Hard & Soft Goals in Discipleship
Are you familiar with the human resource concept of hard and soft skills? Hard skills are specific technical skills like the ability to code, weld, design an app, or operate a piece of equipment. They are tangible and generally easy to evaluate or measure. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more akin to character traits like integrity, teamwork, the ability to communicate, and willingness to learn. Both are important, yet a general reality exists: organizations typically hire based on hard skills, but fire based on soft skills. An employee may be a great data analyst, but if they create conflict wherever they go, they won’t be with the company long. The takeaway from this is simple: hire for soft skills, hard skills can be learned.
As we think about discipleship, a similar situation exists. If you’re serious about making disciples, you likely have some goal in mind; some “ideal disciple” that you’re efforting to develop alongside the Holy Spirit. In another article, we talked about the importance of putting some definition around what we mean when we refer to a disciple, and that includes some tangible abilities and outcomes. This is important. If we’re not developing people who do the things Jesus did, we’re not making disciples. However, much like hard skills, these “hard” goals of discipleship are not the only goals. Beneath them lies the “soft” goal of discipleship: to have them love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
When someone really loves Jesus, everything else will eventually fall into place. If they love Jesus, He will fill them with His Spirit. He will sanctify them. He will lead them into mission and obedience. Yes, He will use people in many parts of this process, but He will do it. Much like hard and soft skills, if the “soft” goal is attained, the “hard” goals will follow – not the other way around.
However, like soft skills, this deep love for Jesus is difficult to measure, and even more difficult to create in someone. And herein lies the conundrum: the most important aspect of discipleship is the one that we have the least control over. While I believe there are some very intentional reasons that Jesus has done this, it doesn’t mean that we have no part in this aspect. Instead, I would offer two suggestions for ways to catalyze love for Jesus.
First, pray. In conversations surrounding discipleship strategy, I often say that if your strategy will work without the Holy Spirit, you need another strategy. Your strategy should flat-out bomb if He isn’t present. Accordingly, intercessory prayer should be part of your discipleship plan. You cannot put this type of love for Jesus into someone, but you can wrestle in prayer on their behalf that God does; praying against the world, their flesh, and any device of Satan, while simultaneously asking God to open their eyes and renew their spirit.
Second, love Jesus yourself. Don’t think of this as modeling. If you try to model love for Jesus to someone you’re discipling, it will only rob you of your relationship with Him. Think of what it would be like if your spouse was loving you to show others what a loving marriage looks like. Eventually, it would create an odd and wooden relationship. Instead, love Jesus for His sake. Forget your disciple for a minute, if you will, and just love Him because He Himself is your treasure.
As we make disciples, may we develop the tangible skills of a disciple that are rooted deep in the foundation of a great love for Jesus. As always, if you want to talk further about any of this, please reach out anytime!
Together with you,
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