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We are living in bizarre times. Even when civil discourse can be found, it seems as if everyone is just talking past each other. Friends and families seem to be willing to burn bridges today that were precious in generations past. So, what lies at the heart of this cultural dissonance? In short, the answer is worldview. The word “worldview” seems pretty straightforward. It’s how one views the world. But how does worldview affect the culture? How does it affect our students and our churches? Is there a relationship between worldview and discipleship? Yes! Not only is there a relationship between worldview and discipleship, but I believe that understanding and shaping worldviews lie at its very core.
The Goal of Discipleship
Let’s start with discipleship. What is the goal of discipleship? What is it that we are aiming for when we are shepherding the souls of our students? Here’s how I answer the question: “The goal of discipleship is to help Christians become more like Christ in their thinking, beliefs, actions, and affections.” This comes from the great commandment identified by Christ. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul (affections), strength (actions), and mind (thinking/beliefs). Great. I’ve told you something you already know. How does this relate to worldview? That’s where we go next.
All people, regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, language, religion, or geographic location, have a worldview. Worldviews are comprised of four elements: The Grand Narrative (Story), Ultimate Question (Truth), Practices, and Affections. Most people (especially students) haven’t given much thought to these key issues. However, by understanding how worldviews work, we are better equipped to structure our ministries for our students and to engage the culture they find themselves in. Let’s take some time to unpack each of these elements of a worldview.
- The Grand Narrative (Story)
The first element of a worldview is the “Grand Narrative.” This is the overarching story about how the world came into existence, who human beings are, and where we are going in the future. The Grand Narrative lays the foundation for every other element of worldview to build upon. Consider the contrast between the Christian’s Grand Narrative and an atheist’s.
For the Christian, the Grand Narrative goes like this: God created everything, including human beings. Humans were made special in God’s image and, therefore, have intrinsic value. Ultimately, humans will either be with God forever in heaven or separated from Him in hell. This depends on what they do with Jesus.
The atheist’s Grand Narrative goes something like this: The universe is the result of time, chance, and the laws of physics. Humans evolved through natural processes and are the result of time and chance. Ultimately, the universe will experience a heat death as it runs out of energy, and all living things will be extinct. There is no afterlife.
- Ultimate Questions (Truth)
The second element of a worldview deals with “Ultimate Questions.” Some of these ultimate questions are “Who am I?” (Identity), “Where am I?” (What makes the world tick? What’s my culture? How do I understand myself in my context?), “What’s wrong?” (What’s wrong with the world?), and “What’s the solution to question 3?” (More education? Politics? Jesus?).
The third element of a worldview deals with “Practices.” Ultimately, how I choose to behave in this life is a direct result of my worldview’s Grand Narrative and how I answer these Ultimate Questions. Should I be kind, generous, and selfless? Or should I be mean, greedy, and selfish? How you respond depends on the prior two elements of your worldview.
The fourth element of a worldview is “Affections.” Our thoughts, feelings, and motivations will be directed toward objects, persons, or events. For some, it may be themselves. For others, it may be a career or financial security. For the Christian, the primary focus of our affections is Christ.
Discipleship As Worldview Formation
I am sure by now that you can see the relationship between the goal of discipleship discussed earlier and worldview. Another way to define the goal of discipleship is to develop the worldview of Jesus in His followers. The four elements of worldview can help us when we plan the scope and sequence and discipleship pathways in our ministries. Let me give you some examples.
Shaping the Grand Narrative
How can we help shape the Grand Narrative of our students’ worldview? Teach them the story of the Bible. One of the best curriculums around that does this is The Thread by YM360. However, we must also help students see that the story of Scripture is OUR story.
I like to break the story of the Bible up into five acts: Act 1 – Creation (Genesis 1-3); Act 2 – Israel (the rest of the OT); Act 3 – Jesus (The Four Gospels), Act 4 – The Church (The age between the 1st coming and 2nd coming of Jesus; i.e., Acts, Epistles, and where we are now); Act 5 – The End (Day of the Lord Prophecies & Revelation). By helping students understand the story of the Bible through these acts and showing them where they are in the story, we can help shape their Grand Narrative. The Grand Narrative can also be reinforced with apologetics.
Answering Ultimate Questions
Who am I? Where am I? Teaching lessons on identity helps answer these questions. If you are in Christ, you are part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession.” YM360’s Jesus and Identity found in The Jesus Studies Bible study bundle, and the DNOW curriculum Identity Crisis are great tools to help students answer these questions.
What’s wrong with the world? What’s the solution? These questions are answered well by teaching the Gospel. YM360’s The Rescue: Discovering How the Gospel Rescues and Redeems Us does a fantastic job of answering these questions.
Not only do we try to help students know the Bible and find the answers to ultimate questions within its pages, but we are also called to teach them how to live. Students need to be taught how to live in light of the Grand Narrative of Scripture and how it answers their Ultimate Questions. YM360’s The Life: Embracing the Life of a Christ-Follower and The Jesus Studies bundle are particularly helpful in doing this.
This is probably the most challenging element of a worldview to develop in students. It will naturally develop as the other aspects of worldview are shaped, but the reality is that this is more caught than taught. Love your students with the love of Christ, and teach your leaders to do the same. Die to yourself for their sake and show them Christ in your life. As you love them and love King Jesus, they will learn how to do so as well.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- How do you shape your current discipleship process? What’s been particularly helpful?
- Which of the above practices do you struggle with the most in your ministry? Which one do you do well?