Bill Hull’s book Choose the Life exists to assist the motivated disciple in entering into a more profound way of thinking and living. That way is the pattern of life Jesus modeled and then called every interested person to follow. It is a life grounded in humility—characterized by submission, obedience, suffering, and the joys of exaltation. It is the life that transforms its adherents and penetrates the strongest resistance.
Choose the Life challenges traditional thinking about what it means to be a Christian—it rebuilds the Gospel from the disciple up. It asks what is wrong with the Gospel taught in contemporary Western Culture and then suggests some changes in the way it is communicated by the Church. It then calls upon each person to rethink what it means to be follower of Jesus.
A Disciple’s Guide to Choose the Life is designed to lead disciples in a ten week course through Choose the life. However, it is more than simply a reading guide. It presents the ideas in Choose the Life so as to provoke a disciple’s thinking towards the application of these truths, which produces in him a faith hospitable to healthy spiritual growth— a faith that embraces discipleship.
Virtually all significant change can, should be, and eventually is, tested in relationship to others. To say that one is more loving without it being verified in relation to others is hollow. Not only do others need to be involved to test one’s progress, they are needed to encourage and help one in the journey of transformation. Therefore, going on the journey with others is absolutely necessary.
The Guide is designed to lead each disciple in a personal journey of spiritual formation by his participation within a “Community” of disciples, who have likewise decided to choose the life.
The “Community” is composed of (optimally) from two to six disciples being lead through this ten week exploration of Choose the Life.
Participants in the community will have agreed to make time and perform the daily assignments as directed by the Guide. They have agreed to pray daily for the other members of their community and to keep whatever is shared at their “Community Meeting” in complete confidence (unless express permission to disclose a specific matter, is given by all involved). They will attend and fully participate in each weekly “Community Meeting.”
Change is a process. Events can change people but most often transformation is a process that takes time. Most studies on change agree that acquiring a new idea and putting it into practice so that it becomes permanent requires three months. This would be the minimum time required—the ten weeks to finish the Guide provides a solid opportunity for significant transformation. The process employed by the Guide includes:
The Guide leads an exploration of each successive chapter of the book (including the introductory material) in ten weeks.
Each week (beginning with Chapter One) a chapter is explored in five daily, 30 minute sessions.
At each daily session, the disciple begins with prayer focused on the issues to be presented in the daily reading. The daily reading provides each disciple with a core thoughts and key ideas that will be explored in the day’s exercises. Questions are provided designed to help the disciple’s understanding of the core thoughts and key ideas. Disciples are then directed to reflect on the application of these core thoughts and key ideas to their own spiritual growth. Journaling space is provided for answering questions and recording the thoughts, questions, applications, and insights stemming from his reflection.
Once weekly (at the sixth session), the disciple meets with the other disciples which comprise his “community” at their Community Meeting. Here, they pray together, discuss the core thoughts and key ideas introduced in the week’s readings, share from their times of reflection, and encourage each other on their journey.
Although the Guide was designed primarily for use by groups consisting of from 2 to 6 members optimally, the material contained within can easily be used to effectively lead much larger groups in a discussion based exploration of the Choose the Life. This is done by using the 10 weekly Community Meetings as the agendas for a ten-week discussion program. It is recommended, when the Guide is used in a large group setting, that the accompanying DVD be used to introduce the topic for the week’s discussion. Additional questions to enhance the weekly meeting may be gleaned from the week’s five-day study program.
Lastly, it is recommend that the leader (or leaders) of a weekly discussion group proceed through the Guide together as their own Community group. The insights that will they will acquire by proceeding on their own journey through Choose the Life will be invaluable to them and the larger group they will be leading.
When leading a classroom sized (or larger) group through Choose the Life, one must keep in mind that most of the “spiritual traction” for transformation is due to the interaction that the Lord has with each individual as He interacts with them through the other individuals in a community of believers. To preserve this traction, the leader must provide a venue where, and time for, this interaction. For this reason it is suggested that some time during the weekly session, the leader divide the large group into smaller groups (mimicking the 2 to 6 member Community group) for the purpose of more intimately discussing the issues presented in the week’s session. It is reported after experiencing successive weeks with the same members of this smaller “discussion group,” that individuals previously not participants in a “small group” like program, have desired to continue in just such a program.
While the authors believe that the most “effective and efficient” means of leading individuals to healthy spiritual transformation is in the context of a smaller Community group, we do acknowledge that the larger group setting may be the only means currently available to a church’s leadership, whereby the biblical truths taught in Choose the Life are likely to be made available. We believe most strongly that though the form of instruction is important, the function is what must be preserved- Verum supremus vultus (truth above form).
Learning studies demonstrate the importance of application. The most relevant question a teacher can ask is, “Are my students learning?” According to a leading learning researcher people remember:
Each session asks the disciple to determine what concrete activity they can take that week to apply what they have learned. The Guide highly values the spiritual traction one can get by facing challenges in a high trust community. This avoids the hothouse effect (people not experienced in the reality of ministry) on groups that do not answer the challenge to reach beyond themselves.
Christ was a man for others; disciples then are to be people for others. It is only in losing ourselves in the mission of loving others that we live in balance and experience the joy that Christ has promised. This is the faith that embraces discipleship. This is the life that cultivates Christ-likeness and whose product is a transformed disciple—the only life of faith worthy enough to justify our calling upon others to Choose the Life.