and provide training to you and key laborers in these Discipleship from the Inside Out life skills God has entrusted to us:
  • Discipleship from the Inside Out (exposure to the concept)
  • Listening prayer 
  • Healing prayer 
  • Relational healing 
  • Bringing sexual struggles into the light
  • Stewardship of your God-given design and margin 
We can’t come if you don’t invite us. If you, your ministry team, or church desires more information about the content of this issue of Up Front and how PRT can help you be more effective in postmodern ministry, please let us know. A free CD with six short musical presentations and relevant film clips about the five Discipleship from the Inside Out life skills is available upon request from PRT (it’s free). Request yours by sending your name and address to peopleresources@navigators.org or phone (719) 594-2555.

Discipleship from the Inside Out: When is It Applicable?
When is the inside out approach to discipling others usually the most helpful? DIO is often a useful approach when the person you are helping is dealing with one or more of the following:  
  1. An over-reaction to a recent difficult circumstance or situation.
  2. Drivenness or loss of initiative.
  3. Conflict or an unusual distancing of oneself in relationship with someone.
  4. Ministry expectations and efforts that do not seem to reflect their God-given design.
  5. Consistently expresses apathy, bewilderment or unusual weariness regarding their work or work relationships.
  6. A recurring struggle with a behavior, attitude or emotion that seems incontrollable through normal discipline or willpower.