How Do We Nurture our Walk with the Lord?

Cover, A Christian Guide to Spirituality

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col 3:12–13)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

We must nurture our walk with the Lord, but control is not in our hands. “Discipleship means adherence to Christ” (Bonhoeffer 1995, 59).

Jesus tells the story of a man with two sons. The younger son came to him one day and asked for his inheritance in cash. He then took the money, left town, and began living in style. This reckless lifestyle did not last long and soon the young man had to get a job. Not being a planner, he had to accept degrading work. As the son’s mind began to wander, he remembered his good life at home and resolved to beg his father to take him back as a household servant. When the father saw that his son was coming, he went out to meet him and wrapped his arms around him. As the son began to apologize for his horrible behavior, his father would hear none of it. He took his son; cleaned him up; got him some new clothes [1]; and threw a party. Later, when his older brother came home and discovered the party, he became jealous and started behaving badly. But his father reminded him: “celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:32)

The story of the Prodigal Son shows a young man going through a series of challenges—transitions—that enabled him to see his father with new eyes and to accept his father’s help [2]. Without these challenges, he would not have been able to bridge the gap between him and his father.

For us, hospital visits often pose such transitions. Hospital visits normally start with a health problem; lead to a confusing period of medical treatment; and end with a return to life outside. The twist is that the health problem itself is often a symptom, not the real cause, of the visit. The real problem may be grief over the death of a family member, unresolved trauma from the past, or a bad lifestyle choice. Because a solution to the real problem remains clouded by denial, many people needlessly die of preventable diseases and treatable ailments.

Clouds also cover our journey of faith. We all deny the need for God’s grace and have nasty stumbling blocks—especially pride, other sins, and our own mortality—that must be removed in order to deliver us from our focus on ourselves. It is only through accepting God’s grace that we are able to take the necessary steps of obedience.

The story of the Prodigal Son assures us that our heavenly Father is anxious to forgive, anxious for us to take steps of obedience, and anxious to bridge the gap that we cannot bridge ourselves.


[1]  As Christians, we share mostly just one thing in common: we are forgiven. It is our heavenly Father who clothes us with: “compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col 3:12) But the clothes are a gift, we did not earn them!

[2] Turansky and Miller (2013, 4) observe: “Even in Old Testament times, God knew that kids learn best through life experiences.”


Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1995. The Cost of Discipleship (Orig. pub. 1937). New York: Simon and Schuster.

Turansky, Scott and Joanne Miller. 2013. The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

How Do We Nurture our Walk with the Lord?

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Preface to a Life in Tension

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Robinson Sees Mentoring as Intentional Discipleship

Natasha_Robinson_review_03272016Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. 2016. Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Discipling believers remains the critical mission of the church. The Greek word for church (ἐκκλησία) literally means: the called out ones.[1] We stand in the breach, praying for the generations that we touch (our call), but we also model what a godly lifestyle looks like (the out part). We succeed when our young people see a reason to believe (our call) and our old people do not confuse Christianity with other things (the out part). We fail when the Gospel stagnates in our own lives (our call) and remains un-contextualized for our changing world (the out part). The church cannot be a holy huddle; its mission is defined in terms of both internal and external components. We are blessed to bless others (Gen 12:3).

In her book Mentor for Life, Natasha Robinson briefly defines “mentoring as intentional discipleship” (19).  The long definition is:

“Mentoring is a trusted partnership where people share wisdom that fosters spiritual growth and leads to transformation as mentors and mentee’s grow in their love of Christ, knowledge of self, and love of others.”(31/137)

In her purpose statement, she writes:

“I want you to catch this vision…What would happened if all believers understood and embraced their identity in Christ, and truly lived as transformed people under the power of the Holy Spirit? What would happen if we all mentored for life? (18)

This book focuses on application. Robinson proposes that readers: evaluate their spiritual condition, consider their commitment, and prioritize discipling (21).  Part 1 of the book focuses on the question: why mentor? While part 2 cites six aspects of commitment to mentoring as: being present, cultivating disciples, understanding God’s kingdom mission, welcoming diverse relationships, mentoring as sacrificial love, and committing to safe and trusting mentoring relationships (19-20).

Robinson’s application plays out immediately in each chapter in the form of study questions and suggested tweets. Chapter 1, for example, ends with 5 questions and a suggested tweet: “Mentoring is about intentionally investing in the priorities of God’s kingdom and in the lives of others, #Mentor4Life @asistasjourney” (39). Searching for #Mentor4Life in Twitter, one finds an active discussion and an encouraging report that Mentor for Life has made the top 100 list on—a huge milestone for any author.

In part 1, Robinson makes a highly personal case for mentoring. For example, she mentions that she lost her mother at age 20 as a sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy (27). Later, she writes:

“After endless Sunday mornings in church, countless prayers, and multiple baptisms (I was both sprinkled and immersed), I still could not answer that awful question, ‘If I died today, would I go to heaven? …no one in my first eighteen years of life had ever offered to intentially disciple me.” (41)

Much later she shares about her experiences as a track and field athlete (131-136). My suspicion is that Robinson—as a winning athlete and Naval cadet and an obvious leader among her peers—was indeed mentored—just not intentionally and not in the church. My suspicion is that her mom, Sallie, was her most important mentor (193-195).

In my own walk, I was un-intentially mentored by my pastor who found himself unexpectedly substituting as youth director. This new role ultimately meant about two years of pizza and discussions with my best friend and I on Wednesday afternoons. My pastor’s mentoring helped me to survive some tough years in college and to continue hearing God’s voice above the high-volume chatter of our broken culture.

In part 2, Robinson makes an important point about discipling:

“…making disciples is not a spiritual gift. It is not something unique that only certain people are called to do. All Christians are called to this important kingdom work.” (219)

The character of a mentor requires generosity, grace, and love (221). Spiritual gifting is about passion and performance (223).

Natasha Robinson founded a nonprofit corporation, Leadership LINKS, Inc. and blogs at: A Sista’s Journey.[2] She graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte NC with a master’s degree in Christian leadership. Before that, she attended the U.S. Naval Academy majoring in English.[3] She is also a member of the RedBud Writers’ Guild[4] and the International Justice Mission.[5] I know Natasha as a colleague in GCTS’s Pierce Fellowship[6] which focuses on spiritual formation and discipling issues.

Natasha Robinson’s book, Mentor for Life, is a book that the church needs to take seriously. Women will relate to her experience in women’s ministry; men will connect to her athletic and military stories and metaphors; small groups may enjoy it as study. Robinson’s writing is lively and accessible.

[1]“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24 ESV).








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Kinnaman Examines the Journey from Lost to Found, Part 1

LostMe_review_06302015David Kinnaman with Aly Hawkins. 2011. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith [1].  Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 2; goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

I dropped out of church when I went to college.

I was neither angry at God nor questioning his existence—problems closer to home dominated my life:

  • I felt lost when our church youth group vanished overnight after the youth director was sacked;
  • I felt lost when I failed my college audition for music school;
  • I felt lost when the Vietnam draft loomed over me and I had trouble explaining to my parents why fighting in an unethical war was wrong; and
  • I felt lost in my singleness at a time when most of my peers were getting married.

In my junior year, my lostness gave way when I roomed with a persistent navigator [2] who helped me re-engage with the church. This is when I realized that my relationship with God was separate from my relationship with the church. This realization helped me reconnect with God and begin to share my other feelings of lostness with friends in Christ.

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman describes today’s drop out problem as a “faith development” or “disciple-making” problem (21). Kinnaman classifies drop outs into 3 broad categories:

  1. “Nomads [who] walk away from church involvement but still consider themselves Christians.”
  2.  “Prodigals [who] lose their faith, describing themselves as ‘no longer Christian’”.
  3. “Exiles [who] are still invested in their Christian faith but feel stuck (or lost) between culture and the church” (25).

This drop out problem is critical because the drop outs make most of their important decisions at a period in life (ages 20 to 30) when they have disengaged from their spiritual life in the church. Ironically, teenagers are some of the most religiously active Americans while 20-somethings are the least religiously active Americans (22).

Following George Barna, Kinnaman prefers the term, mosaic, and not the term, millennials, to describe this 20-something generation because of the eclectic (and often contradictory) nature of the relationships and the values that they pursue (29). In this context, the catchphrase, “every story matters”, is helpful because generalizations about mosaics are misleading (25).  Thus, Kinnaman is constantly highlighting the diversity among nomads, prodigals, and exiles even when he writes about these particular categories.  This diversity often takes the form of stories and counter-stories.

Kinnaman sees 3 important areas where the church needs to fill gaps in disciple-making among mosaics [3]:

  1. Relationships. Mosaics are both “extraordinarily relational and, at the same time, remarkably self-centered” (29).  It is hard to get to “we” when it’s all about me.
  2. Vocation. Mosaics receive “little guidance from their church communities for how to connect these vocation dreams deeply with their faith in Christ”. Special problems arise with creatives (artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc) and scientists (29-30, 80-83).
  3. Wisdom. Mosaics are inundated with information, but often lack the wisdom to filter through it (30-31).

Kinnaman sees the need to think of discipleship in terms of apprenticeship relationships where the uniqueness of the individual is both known and cherished (35).

David Kinnaman is the president and majority owner of the Barna Group [4], a private resource group in Ventura, California, which specializes in interviews and surveys on matters of faith.  He is well-known as the co-author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.  You Lost Me is written in 12 chapters divided into 3 parts:

Part 1:  Drop Outs

  1. Faith, Interrupted,
  2. Access, Alienation, Authority,
  3. Nomada and Prodigals,
  4. Exiles,

Part 2: Disconnection

  1. Overprotective,
  2. Shallow,
  3. Anti-science,
  4. Repressive,
  5. Exclusive,
  6. Doubtless,

Part 3: Reconnection

  1. What’s Old is New
  2. Fifty Ideas to Find a Generation (7).

The focus in part 1 is on mosaics, in part 2 on the church, and in part 3 on how to respond to what has been learned.

David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me is a well-written marketing study complete with statistical results, analysis, and recommendations. Kinnaman’s research is thorough and he displays a deep understanding of the literature on dealing with generational shifts in the church.  My first response on finishing this book was to order his other book, UnChristian.  Pastors and lay leaders need to be aware of this research.

Here in part 1 of this review, I have given an overview of Kinnaman’s book.  In part 2, I will look in more depth at his discussion of mosaics and the 3 classes of drop outs.  In part 3, I will explore his discussion of the challenges facing the church.



[3]George Barna prefers the term, mosaic, to millennial because of the eclectic nature of relationships in this generation (29).



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Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield
Reid, April, and Emma Jane Satterfield

Called Again: Of Bovine and Boxers by Reid Satterfield

This morning’s guest blogger, Reid Satterfield, writes about a learning experience as a missionary in Uganda.  Reid hails from Charlotte, NC.

Reflection on Cows

One evening—when we still lived in Northwest Uganda—April and I were awakened by the sound of footfalls just outside of our bedroom window.  Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, grabbed a tire iron, and rushed to our front door.  At that moment I was aware that the source of the noise was on the other side of the door.  Bracing for the worst, I opened the door to—of all things—the rear-end of a cow.  Peering around his hindquarters, I could see him munching on our grass, oblivious to me and to the fact that he’d just desecrated my doorstep and—nearly—my feet.  Agitated, I traded the tire iron for a walking stick and laid into that mangy cow.

As the cow galloped away, I returned to bed, satisfied he would not return and grateful for the ebony walking stick—a gift from an elder of a nearby clan.  Sadly, I enjoyed my satisfaction only a moment.  Within minutes the cow had returned and, again, I had to chase him out of my yard.  This cycle was repeated.  The third time he returned I was so angry that I ran outside, stick in hand, and chased that cow for about 100 meters.

Unexpected Outcome

When I came to my senses, I found myself in overgrowth—where recently I’d had a Wild Kingdom experience with rats and a large black mamba (an aggressive and highly poisonous snake)—wearing only boxer shorts and flip-flops. Chastened, I returned home to a rather amused wife and with another “teachable moment” to ponder.

Following Christ is not always glamorous…it can be downright degrading.  But, these little humiliations that we endure in Christ highlight an oft-overlooked truth that self-regard and humility do not go together.  Following Christ is a “downwardly mobile” pathway [1]. To serve Christ is to count yourself as the least among many; to serve Christ is to put other people’s needs ahead of your own.

So brothers and sisters, accept life’s many humiliations as Christ’s provision for the journey; a journey from self-regard to humility. 

The Apostle Paul’s Words to the Church at Philippi

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:1-8).


I grew up in Hampstead, NC, a small fishing community located in the southeast corner of the state.  Here I spent endless hours outdoors, fishing, hunting, camping, and exploring the salt marshes of the barrier islands. Through conversation and commitment, my mother and father introduced me to Jesus Christ.

During my last two years at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, I committed myself to a life of following Christ and got involved with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF;  Here I developed an inner joy in being discipled and discipling others. My wife, April, and I met in IVCF and we ached to serve Christ in overseas missions. When we married in June of 1996, we were already on our way becoming missionaries.

Mission to Uganda

April and I were missionaries with the African Inland Mission ( from 1998 to 2001.  Our daughter, Emma Jane, was born  in northwestern Uganda in August of 2000.  Working among the Aringa people, an unreached tribe along the Congo and Sudan borders, our dream was to share Christ’s love with people previously familiar only with famine, war, and exile.  We loved our little mud-brick house in the bush and planned to make it our life’s work.

In January 2001, rebel troops ambushed, shot, and left for dead a friend and I.  We survived miraculously, but my wounds forced us to return to the states in February.  A year later I entered Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary ( in Charlotte, NC and later (2004-2012) coordinated of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building for the Charlotte and Jacksonville campuses.

St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission

Today, I serve as the Coordinator of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at St. Patrick’s Anglican Mission ( I also serve as a certified lecturer for Perspectives, a nationwide organization that provides churches with educational resources for engaging in world missions and provide spiritual direction to various leaders in and around the Charlotte Metro area.

[1]  Henri Nouwen.  2007. The Selfless Way of Christ:  Downward Mobility and the Spiritual Life.  Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books. (


Also see:

Reid Satterfield Commencement Address at GCTS 

Books, Films, and Ministry

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JOHN 13: Foot Washing

By Stephen W. HiemstraOld_shoes_10192013

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35 ESV).

What does it mean to be a disciple?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus performs a sign and then explains it.  Here the sign is dramatic—Jesus assumes the role of a slave and washes the feet of the disciples.  He then gives them a commandment:  love one another (v 34).  Both the sign and the commandment are equally dramatic.

John uses the word commandment four times in his Gospel.  In the first two uses, Jesus responds commands from and to God the Father:  but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment– what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life (John 12:49-50).  The third and fourth commandments are the same: love one another (v 34 and John 15:12).   Washing feet—an attitude of service—is the sign that goes with the love commandment.  Love is the only commandment in John’s Gospel.

The idea that Jesus commanded us to love one another is not in dispute.  In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbor.  On these two statements of love hang the law and the prophets.  In other words, the double love command summarizes the entire Old Testament.  Similar statements can be found in the writings of Paul, James, and Peter.

Still, the foot washing sign raises some interesting comparisons.  For example, Jesus is not the first foot-washer that we meet in John Gospel—that honor goes to Mary in chapter 12.  Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair.  In chapter 12 Judas objects to Mary’s foot washing; in chapter 13 Peter objects.  Was Jesus so impressed with Mary’s service that he required it of his disciples?  Were the disciples so unhappy with the idea of radical servanthood that they betrayed Jesus?

The other interesting comparison is between foot washing and communion.  John’s Gospel is the only Gospel account to discuss foot washing at the last supper and he neglects to mention communion which is the focus of other accounts (Luke 22:13-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29).  By contrast, John’s miracle of the feeding of five thousand where Jesus says–I am the bread of life (John 6:35 ESV)—has the sacramental feeling of communion.

Here John appears to have provided us a radical model of discipleship which substitutes a model of discipleship focused on service both in intimate moments (the last supper) and in public moments (the feeding of the five thousand).  This reading suggests that John’s communion is an outsider’s communion (the feeding of the five thousand) rather than an insider’s communion (disciples only) because it fits his model of discipleship better.

One further comparison is worth mentioning.  The foot washing incident in Luke 7:36-50 involves an unnamed woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment.  In that incident, it is Jesus’ host, a Pharisee, who objects to the foot washing.

Jesus’ lesson on foot washing is a hard teaching–a disciple is one who serves; one who loves.  Left to myself, I object.  Do you?


  1. What does it mean to be Christ’s disciple?
  2. What do we learn about the time and place of this chapter in verse 1?
  3. What is the context within which Jesus washes the disciples’ feet? (vv 2-3)
  4. How was Jesus dressed as he washes their feet? (v 4).
  5. Why does Jesus wrap a towel around himself? (vv 4-5)
  6. What happens in the dialog between Jesus and Peter? (vv 6-10)
  7. Why did Jesus wash the disciples’ feet? (vv 12-17)
  8. Why is Jesus troubled? (vv 11,18-30)
  9. Why is the foot-washing discussion (vv 12-17) bracketed by Jesus’ hints about Judas?
  10. Why does Jesus talk about his relationship with the father after Judas left? (vv 31-32)
  11. Why does Jesus give the love commandment? (vv 34-35)
  12. Why does Jesus dwell on where he is going? (vv 33-36-37)
  13. What is your take on the discussion with Peter? (vv 36-38)  Why is it significant?  Or not?
  14. Who started the foot washing in John’s Gospel? (Hint:  see chapter 12) Why is it important?


JOHN 13: Foot Washing

Also see:

JOHN 14: Jesus’ Farewell Consolation 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

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