April 16, 2015 — by Jennifer Howat


Alive To Thrive: Living and Laboring From Our Jesus Shaped Identity

ECO is committed to building flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ, but no church can flourish and multiply unless its leaders and people are thriving in their relationships with Jesus. That’s why the first value of ECO is foundational to life and ministry. Jesus-shaped Identity: We believe Christ must be at the center of our lives and making disciples of Jesus at the core of our ministry.

Christ at the Center

Let me share with you part of a journal entry I wrote several years into pastoral ministry. “I always said my ministry would not be to the detriment of my family...and I think I’ve done a pretty good job with that. But I had no idea it would harm me.”

That’s a far cry from thriving and flourishing, isn’t it? Floundering was more like it. I was struggling. I was trying to just get through. I had poured so much of myself into the church. In the name of building other people’s relationships with Jesus, I let mine get pushed to the back burner. Things were getting so out of whack. I was losing my true identity and it was having a profound impact on my life and ministry.

I thought I was alone in this struggle. But the more I talk with people in the church, the more I hear about burnout, brokenness and bitterness. That is not the vision God has for our lives! Jesus said, “...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We are alive to thrive! Part of thriving is our own personal growth and development. We must be growing our roots deep down in Christ and giving ourselves permission to make our relationship with God the top priority. Then we are able to live and lead out of the abundance that comes from a vibrant relationship with Jesus. But, if we are not thriving and growing in our own personal discipleship, then our churches will not be flourishing and multiplying healthy, Christ-like disciples. You can’t lead what you don’t live!

Making Disciples at the Core

“If you make disciples you always get the church. But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.” ~Mike Breen Building a Discipling Culture

Jesus never asked us to build the church. He told us to make disciples. And if we aren’t intentional, we will end up giving our time and energy to the wrong things. Every Christ-follower, every disciple, is to be a disciple-maker....every single one, no exceptions. We are challenged to leverage our time, our family and the encounters that we have with people in our spheres of influence, and to perhaps expand that sphere, in order to be a more fruitful disciple-maker.

Another aspect of thriving is multiplying. Our need to grow in our own personal discipleship is directly connected to personally giving our lives to disciple-making. The core of what we are called to do is to walk alongside others, cultivating their hearts and nurturing the seeds of the gospel.

Jesus knew exactly what it meant to be a disciple who makes disciples. He had a clear picture of that in his mind and is the perfect example for us to follow. In order for our personal discipleship to be shaped and formed in the likeness of Christ, we need to be spending quality time with Him, looking at His example, listening to His vision for our lives and living it out with others. It is out of our Jesus-shaped identity that we will flourish and thrive!

I am excited to be a part of a movement that, as Dana said last week, “keeps the main thing, the main thing.” And I am thankful that ECO is finding, developing and making available practical tools and resources to help make this value a reality in our lives and ministries!

Over the next several months, in preparation for our National Gathering, we will be focusing our Thursday blog posts on ECO's eight core values. We will spend a month of Thursdays on each of the values, where Dana Allin will write an introductory blog post and then other authors will expand upon our Biblical understanding of the value for the next 3-4 weeks.


Jennifer Howat

Rev. Jen Howat is Associate Pastor for Assimilation, Discipleship and Spiritual Formation at First Presbyterian Church of Edmond in Oklahoma.  She serves on staff with NCM (Navigator Church Ministries) and is certified in Life Transformation/Leadership and Organizational Coaching.  You can find her blog at www.rediscoveringdiscipleship.com.

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