About following The Way
Jesus intended his disciples to follow his example, promising they would do what he did and, in fact, do even greater things (John 14:12). Jesus’ mission was not simply to come and die for us but to come and live for us, to show us what a life lived within the kingdom of God, on earth as in heaven, looks like to prove it can be done and show us how to live this way. His early followers called this The Way, and saw themselves as followers of The Way (Acts 9:2, 24:14, et al). The Way refers not only to a path exemplified by Jesus but also to his very person. “I am The Way,” he proclaimed and then called us to be the continuation of his story, the Body of Christ in and for the world. God then gave us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live within this new miraculous way of love. That same Spirit still resides among us today.
The power of this promise has yet to be realized. Saints through the ages have shown us it is possible to live as Christ in the world, but we largely relegate those saints, even Jesus himself, as anomalies among us. We place them on pedestals and say they could do that but we “common folk” cannot. This is contrary to Jesus’ whole purpose. The world desperately needs people who commit to taking Jesus’ way of life seriously, putting it into practice in their own daily walk, and building communities of support to encourage one another in living this radically-reoriented, lavishly-loving Way.
The mission of following The Way is to provide a clear path, the necessary framework, instruction, practices, and community, for living The Way as Jesus did. Much as the epistles of the New Testament, the Didache and various creeds and catechisms in ages past, fTW intends to provide a model for faithful living. Using the Great Commandment/Shema as its structure, people are guided through a spiritual journey of reflecting on their lives and living more deeply into our call by Jesus to love in four primary ways: Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength. These four ways reflect the four primary spheres of our lives: vocational, relational, intellectual, and incarnational. By centering each of these four “selves” on loving God and loving others as self, we find a new balance of ego and egolessness, of power and humility, of freedom and servanthood, of what is impossible and what is possible through Christ’s Spirit. It is the eternal life and living waters Jesus promised and it is so much more than most people presume.
As much as we have celebrated the divinity of Jesus, we have failed to appreciate his full humanity. He discouraged elevation, asking the disciples to keep his divine identity quiet, preferring the title “Son of Man” to Son of God, and saying “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” As St. Athanasius famously put it, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” And as St. Peter put it, “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness … [so that we] may become participants of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This “participation in the divine nature,” often called deification, theosis or deiformity, is central in Eastern Orthodoxy and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholicism but is largely disregarded in Protestant forms of the faith. following The Way brings this possibility and purpose to the fore as it revivifies our faith journey from one of worshipping Jesus to being Christ.
Finally, as we grow more deeply into Jesus’ way of living out The Way, we also find that the other great wisdom traditions of the world follow a strikingly similar path. At the heart of every major world religion is this same call to engage these four pathways in life. Some, such as Taoism, specifically describe this as The Way as well and give great insights into the upside down nature of true power and freedom. following The Way, though Christian in its primary viewpoint, casts a broad field of vision and benefits from appreciation of the wisdom of other religions as well, acknowledging that God has called and continues to call people of every time and place into a life according to this deeper wisdom, The Way.
Designed to be used primarily by small groups (either inside or outside the Church) fTW helps people have deeper discussions about life and faith than is possible in most short term studies. This work should ideally take some form of accountability with a group or at least one other partner (be that a spouse, a spiritual director, a prayer partner, etc.). “Where two or three are gathered…” As compared to other longer programs such as EFM or Alpha that are more about imparting information about the basics of the faith, fTW focuses in on formation within a life of discipleship, including a universally recognized process for personal transformation, a close consideration of the life of Jesus Christ, and incorporating spiritual practices that empower us to live as expressions of Christ’s love. fTW is a curriculum for Christlikeness, as called for by Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy, which aims to move us from admirers of Jesus to incarnations of Christ.