When we think of promoting spiritual growth and discipleship in individuals, churches, and even our denomination, many ideas come to mind. Certainly ministries and materials, including the Faith Alive Disciples Series, Coffee Break, Navigators, Alpha and many types of small groups are just a few key programs that have been effective in assisting people in their spiritual journey.
In the past several years, Christian Reformed individuals and churches, particularly in the Northeast US, have been introduced to Sonship a ministry that comes out of World Harvest Mission. The material from this ministry comes in various formats, and is also known by the title, Gospel Centered Life.
Outside our denomination, churches and individuals have been spiritually changed by its perspective and perhaps the most well known individual who has integrated the material into his ministry is Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY City.
What is Sonship? It gets its title from a ministry that encourages Christians to live out the gospel in all areas of life. It was first developed for ministers and missionaries when it was observed that sometimes those individuals in ministry could not get along with each other. Often those who seemed quite mature in their faith, and theologically knowledgeable, had professional and family lives that were not very healthy.
Many Christians will say they believe that Jesus’ death on the cross saves them, but as they grow in their Christian life, they begin to trust more in their own righteousness. They forget the incredible love of the Father who has adopted them as sons and daughters. This can lead to attitudes that harm their closest relationships as well as their outreach in the community. Sonship also encourages repentance as a lifestyle as individuals begin to deal honestly with their sin on a daily basis.
Two other important aspects of the Gospel centered approach include forgiveness and how that differs from reconciliation, as well as how to have healthy conflict. Both seem to be areas where many Christians struggle. People are not just told they have to forgive, but where they can get the power to do so. In addition, they learn how they normally handle conflict and how to deal with conflict with a Gospel centered approach.
In summary, Sonship is written and taught from a Reformed perspective, and it moves our great theological truths from our heads into the nitty gritty of life. Its perspective is life changing and practical and sets a foundation for other forms of discipleship. In other words, it is not just another program or ministry, but rather a key to help other programs and ministries in the church succeed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What about the description of the Sonship material has resonated with you?