(Disclaimer: The following thoughts are my own and are not endorsed by The Village Church)
I didn’t know how to feel nor act walking in the first night so I decided to try to be as nonchalant and non-caring as possible. I didn’t think I belonged in a program like this.
Our church has an in-depth 13-week discipleship program called STEPS that’s designed to walk with people in any stage of life. I knew about it since we first joined the church, but I didn’t think it was something for me.
Additionally, when I listened to people talk about their experience I felt I didn’t fit into any of their stories. I assumed I knew everything that would be said. Could I experience any real change?
However, I was hopeless enough about myself and my marriage to finally be there. I didn’t know if it was for me, but I knew I needed God to do something.
It wasn’t until I completed STEPS that I realized it is for everyone – because discipleship is for everyone in Christ Jesus. What seemed simplistic or dramatic were both extremes that produced a real heart change for God.
So if you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area (you don’t have to be a member of TVC) and are considering taking STEPS, I would like to share with you some of my preconceived notions. I know that if I felt or thought these ways I’m not the only one.
I’m Not That Messed Up
It is a common misconception that STEPS is only for broken people with critical issues. Even the name “STEPS” seems like it’s a program reserved for people stuck in perilous and addictive circumstances.
It’s not a misconception that STEPS is only for broken people. The misconception, however, is that we’re not the broken people.
Many professing Christians concede that they are not perfect. But many times we think we don’t need that much help. We don’t think we’re that broken. Most of the time we can’t see it because we’re in really good seasons of life or we’re faking it for the people around us.
But if we are not desperate for the hope of the gospel everyday, we don’t understand how broken we are. It is only by the gospel that we stand and are being saved everyday (1 Corinthians 15:1–2).
STEPS simply helps us identify our bents and brokenness in high definition. No matter if we are addicted to sex, pornography, attention, food, or working out, STEPS presents a better hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ with fuller clarity than before.
I’m Past My Past
I heard there was a life assessment in STEPS and I felt it would be an unnecessary and frightful experience.
We don’t like looking back at certain parts of our past. Some of it still hurts and is embarrassing to recount – so we prefer to leave it alone.
But no matter how much we try to leave it behind, our past is part of us. Trying to act as if it is not affecting us paralyzes us in a perpetual state of fear, guilt, and shame. We act these out in various ways without realizing it. Yet, these are the elements the enemy uses to keep us from walking in freedom.
Only in the hope of the gospel do we find that God was at work in our mess. And it’s comforting to know that he cherished us just as much in our mess as he does now (Ephesians 1:4). The more we learn this, the more thankful and understanding we are of God’s mercy and protection. STEPS is a great beginning point to help unravel the strongholds of sin and free us from the paralyzing affects of sin.
Scared of What Might Have to be Confessed
I had some hidden sins I wasn’t trying to expose. What would all these church people think of me? I was sure I’d be judged and no longer accepted. I figured it would be better to not to rock the boat of morality, than it would be to confess and capsize us.
Sin hurts – but unconfessed sin kills. So it was a lie to believe that hiding my sin would be better than confessing it.
Similarly, it can be scary to revisit situations where we’ve been sinned against. Some of us have been sinned against in shameful and hurtful ways and by people we still know.
But the worst embarrassment, pain, or drama we could imagine has already been experienced for us in the person of Jesus Christ.
STEPS helps us discover the freedom of letting go of our secret sins and hurts (Psalm 32:5). But knowing that there is freedom in confessing, is different than actually confessing and experiencing that freedom. It is hard, but the emancipation from sin that awaits you is worth obtaining (James 5:16; Proverbs 28:13).
Pessimistic, Hopeless, Nothing Will Change
Some of us are hopeless. We don’t think any advice, program, or sermon can fix us. We think we’ve heard every sermon, said all the common Christian clichés, and tried all the Bible studies and have yet to experience any change. We’ve given up on anything else.
But be encouraged – you’re closer to change than you think or feel. No person is too broken for God to fix. No one is damaged in their heart beyond repair (Ephesians 2:11–14).
STEPS will help you discover the vibrant impact of the gospel. Through the process, you will see how God is inserted in all compartments of life and that you are not alone. Let your hopelessness become a surrender to the mercies and hope found in the gospel (Romans 12:1–2).
I Already Understand Gospel-Centered Discipleship
I think we can assume that our activity, knowledge, involvement, and visibility in the church is good enough for gospel-centered discipleship. I did. I could quote the four gospel-centered objectives, participated in and led home groups, I served in the church regularly, and attended services weekly. I equated my visibility with transparency and being known.
Discipleship, however, is deeper than our weekly transparent interactions. It is a level of intentional vulnerability to be known and ultimately changed by the gospel (Acts 19:18–20).
STEPS is an excellent vehicle for clashing what we know about gospel-centered discipleship with feeling and experiencing it. It provides an opportunity to be discipled and gain a richer depth and desire for God through being known, cared for, and loved well.
Too Much Self-Centered Naval-Gazing
I heard our lead pastor Matt Chandler mention “naval-gazing” many times in his sermons. He refers to how we look down at ourselves and become depressed when we sin. We are encouraged not to do that – but instead lift up our eyes to God and trust in him more.
So STEPS just seemed like too much naval-gazing for me. Why do I need to analyze my life so much? Shouldn’t I just be focusing on Christ?
There is no room for naval-gazing in STEPS. There is a transition to self-examine ourselves in light of who God is. We learn more about ourselves and how to adjust to God. In the process we learn how much more we need to look to and trust in Christ (Lamentations 3:40; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
I almost avoided STEPS because of time constraints. I was afraid of missing too many meetings and making my decision to sign up irrelevant. And if I’m honest it was my perfect excuse.
Without a dissertation about time management, I had to ask myself some serious questions:
Do I believe God is in control of my time (Psalm 139:16)? Am I trusting him with my time (Ephesians 5:15–16)? Have I asked God for wisdom on how to balance my schedules (Proverbs 3:5–7)? Is standing in the freedom I have in Christ a priority (Galatians 5:1)? Am I serious about renewing my mind and walking in my intended created purpose (Ephesians 4:24–25)?
These are not questions of condemnation, but questions we can ask God for clarity about. He will give us grace (2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 5:15–16).
STEPS is Not a Savior
There are many more factors that contribute to the reasons people avoid signing up for STEPS, but these were just a few of my reasons.
I do not think that STEPS will be your savior. I do not think STEPS will change your heart. Only Jesus can do either of those. STEPS is merely a “12-week picture of what the rest of your life in Christ will look like,” as pastor Rex Cole would say. STEPS is what discipleship looks like, but in a way rarely seen today by professing Christians.
I’m still relying on the grace of God and the gospel daily to get me through. I have a better disposition and outlook on life because I now look out at everything through a gospel lens. That’s all STEPS helped me to do.
If you have any questions or hesitations about STEPS, visit the webpage here or simply comment below. up at The Village Church. I thought it would be helpful to explore some of those reasons and misunderstandings.
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