Thursday, January 26, 2017

Using the 4Ls, Part 1 – The Spiral

For the past three weeks, I have been writing about the idea of discipleship. Last week was in reference to us bearing God’s image, but the two weeks prior were a look at the 4Ls of discipleship – Learn, Live, Love, Lead. I compared these Ls to two passages: Matthew 4.19 and Matthew 28.19-20 (where I added the fifth L – Leave).

The reality is that many people develop ideas and theories, but what is the value of the 4Ls in every day life? That is the question I want to move towards over the next few months (in a detailed fashion) as I share how the Ls influence my life and how I have incorporated them into the life of the church I serve (where the Ls are still taking root).

First, I need to share an idea about interpretation. I once learned about interpreting the Bible through the idea of a spiral. In fact, the book that was assigned for my class on hermeneutics (interpreting literary texts, including the Bible) was called “The Hermeneutical Spiral.” The principle is simple. The word you are trying to interpret is influenced by the sentence, the paragraph, and the general flow of thought which in turn are each understood by the thought, the paragraph, the sentence, and the individual choices of words. That sounds complex, but it is not. Let me give you an example.

If I am writing about a group of friends playing baseball and am developing a story of someone who is about to step up to the plate and try to get a hit with a bat, anyone who knows the game of baseball understands the words because of the flow of thought (imagine that one sentence being developed over a page or two).

Now, imagine I use the same words but with a slightly different meaning because I am writing about a group of friends exploring an old abandoned barn. They might “step up” on the porch (but not to eat off a plate), and try to hit the bat that swoops down from the rafters.

Again, I am using the same words, but the words mean something different because the sentence, and the paragraph, and the thought process reflect an overall different meaning which guided the selection of the words.

So, how does this relate to the 4Ls? Well, the 4Ls are steps along the discipleship path. But steps are only helpful (ultimately) if we know which direction we are headed. And that means we have to have a plan or strategy for getting somewhere. That plan has a goal, and reaching the goal will ultimately fulfill something within us (satisfaction, an award, etc.). But like interpreting the text, the steps we take are also determined by what we seek, by the goal(s) we have set, and by the strategy we have determined.

Many names are used for these various levels, but the terms I use are Vision, Mission, Strategy, and Steps. Again, the 4Ls (Learn, Live, Love, Lead) are the steps that carry out the strategy, which allow the mission to be accomplished, and the vision to be realized. (The combination of mission/vision is especially common, but it helps me to distinguish between the two.)

So, now you have seen my approach from the 20000 foot level. Now, each week over the next few months, I will break these ideas down further, but then spiral back out again to where we began. I hope that after this next month or so you will not only have a better understanding of how I use the 4Ls, but how you might use them for your personal growth as well within the context. Most importantly, I hope you see a reason to set some goals, develop some plans, and take intentional steps toward fulfilling God’s call for your life. Of course, we will often take missteps, but having a few ideas in mind can help us become the people that God has called us to be.

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