A Theology of Discipleship
A Theology of Discipleship explores the road toward personal transformation.
Christian discipleship, including evangelism and the sharing of the gospel, is in trouble in many of today’s churches. This is something that can be addressed, but not without the resolve and sustained attention of churches and their leaders.
In this important dialogue on the subject by Podcast Seminary Dean, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, and Christian non-profit 501(c) ministry Global Phokos Founder, Corey Fifield, these issues are explored with candor and urgency.
Tune in to hear two Christian leaders who care deeply about the gospel and Christian discipleship talk shop, in search of solutions.
Let that sink in.
As a part of the How to Have a Clear Conscience series, I wanted to address several enormous issues facing people in today’s world and particularly in the United States. In many ways, this post is about Behavioral Medication or Psychotropic Drugs, Depression, Maladies, Mental Health– and the fields serving people with these types of challenges: Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Pastors, Sociologists, Physicians, Pharmacists, and others.
The fact is, lots of people in our world are hurting and we wanted to stand up and take notice. This is especially important because we want to help people grow in their faith and relationship with God, and sometimes depression and related issues negatively affect a person’s discipleship.
Regarding the ministry of Podcast Seminary, my primary concern is very simple: I want people to be Happy, Healthy, Whole, and Holy.
I want people to find themselves.
I want people to come to terms with themselves.
I want people to be at peace.
But we live in a culture where people are manifesting tremendous problems related to the Modern World and all the challenges of living in it.
I believe that when we take the external challenges people are facing, and add them to what is going on INSIDE of us, that sometimes creates a toxic mix that crushes people– leading to some of the enormous problems we see today. And these things are keeping people from being all God made them to be. That’s what led me to spend a little time talking about that in a recent Facebook LIVE session
The August 2017 issue of Time Magazine speaks about the problem of Depression.
That’s at least part of what I’m addressing here, but not all I’d like to address. I want to use the problem of depression as my starting point, however, so we can use it as a spring board into a larger discussion.
According to Time’s lead article, 16 Million Americans are afflicted by Depression. But– wait for it– One-third of them don’t respond to treatment!!
In Feb 2015, the Center for Disease Control, a US Government service, reported that about 25% of All American Adults (18-65) had seen a therapist in the last 12 months. Let that sink in.
1/4 of Americans are under some regular or irregular PROFESSIONAL mental health care. That’s a significant percentage of people.
The report, available on the CDC website, reports that the OLDER PEOPLE GET, the more likely they are to need to see a Mental Health Professional– to the tune of 1/3 of median and older adults, according to Mandy Oaklander in the Hope from a Strange Source article being mentioned (Time, August 2017)/
Because of the trouble of understanding the complexity of human behavior and the brain, the first antidepressants were introduced only 60 years ago. Clinical Depression– something that should be understood as a serious and significant degree of depression, and not just “feeling bad” occasionally– again, an actual mental health condition, affects a full 6.7% of Americans, nearly 7% of Americans. That’s some 16 million people–not including other people internationally! And that DOES NOT include children and teens.
And believe it or not, depression is the leading cause of disability in the world today.
Depression is like a spider web, and many physical and mental illnesses are related to it.
People may not realize that ANXIETY, PTSD, MIGRAINE HEADACHES, SLEEP DISORDERS, and other issues are sometimes related to depression. Ironically, there hasn’t been a major depression drug breakthrough in the last 30 years, though lots of research has been continuing.
The sad thing is that depression gets the best of some people. In the U.S., suicide is at its highest number in 30 years. And because the situation is so acute, experts agree that patients must get help and they need it more quickly.
As for drugs, it takes up to 4-8 weeks for antidepressants to kick in. And, what’s worse is that 30% of people struggling with depression don’t respond to current treatment options.
As a result, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, sociologists, physicians, ministers, and others– all of them are frantically trying to figure out what to do as people continue to suffer so profoundly.
Interestingly, doctors have always understood that depression wasn’t just sadness or feeling the blues. Very early on with the ancient physician Hippocrates, 500 B.C., he thought depression had something to do with a bodily fluid imbalance, called Black Bile– from the spleen. Though he was wrong about that, he at least understood that depression was a condition of some sort.
Later, in the Middle Ages, depression was believed to be exclusively a spiritual disease, and possibly even demonic depression. (Though there were some crazy things done to people back then, it’s important to keep in mind that depression SOMETIMES DOES, perhaps OFTEN DOES, have something to do with the spiritual dimension of our lives.)
Later, in the years leading up to the Enlightenment, in the 1600s, the idea came that depression is actually rooted in the BRAIN. But many not-so-great things were done in the name of science early on that were very troubling to us today– things that included electro-convulsive therapy (can you say SHOCK TREATMENTS?), and other types of fixes.
Now, fast forward to the last 30 years. Finally, in 1987 Eli Lilly released a drug based on brain research, and that gave us Prozac and other knock off drugs like it.
The fact is that, despite all this research and thought, psychiatrists have actually said they “have no idea” why, after decades of studying psychotropic drugs and treating people, some people get better, and why such a large percentage do not.
Let me give encouragement for The 30% of people Not helped by medication. If your medication is messing you up… or if your drugs aren’t getting the job done– then in consultation with your doctor or therapist, I suggest trying something else… or at least adding to what you’re doing.
Here’s a fact: NOT ALL MENTAL PROBLEMS ARE TREATABLE BY DRUGS.
Sometimes the problem isn’t MENTAL but is more accurately, “Psychological,” if I can make that distinction. Keep reading.
In other words, sometimes depression isn’t rooted in your BRAIN (MENTAL) but in your PSYCHE (MIND). Meaning, sometimes depression is psychological (Meaning in your SOUL).
Don’t miss this: If your depression is not due to your BRAIN– then MEDICAL TREATMENTS TO THE BODY WON’T FIX YOUR PROBLEM– SINCE YOU CAN’T TREAT SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS WITH PHYSICAL REMEDIES. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?
Let me say it again– you can’t treat spiritual problems with physical remedies. That’s why SOME– up to 30% we think, of people don’t respond to their medications. And that is why I think that sometimes Your Pills aren’t Solving Your Problems.
Now, let’s go to some non-drug solutions suggested by researchers as reported by Time’s Mandy Oaklander, then I’ll go deeper into the spiritual issue.
What are some possible non-drug-related solutions science gives us– for those who aren’t being helped by powerful psychotropic drugs?
1. Exercise— it’s one of the most studied approaches to treating depression, and it helps a lot of people. And it’s free.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy— meaning, thinking and behaving differently, where you talk to a counselor or therapist– often 10 to 20 sessions, where you learn techniques of changing negative thought patterns. My opinion on this is that these work for many people– and yet sometimes, they don’t. We want more than “coping” skills, so if Cognitive Behavioral Therapy doesn’t work, keep trying other things.
3) Behavioral Activation Therapy– Another non-drug related treatment is Behavioral Activation therapy- where you take up new behaviors and activities to replace behavior with negative thinking.
4) Mindfulness Training– A fourth major treatment is what’s called “Mindfulness training.” This involves things like daily meditation and yoga.
Let me add to that something that’s more important than mere meditation, and that’s PRAYER.
Meditation is THINKING, while PRAYER is TALKING to God and asking for His Help. So don’t miss that and don’t neglect it. Meditation can help if the problem can be solved by you, but if you can’t solve it within yourself, then you need God’s help.
Now let me take you deep, deep, DEEPER into a critical area of understanding in the topic of depression.
I personally believe that the reason that SOME (note that I am saying SOME, not all, but SOME) treatment for depression, and other maladies that may be related to depression– again, insomnia-sleeplessness, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, and so on, the reason I think those may not respond to medication is because they aren’t all “medical” issues.
Some problems we face aren’t physical but spiritual.
If you try to solve spiritual issues in the soul with medical solutions in the body, they won’t be effective, and they can cause more harm than good. Just like if you try to solve medical problems in the body with spiritual solutions alone.
Sometimes you need to take an aspirin IN ADDITION TO PRAYING that God would relieve your headache.
But what I mean here is that, some of us may be looking for medical solutions to spiritual problems. Let me teach you a little about human nature– and this is where Christian educators sometimes differ from other fields of study.
Here’s where you need your thinking cap.
Many in the Behavioral Fields (secular-behavioral-and some Humanistic psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapysts, physicians, etc.) hold a view of human nature that is at odds with scripture, and this is why I think some of their treatments miss the point.
There is an entire field out there that rejects the idea that human nature (how humans are composed) has any type of soul. Some believe we are nothing more than physical bodies… or matter. They are materialists or Physicalists, as the case may be. If you believe as a therapyst or psychiatrist that the only thing that exists is the physical body, then you will treat depression and other maladies as if the only solution is PHYSICAL.
Accordingly, if you believe the human person is nothing more than MATTER and that matter is human flesh made of (a) chemicals and (b) electrical impulses– how will you try to treat such problems? With other chemicals and sometimes electrical impulses. That is what has led to the behavioral community’s production of chemical medications as the primary, and in some cases, only treatment for behavioral issues, depression, and the like.
Does that make sense?
In other words, if the brain is chemicals– then you treat it with chemicals to fix the chemical imbalance in the brain. And in large part– “with regard to the brain and truly brain-related issues,” I agree. But if some medical and counseling professionals assume that “there is no soul” and there are no “inner states” (viz., no conscience, no soul, no real “mind”), then their only treatment option becomes brain-and-not-mind-related treatments– which are largely medications (chemical).
But that’s where SOME– SOME– NOT ALL– in the field of psychiatry and psychology go off the rails.
Christian educators take their view of human nature from scripture, because we believe God made the body… but that God also made the entire human person.
Podcast Seminary thinks this is important for you to understand. So, let’s go into a little theology.
The Bible teaches that human nature, people, are body, soul and spirit. (1 Thess 5:23). That means the Bible teaches that God made people with BOTH a BODY (chemicals, matter, electrical impulses) AND a SOUL. We are PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL. So human nature is body, soul, and spirit.
The body is FLESH. The body includes the PHYSICAL BRAIN.
But the soul is not physical. It is not corporeal. It is not material. The soul is, if you please, for lack of a more precise word, “spirit.”
The soul is immaterial. It is not physical. It is not chemical. The human psyche (your mind, emotions, and deliberative choices or “will”) is not matter. Therefore [don’t miss this], the Soul, the Bible teaches, includes the mind, and your emotions, and your will. And these influence and largely regulate our ability to choose, and how our conscience interacts with us. And that’s what we’re studying the human conscience in Podcast Seminary in a very special series at the time of publishing this post.
YOUR MIND is a part of your soul. Your BRAIN is a part of your body. Your BRAIN and your MIND are not the same thing.
Your Brain is physical. Your Mind is not.
If the problems you have are caused by problems in your BRAIN, then they are PHYSICAL and can be treated by CHEMICALS or some other cognitive and behavioral techniques.
If your problems are ROOTED IN, caused by, or related to your SOUL– then they are not happening in your BRAIN, but in your MIND. And since the MIND is soul or spirit– you can’t treat SPIRIT with CHEMICALS. The Spirit has to deal with God.
The spirit or soul has to be fixed by spiritual means because it has spiritual causes. So if you have a troubled mind, start with spiritual solutions and work outward toward other behavioral and chemical solutions. If you’ve already tried medications and they haven’t worked… My guess is that the problem is likely something in your soul. That means your issues and problems might be caused by something wrong in your relationship with God.
Relationships Can Also Be Affected By a Wrong Understanding of Human Nature
In addition, in the event that you have “relational” problems– interpersonal problems with others, it’s important to understand that, to the extent the other person approaches the problem the right or wrong way, that too will affect you. So when we (or others) in relationships approach their personal problems or other issues the wrong way, that can affect our relationships. That’s just another reason to get this right.
Medication can’t fix the soul– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t fix the mind– if that’s what’s wrong with us. Medication can’t ease the conscience– if that’s what’s wrong with us. And medicine can’t solve spiritual problems. In those cases, medication can only mask the real problem and its root causes, and simply dope you up. Ironically, that places you farther than ever from a real solution to your problems.
If you have legitimate problems with depression or other issues that are rooted in the Body and Brain, seek medical help. Then you should even seek psychiatric help if and when needed. But my advice is to START with your SOUL. The brain is a delicate instrument and mind-and-mood-altering drugs are very powerful. They often have profound side-effects. It’s best to look INSIDE your soul before INSIDE your body. More often than not, our bodies are functioning as God intended. The soul is *much more* susceptible to malfunction because we live from our hearts (as writer and brilliant spiritual formation author Dallas Willard said).
If you have depression or other issues rooted in the SOUL and SPIRIT, you might seek nouthetic (biblical) counseling or a solid, biblical Christian counselor. You may want to, if needed, consider other therapeutic help where a solid Christian counselor integrates scriptural truth with helpful integrative counseling and other techniques, and even ultimately medication. But don’t medicate first. And never over medicate.
Most importantly, SEEK SPIRITUAL HELP. SEEK GOD. Seek God’s help.
And that’s my challenge to you IF YOUR PILLS AREN’T SOLVING YOUR PROBLEMS… If you feel like you’ve tried everything else– try God. Try God first, not last. If you’ve tried medication for the body and that didn’t work, try medication for the soul.
God can help.
Let that sink in.
As a part of the How to Have a Clear Conscience series, I wanted to address several enormous issues facing people in today’s world and particularly in the United States. In many ways, this episode is about Behavioral Medication or Psychotropic Drugs, Depression, Maladies, Mental Health– and the fields serving people with these types of challenges: Counselors, Therapists, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Pastors, Sociologists, Physicians, Pharmacists, and others.
Listen to see how a biblical view of human nature changes how we view people and their problems. Especially see why a different approach to depression, medication, addictions, and drug use may be necessary.
Global Phokos is a dynamic ministry that is unique, unlike almost any other ministry Podcast Seminary knows of. Not only does it lead ministries of evangelism and discipleship around the world, but it specifically provides housing to godly men who commit their time to doing evangelism and ministry. It’s a dynamic vision, and this is an interview you must hear. Then, after listening, take time to learn more about the ministry of Global Phokos and founder, Corey Fifield. Then, after listening to the podcast, like and learn about Corey’s vision on the Phokos Facebook page.
We often say that “everybody has a story.” That’s certainly true with Ron. This is part two of a first-ever live Podcast Seminary interview in Studio C Los Angeles (see the studio).
In Part 2 of this audio interview, Ron talks Discipleship. We discuss some of the needs Christians and churches have in discipleship today, along with needed solutions. You’ll also hear about Ron’s involvement in the formulation of Podcast Seminary– from a single discussion had after a discipleship event in 2016.
Do you have a story? We want to hear about it. People want to read it! We are even willing to consider featuring your story on PodcastSeminary.com/blog in a future post like this one.
Connect with me through leaving a comment below or by going to the Contact page, and we’ll get started!
In the final episode of our Enjoy the Ride Series, Dr. Freddy Cardoza, Dean of Podcast Seminary, explores how Christianity is a counter-culture movement in today’s world.
In contrast to the existential mood of meaninglessness, Jesus presents hope and meaning, survival and significance, and His followers can live in the light of that glorious reality, allowing them to enjoy the ride, in spite of life’s challenges.
With the end to this series, enjoy other Podcast Seminary playlists and series, including our series on the Human Conscience, and others at www.youtube.com/c/podcastseminary
Life sometimes throws situations our way that are threatening and sometimes even punishing. Life isn’t easy!
But in spite of the fact that there is evil in the world, God Himself is good.
This session talks about the theological principle of God’s goodness, also called His “Omnibenevolence.”
You’ll be challenged to think differently about your faith in God. Together we’ll see that rethinking what God is like can transform your entire life. Let’s do this!
The Didache (literally “Teaching” but commonly called “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) is an ancient spiritual formation discipleship book. It is an extrabiblical (non-scriptural) booklet that provides an orthodox understanding of essential Christian teaching. It is the earliest known discipleship manual from the Early Church in existence, believed to express the core teachings of the Twelve Disciples, which would have ostensibly included the Original Twelve, minus Judas Iscariot, who was almost immediately replaced by Matthias (Acts 1:12-26).
The Didache meaning “Teaching” is the short name of a Christian manual compiled very early in the history of the Christian faith. The full title is The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. Some Christians thought Didache was inspired, but the church rejected it when making the final decision which books to include in the New Testament.
Didache contained instructions for Christian groups; and its statement of belief may be the first written catechism. It has four parts: the first is the “Two Ways, the Way of Life and the Way of Death;” the second explains how to perform rituals such as baptism, fasting, and Communion; the third covers ministry and how to deal with traveling teachers; the fourth part is a reminder that Jesus is coming again, with quotations from several New Testament passages which exhort Christians to live godly lives and prepare for “that day.”
This is how you should baptize:
Having recited all these things, [the first half of the Teaching, “The Way of Life and the Way of Death”] baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in running water. If you do not have running water, then baptize in still water. The water should be cold, but if you do not have cold water, then use warm. If you have neither, then just pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Both the one who is baptized and the one who baptizes should fast beforehand, along with any others who are able, the one that is baptized being told to fast for a day or two.
Prayer and Fasting
Your fasting should not be like the hypocrites’. They fast on Monday and the Thursday: you should fast on the Wednesday and Friday. You should not pray like the hypocrites either, but as the Lord commanded in his Gospel:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debt, as we forgive our debtors; Do not lead us into trial, but deliver us from the evil one; for yours is the power and the glory for ever and ever. Say this prayer three times a day.
This is how you should give thanks at the Eucharist: First, for the cup:
We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of your son David which you revealed to us through your son Jesus. Yours is the glory for ever and ever.
Then for the broken bread:
We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you revealed to us through your son Jesus. Yours is the glory for ever and ever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and being gathered together became one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom For yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever and ever.
No one should eat or drink this Eucharistic thanksgiving, unless they that have been baptized into the name of the Lord. As the Lord has said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs.” After everyone has had enough, thank God with these words:
We give you thanks, Holy Father, for your holy name, which you have revealed to us through your son Jesus. Yours is the glory for ever and ever. Almighty Lord, you created all things for your name’s sake, and gave food and drink to people for their enjoyment, so that they would thank you, but you gave us spiritual food and drink and eternal life through your son. Above all we thank you that you are powerful Yours is the glory for ever and ever. Remember your Church, Lord. Deliver it from all evil, perfect it in your love, sanctify it and gather it together from the four winds into your kingdom which you have prepared for it. Yours is the glory for ever and ever. May grace come and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If any man is holy, let him come; if any man is not, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.
Let prophets, however, give thanksgiving as they see fit.
Teachers, Apostles and Prophets
Listen to anyone who comes to teach you such things as these, but if a teacher is led astray and teaches a different doctrine that undermines what you have been told, do not hear him. However if he comes to the increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as you would the Lord.
You should treat apostles and prophets as the Gospel commands. Receive every apostle that comes to you as you would the Lord. But he must not stay more than one day, or two if necessary: but if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. When an apostle leaves you, give him nothing except bread until he finds shelter. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. Do not test or evaluate any prophet speaking in the Spirit – this is the one unforgivable sin. But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet, only those who live in the way of the Lord.
Thus it is by their conduct that you can tell false prophets from true. Similarly, no prophet shall eat while he is in the Spirit; if he does, he is a false prophet. Even if a prophet teaches the truth, if he does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. However, if a prophet that has been approved and found true, and lives out the cosmic mystery of the Church, does not teach you to do all that he does himself, you should not judge such a prophet. His judgment must be left to God, for the prophets in the past also did such things. If anyone says in the Spirit, “Give me silver”, or asks for anything else, do not listen to him. But if he tells you to give to others that are in want, let no one judge him.
Receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord. When you have tested them you will know them, for you will be able to discern true from false. If the one who comes is a traveler, assist him, as well as you can, but he should not stay with you more than two days — or three if necessary. But if he is a craftsman who wishes to settle with you, let him work for his bread. If he has no trade, use your discretion to provide a way for him to live as a Christian among you, but not in idleness. If he will not do this, he is trading Christ for profit. Beware of such men. But all true prophets and teachers who wish to settle among you are, like workers, worthy of their food.
Therefore you should always give the first fruits of the produce of the wine-press and of the threshing-floor, and of your oxen and sheep, to the prophets, for they are your chief-priests. If you do not have a prophet, give them to the poor instead. In the same way you should give the first fruits to the prophet when you make bread, or open a jar of wine or oil, and the same goes for your money and clothes and all possessions, as you see fit, in accordance with the commandment.
On the Lord’s day, come together, break bread and give thanks, having first confessed your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure. Anyone who has a dispute with another, must not join your assembly until they have been reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be defiled, for this is the sacrifice spoken of by the Lord: ‘”In every place and at every time offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king,” says the Lord, “and My name is wonderful among the nations.’”‘
Therefore appoint for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men who are meek and not lovers of money, who are true and approved, because they also perform the service of prophets and teachers to you. Do not despise them, for they are worthy of honor alongside prophets and teachers.
Wrongdoers and Doing Right
And reprove one another, not in anger but in peace, as the Gospel tells you. If one of you does wrong to another, do not speak a word to him until he repents. Your prayers, your giving to the poor and all your deeds, should be done in accordance with the Gospel of our Lord.
The End Times
Be careful how you live. Do not let your lamps be quenched, nor your loins ungirdled, but be ready, for you do not know the hour our Lord will come. Meet together frequently, pursuing what is good for your souls, for your whole time as a believer will come to nothing if you are found to be imperfect at the end time. In the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall multiply, and the sheep will be turned into wolves, and love will be turned into hate. As lawlessness increases, they will persecute and betray and hate one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a Son of God, performing signs and wonders, and the earth will be delivered into his hands. He will do things more unholy than any since the beginning of the world.
All of humanity shall come to the fire of testing, and many will fall and perish. But all who endure in their faith shall be saved from the Curse. Then the signs of the truth will appear: firstly a rift in the heavens, then the sound of a trumpet, and thirdly the resurrection of the dead. But not all will rise, because, as it is said, ‘The Lord shall come, and all his saints with him’. Then the world will see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.
The Didache gives us a glimpse into the hearts and minds of the earliest converts to Christianity. It’s a treasure trove of insight and instruction that we are grateful to possess. Read and re-read it, and be blessed!