Do specific key indicators exist that we should intentionally seek to nurture and grow as we navigate our Christian faith journey over the course of our lives? How can we better stay in step with God’s purposes and his mission? What should we learn from the example of Jesus, walking naturally in his footsteps as he leads us closer to the heart of God and the deepest needs of the world?
Bible Gateway interviewed Kevin Harney (@KevinGHarney) and Sherry Harney (@OrganicOutreach) about their book, Organic Disciples: Seven Ways to Grow Spiritually and Naturally Share Jesus (Zondervan, 2021).
What is an “Organic” Disciple?
Kevin and Sherry Harney: An “Organic” Disciple is a follower of Jesus who is growing in faith in natural ways, every single day. Spiritual maturity should be a habitual part of our daily life. Yes, there’s a need for discipline and effort, but God delights when our journey with Jesus becomes natural, like breathing. In our book, Organic Disciples, we explore how to learn from Jesus, become like our Savior, and then go with the Lord on his mission to bring grace and truth to the people in our broken and hurting world.
We believe discipleship is not just about our relationship with Jesus. It’s bigger, more glorious, and should be world-changing. God’s desire is to, “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
What are some fresh and unique insights about spiritual growth in this book?
Kevin and Sherry Harney: First, true and biblical discipleship that follows the heart of Jesus always leads to evangelism. Think of it this way: if a parent holds the hand of a child and they take a walk, the little one will always go where the parent leads. With hands locked together, it’s inevitable. As followers of Jesus, we lock hands with our Savior and follow his ways, his will, his teaching, and his heart. As children of our heavenly Father, we go where he leads.
So here’s the question: where is our Father going? The answer: God (the Good Shepherd) is always moving toward the lost, forgotten, and wandering sheep. So, the closer we walk with Jesus, the more we move toward lost sheep. If we walk hand-in-hand with our God (discipleship) we’ll always move toward the world he loves (evangelism). Biblical discipleship grows our passion and practice of outreach.
Second, discipleship is never just about me. In 2 Timothy 2:2 we see a beautiful picture of four generations for discipleship potential in the life of every believer. The example the apostle Paul gives is that he’s discipling Timothy, a young pastor in the city of Ephesus. In this passage, Paul is Generation 1. Then Timothy is responsible for his own spiritual growth; he’s Generation 2. But, it doesn’t end there. Paul gives Timothy a charge to invest in the spiritual growth of a next generation of responsible people… this is Generation 3. Then, these people are to be equipped to help others grow in faith…Generation 4. This is how the Christian faith has been passed on from Jesus, to his disciples, and from person to person until it came to you and me. This vision of the Christian journey is found in 2 Timothy 2:2, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others also.”
In Organic Disciples you talk about the seven markers of spiritual maturity. What are these?
Kevin and Sherry Harney: As we’ve led the movement of discipleship at Shoreline Church, we felt the need to identify specific practices of Jesus that every Christian (young and old) should be emulating. So, we spent about a year gathering with leaders from our children’s, youth, and adult ministries. As we studied the life of Jesus, we identified seven distinct practices of our Savior that every believer can and should see growing in their life. They are:
- Bible Engagement
- Passionate Prayer
- Wholehearted Worship
- Humble Service
- Joyful Generosity
- Consistent Community
- Organic Outreach.
Discipleship is about becoming more and more like Jesus. So, we can know we’re developing as his followers when we see these seven markers growing in our life. We think these are so important that we developed a simple and free 35 question self-assessment that any student or adult can do and get immediate feedback on their own growth and also practical ideas for next steps of growth in each of the seven areas. God’s desire is that each of us would, “…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Say No and Not Feel Guilty: An Interview with Kevin G. Harney]
Talk about Bible Engagement. Is there a reason you always address this first when you teach about the seven markers of spiritual maturity?
Kevin and Sherry Harney: Absolutely! This is first because everything else is built and based on this part of our spiritual growth. We would not have any idea what a mature and growing life of faith would look like if we didn’t have the Scriptures. We would not know what it looks like to grow as a disciple of Jesus if we didn’t have the Gospels, the four distinct and beautiful accounts of the life of our Savior.
When the apostle Paul was inspired to write these words, the church received a powerful picture of what the Scriptures can do in our lives and the world: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
You say Christians should “love, know, and follow” the Bible. Explain a little about each of these ideas.
Kevin and Sherry Harney: In the longest book of the Bible, in the longest chapter, we read these words: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (Psalm 119:97). The psalmist is declaring a passionate love for the Holy Spirit inspired message of heaven, the Scriptures. We don’t worship the Bible…we worship only God. But we should love the book that points us to Jesus, teaches us how to live, shows the pathway to holiness, and reveals the very heart of the Father!
Loving the Bible is not enough. If we’re ignorant about what we love, do we really love it? Notice that right after declaring love for the Scriptures, the psalmist proclaims that he ponders, thinks about, meditates on the text and teaching of God’s Word “all day long.” We need to know the teaching of the Bible, study the whole book, get to know the content of the Scriptures, and lock it in our heart and mind!
But this is still not a fulfillment of what God desires for his children. Once we love the Word and grow in knowledge of biblical truth, we’re to follow what it says. In the book of James, we read this piercing exhortation, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Our heavenly Father delights when his children love, know, and follow his teachings found in the Bible.
What is a Bible passage that has marked and transformed your life?
Kevin Harney: In Matthew 9:37-38 we read, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” I had read this passage for years before the Holy Spirit really ignited my heart and life with the truth revealed in these words of Jesus. The problem with reaching the world with the gospel is not primarily with the world, it’s with us! It’s not with the found, but the lost! People are far more open to Jesus than we dream, if we’ll just love, serve, pray, and share the truth like Jesus did.
Sherry Harney: My life has been shaped by 1 John 4:10, “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” When God overwhelmed me with the reality that first and foremost my walk with Jesus is not about what I give to him, but it starts with what he’s given to me. Everything good that comes from me is just an overflowing of what he has first given. This was very freeing! This one amazing verse fills me with a desire to let the whole world know God loves them too, and this is the beginning of an abundant life. If anyone will receive his grace, he’s ready to embrace them and call them his child and give them life to the full.
Kevin and Sherry Harney: You might notice both of us have key verses that focus on God’s infinite and amazing love for the lost in this world. That’s one of the primary reasons we started the ministry of Organic Outreach International. We’ve spent more than 30 years training leaders and developing resources to help Christians, churches, and movements become more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
More than 90% of these resources are free and most are in English, Spanish, and a growing number of other languages and can be found at organicoutreach.org.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?
Kevin and Sherry Harney: We take Bible reading so seriously that Kevin creates a weekly reading guide 52 weeks a year that goes directly with our Sunday sermon. What we do is provide a daily reading that’s linked to Bible Gateway. People can simply click the link we provide and it opens to the passage in Bible Gateway. We encourage our church members to read or listen to the daily passage(s) (normally a chapter of the Bible or more). When they do, by Sunday, they’ve been immersed in Scriptures that prepare them for Sunday. This is the most used resource on our church website and app. No need to reinvent the wheel. We simply connect them to Bible Gateway and use this amazing tool. We see it as a gift from the Lord!
Organic Disciples is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Kevin G. Harney is lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California. He is the author of many books, including No Is a Beautiful Word, Seismic Shifts, and the Organic Outreach Trilogy, as well as more than a hundred small group guides, curriculum, and numerous articles written in partnership with Sherry. Kevin and his wife Sherry are co-founders of Organic Outreach International, a ministry that trains and resources global leaders to do evangelism in natural and effective ways. He also does extensive teaching and speaking both nationally and internationally.
Sherry Harney is an author and a speaker who serves as the Spiritual Formation and Discipleship Director at Shoreline Church in Monterey, California. She is also the cofounder of Organic Outreach International. For over three decades Sherry has spoken for local, national, and international groups and events. She focuses on prayer, spiritual formation, leadership, and organic outreach.
Over the past three decades Sherry and Kevin have coauthored and partnered with writers such as Ann Voskamp, Max Lucado, Nabeel Qureshi, Jim Cymbala, Miles McPherson, Mark Batterson, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Christine Caine, Gary Thomas, N.T. Wright, Laura Story, Craig Groeschel, Dallas Willard and many others. Kevin and Sherry have three married sons and three grandchildren.
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