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I arrived in the Middle East last weekend to spend 35 class hours serving a group of tomorrow's ministry leaders in this region. It is a periodic privilege and responsibility I've enjoyed for most of the past 20 years. Several past students are present colleagues in ministry. How special is that!

At church, some men asked what this group from six countries will focus on. I replied, "The course is called 'Christlike Character in Leadership & Family.' We'll explore the implications and applications of cultivating lifestyles of Christlikeness as we lead and live. But it is at heart a discipling course focused on 'applied agape.'"

That two-word term seemed to catch their attention.

That term captures my attention, too. Why take this special teaching opportunity and dedicate it to "applied agape"? Here's why: God's Word clearly and repeatedly points to the #1 outcome that He desires in and through our lives, churches, and other ministries: agape love. Ponder such passages as 1 Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, Ephesians 4 & 5, and Revelation 2: "The fruit of the Spirit is love" . . . "If I . . . have not love, I am only a noisy gong" . . . "Walk in a manner worthy of your calling" . . . "Walk in love" . . . "Remember . . . repent . . . and return to your first love."

Prequels to these words permeate the Old Testament. Check out, for example, Deuteronomy 6:5-6.

In stark contrast, if data gathered for the Barna/Navigators study of "The State of Discipleship" are reliable, Christians in general are confused about both the meaning and the bottom line--the output--of "discipleship." They often focus so much on processes--which are manifold--that they lose sight of the outcome God desires: a lifestyle of agape love. How God must grieve at our lack of focus.

I appreciate the many discipling processes that various people and ministries have developed. A variety of flexible, practical discipling process can be useful. But does the program/process that you use make applied agape love the clear and prominent outcome?

Life is short. As we grow personally and help others do likewise, we honor Him most when our focus is less transactional and more transformational. We dare not fall in love with our diligently developed processes instead of God's most-desired outcome. Let's adjust each of those to their appropriately proportionate share of our emphases as appliers of agape who influence others to do likewise.

"The main thing is that the main thing remain the main thing!"

Simple.

But not easy.

Your thoughts on this?

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Comment by Dan Palmberg on July 22, 2016 at 12:49pm

Do you have a working definition of agape?  I'm curious  as it's been a pet topic of mine.  I agree that we need to be wring toward the ends of the great commandment.

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