Another aspect of how Jesus changed the world is that the training he provided was substantial. He didn’t merely preach on it. It wasn’t a class once a week. There were no slogans. Instead, he called a few men to leave everything behind and follow him constantly for two or three years.
Specifically, he called them to 1) be with him and 2) that he might send them out to preach and 3) to have authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:13-15). Don’t miss that first one. Being with him allowed him to rub off on them. They had near constant access. They were always watching and learning. Their training was full immersion in everyday life as well as on special occasions. They often asked him questions and he often asked them questions. They withdrew to rest from time to time, but as best as we can tell there were no spring breaks or summer holidays. It was full time, 24/7. Through this, Jesus was able to do much more than teach skills. He shaped their hearts and lives. He called them to “be with him” and it transformed them. After his resurrection, two of them courageously proclaimed the good news about Jesus against the will of the Jewish council, and when the council noticed the courage of these unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and realized they had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
In those times together, Jesus also demonstrated skills he wanted them to learn, including preaching and driving out demons. They saw how he did these things, and then he sent them out to do the same. Afterward, he discussed it with them, to enhance their learning (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10; 10:17-20). After his death and resurrection, he continued the training for another 40 days (Acts 1:3). Then he gave them a final commission with instructions to wait for power from the Spirit before they took on the mission he had prepared them for.
Empowering Subjects, too, seeks to provide substantial training. Ongoing teaching and reminders may lead some people to get involved in God’s mission, but these will not be enough. Jesus showed us that a substantial investment is needed.
Since Jesus never really dumbed things down, I decided not to do so with Empowering Subjects. Simplifying matters might increase the number of participants in training, but I don’t think it would ultimately increase the number of workers. If anything, I raised the bar over what we commonly do. What makes it substantial is not busy-work. There is real substance to it all. It’s just that Scripture gives us a high calling.
Three aspects of Empowering Subjects, in particular, make it substantial. One is that it addresses and challenges our whole being. Empowering Subjects seeks to equip subjects of the King to change the world like he did, and this is not merely a matter of learning skills. It includes having our very selves transformed by the power of God and his Spirit. If we hope to have impact like Jesus did, our hearts, attitudes, words, and deeds all need to be increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. Obviously we cannot do this on our own—we have the power of God’s Spirit working in us. And obviously we will not become fully mature or perfect— we will still be dependent on God’s mercy. But we do need to be drawn into the process of transformation into the image of Christ. That way, when we get involved with people by serving, sharing the good news, or teaching discipleship, God can use us for greater effect. God works through whoever he wants, of course, and in a sense we will always be weak vessels (2 Corinthians 12:9). But he delights to work through those who “cleanse themselves” from common use so that they will be “instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Mater and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
Second, Empowering Subjects is challenging because it guides us toward to actually applying what we are learning in our daily lives. It’s easy to assume reading and learning new information equal growth. But if nothing changes, nothing changes. Empowering Subjects asks us to start actually making the changes. So we study about God’s involvement in his mission, but then we also pray. We contemplate Jesus’ compassion but then we go somewhere to “people watch” and let our hearts go out to those people. We talk about the good news we are called to tell and then we spend time clarifying it for ourselves on paper and then actually speaking it out loud to a partner or Christian friend so that it becomes more natural to us. Each of the lessons in the follow-up has multiple, similar applications.
Third, Empowering Subjects is substantial enough that it takes some time to do the work. The seminar is ideally seven hours long. Those who choose to do the follow-up training are signing on for thirteen weeks of offering their hearts to God through watching videos, reading and interacting with material, and then sharing about it in a small group of others who are also doing the training. A person will need to set aside three or four hours a week to do this, as well as being open to any “divine interruptions” in their daily schedule where God may give them an opportunity. If a person is able to devote even more time to the material, they will likely absorb even more.
Some may say they don’t have that kind of time to devote to it. I usually ask people if they’d like to pull out their phones and check their “screen time” for the last week before they decide! I know that has been eye-opening to me at times. A lot of us can and do find time like this for a sports league, music lessons, or a college course—especially for a limited term. Others though, may indeed not be at a point where they can set aside the time that will be needed for a challenging follow-up program, and that is okay. There is no shaming. Perhaps some of those folks will be at a point later where they can put in the time that is needed.
Regardless, since Jesus trained the twelve substantially, I don’t apologize for asking a lot of people. After all, the world is in deep trouble and merely memorizing a Bible verse or two and learning a line to engage people are not going to change that. In addition, our Enemy is powerful. An instructor at a Fire Academy would not be doing the students any favors if they dumbed down their training, and our opponent is certainly no less fierce than a fire. What’s more, and I hesitate to say it, many of us aren’t particularly fit for work in a harvest field. That’s not entirely our fault. Our churches haven’t really given adequate attention to praying and equipping their members to be workers for the harvest (Matthew 9:35-10:42). Empowering Subjects is seeking to be a resource partner with churches to help reverse that trend so that Lord will have more workers to use in his harvest field.