Bill Mowry is best known for his discipleship-oriented books and ministry with the Navigators. In the last few months, I have enjoyed going through his study Ways of the Alongsider and read a few books by him. This last read of his book Walk with Me left me enthusiastic about engaging with those I live, serve and work with by walking with them in Jesus’ way. I particularly like how Mowry uses acronyms and memory devices (as you’ll see). They help to really solidify the concepts and help you go back to them as you remember the memory devices.
Let’s explore some key points Mowry goes through from his extensive experience in discipling others:
Chapter Break down: (The first two chapters are an introduction 3-7 are five principles of the Walk or walking with others)
- An Invitation
- Start Walking
- We Walk Heart to Heart
- We Walk Simple
- We walk SLOW
- We walk deep
- We walk on a mission
- Live the Joy
First, the walk is something we are all called to do, to follow Jesus by coming alongside one another and intentionally helping each other to grow to be like Christ. Bill summaries this call in Jesus’ great commission to His disciples to “make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). How do we accomplish this goal Jesus set out for us in our daily lives? By walking alongside with those around us in such a way that they can learn to know and follow Jesus more and more. This is not complicated as we sometimes think it is, its also a step by step process and not something we need to do all at once. It is intentionally coming beside another person with the goal in mind to really help them know Jesus and then acting on that desire in practical ways.
So, from the middle five chapters we see Bill’s overall recommendation is for us to walk alongside others in a way that is heart to heart, simple, slow, deep and on a mission.
Heart to Heart
In terms of the Heart to Heart aspect of walking my main take away is how to share with others in an intimate way by giving some TLC (TLC being Bill’s acronym for how this is accomplished). By being Transparent, Listening and Caring. Being transparent involves really sharing from our lives and our care for the other person in a way that really expresses our heart for them, our challenges, our joy. Listening is listening actively and really hearing what the other person is saying and Bill gives some good examples of this in stories from his life throughout the book. Finally caring is done through being empathic to what the other person is doing and in small practical ways that show the other person is important.
Bill wants to distinguish simple from simplistic. Simplistic is living by catch phrases that are shallow and don’t really cover the deep situations of life or meaning of scripture. Simplicity is “a reasoned and simply stated conclusion drawn from study or analysis”. He points out how Jesus simplified both the law and the prophets into just two commandments and the statement “love your neighbor as itself” yet He could also explain to the disciples on the road to Emmaus using the whole Old Testament. To simplify something well is to be Transparent about the truth explaining it completely. To be Clear so that it is communicated so the other person can understand and Usable, so the person is able to act on the truth. The wheel illustration is a great tool that accomplishes all three and gives a simple picture we can use to think about what a growing Christian life looks like. Understanding truth simply helps us to internalize it then give it to others.
I wrote this word in all caps because, you guessed it, its a memory device! We should imitate Chirst in how He walk along side us by Serving excellently, Love accordingly, Observe to learn and Wait on God’s timing. When we observe God’s work in scripture we often see He works slowly, 3 years to bring up the disciples, 40 years to prepare the hearts of the Israelites in the desert, Jesus waited two days after Lazarous died before He went to bring him back to life. God waits and works slowly. This is explained well in the book by the two words translated “time” in the New Testament. Chronos which is the typical way we think of the flow of time and kairos which refers to the ideal moment or time for something to happen. God waits for kairos moments when the time is right to lead us further in our walks with Him. In the same way a good farmer knows the kairos for each crop on when to sow and reap. In the same way we should utilize the SLOW memory device to effectively help others grow in the timeline that will really maximize their growth. You can read his explanation of each element in the book but I especially like the love accordingly element here as scripture clearly discusses different ways we can act to love people who are in different situations. Such as in 1 Thes 5:14:
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
My takeaway from the chapter on making our walk with others deep is Bill’s 5 H learing device. The 5 Hs are a really helpful tool for a well rounded approach to helping others:
Heart- We appeal to a person’s heart, observing them and how they are motivated. In this area some good tools are biographies of great disciples in history, scriptures about the impact and the purpose of the work (Bill lists more resources in the book).
Head- Head involves information. We help those we are walking with to understand the scriptures through Bible study and good books. Bill doesn’t mention it here but I think in this area good instruction on basic logic, apologetics and good books helping in life areas are also crucial head knowledge to help others grow.
Hands- A disciple is a disciple not just for what they know but in their acting on that knowledge and becoming more like Christ (John 14:21 is a good example of this principle). Hands has to do with real steps of faith based on the Heart and Head knowledge, the wheel gives a great overview of those broad areas these actions often fall into. In this area Dallas Willard’s VIM principle comes in. Vision Intention Means. These are three steps toward action in the Christian life. First we build the vision of what it means to follow Christ in a particular are (the first three Hs) then that person needs to take the initiative or intentionally commit to doing those things. Finally, we provide the means or tools that can help a person get started these can be things like the Navs Topical Memory System, Bible Studies, Going with them to witness to a friend etc. Based on a plan and that person’s current growth stage we can provide tools that help them move further in following Jesus.
Helps- The main two helps here are Accountability and Affirmation. We hold people accountable to the goals they set by lovingly asking about them Bill gives some great examples of this in the book. Affirmation is how we encourage people as they meet those goals they set and are convicted to.
Habits- Habits are the key to a Spirit led deep Christian life. Habits are the things we do regularly enough that they become a part of our lives. Bill calls them the grooves in our lives like the grooves erosion makes in geological structures. When the grooves exist then they will continue to wear into those areas of our lives forming amazing structures of God’s work in our lives over time.
On a Mission
Looking back to the beginning of the book we saw that everyone is called to walk with other believers (Matt 28:19-20). Since this is true our goal is not just to be beside the other person but as we are on Christ’s mission our desire is for them to get into the wonderful mission of God as well. Bill breaks this down into knowing God’s Macro mission (the big picture of what God is doing) and then doing what we can in the Micro mission (our own actions to pursue God’s macro mission in our own lives). The macro mission is what we try to describe in our Foundation Nine: Gods Purpose for’ His Creation: How to not live a life in vain. (hyperlink to episode). One particular way Bill talks about how we can engage in the micro mission is by sharing our faith through Inspiring, giving Insight and praying for Conviction from the Holy Spirit in the person we are sharing withs life. We Inspire by telling others stories of how God has worked in our life, by sharing ways our time with God has provided practical helps for instance in helping us be courageous in trials, faithful in difficulties, hopeful or joyful in life. Insight has to do with sharing our story of how we have come to know Jesus, through having a one-on-one or group Bible study with our non-believing friends and through sharing the Gospel story from scripture. Insight can also come in from providing answers to questions and difficulties our friend may have about the the faith, this is why it is so important to create an environmentin speaking with them where they can feel they will be heard we can do this better and help others to do this by understanding the truth and common questions well enough ourselves to be able to answer with grace and humility. Bill gives a ton of good advice on how to start a Bible study, how to create an open environment for discussion and how to share God’s story and our story effectively in the book.
Overall I really enjoyed the book and think it is an excellent tool in grasping principles for living out the Great Commission and Great Commandment in our own lives today. Bill’s insight and experience in helping others really comes out in how he is able to create a picture you can even memorize as you go in reading it. His memory devices have obviously come from mastering the craft of communicating truth to others in a way they can really get their Hands into the work. One note of improvement would be in this book like some others today reasoning is talked about but little is said about the amazing apologetics resources available to really help disciples grow in understanding the faith wholistically. That being said if one takes those resources and adds them into the model in the are of helping the Head then the picture is just that much more complete in my mind.
I hope you will take the time to glean from his principles in the book and to check out his Ways of the Alongsider workbook as well!