(Neil T Anderson, Steve Goss)
The Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course aims to help Christians grasp the truth of who they are in Christ, sort out personal and spiritual issues and become more fruitful in their discipleship. The course emphasises personal responsibility and the need to make the right choices. The focus is very much on the individual.
The course has some high profile endorsements (Gerald Coates, Mark Stibbe, Laurence Singlehurst), but the material does have a particular style and pastoral approach which will not appeal to everyone.
What is it?
The Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course is comprised of thirteen sessions:
- Where do I come from?
- Who am I now?
- Choosing to believe the truth.
- The world's view of truth.
- Our daily choice.
- Demolishing strongholds.
- The battle for our minds.
- Handling emotions well.
- Forgiving from the heart.
- Walking in freedom every day.
- Relating to others.
- Where are you heading?
- Staying on the right path.
In between sessions 9 and 10 participants go through the 'Steps to Freedom in Christ' which is the central ministry event of the course. There is helpful discussion on different world views. The need for repentance and forgiveness is also put across very clearly.
Each session includes
- a welcome activity - a brief question for reflection.
- worship - very brief thematic suggestions.
- word - the major component.
- witness - a question to help participants relate what has been learnt to their witness.
- group questions.
- suggestions for follow up quiet times.
This course is very much Word based. The main feature is the talk which is written in full in the leader's handbook. The accompanying CD contains helpful PowerPoint summaries of the talks. Alternatively each talk is available on DVD. The talks are like sermons in style. They are packed full of scriptural verses. The suggestion is made that they could be used in Sunday services with the other material used in home groups. The talks and the handbook have a rather 1980s feel to them, with the writing style reminiscent of many of Colin Urquhart's books.
The 'Steps to Freedom in Christ' is a three to six hour process in which the participant is asked to invite the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of his or her past that need dealing with in order for him or her to resolve personal issues and move on in discipleship. The participant is supported in this by a prayer partner and an 'encourager'.
The onus throughout the course is on the individual Christian to make the right choices in order to believe the right things. There is nothing wrong with this in itself. Indeed, we live in an age when there is a need to highlight personal responsibility in discipleship. However, there are many gaps in the presentation of what influences our growth as Christian disciples.
Phrases such as 'your Christian walk is the result of what you believe' abound. Again, there is truth in this but the course makes very little mention of:
- God's grace;
- the fellowship of the church;
- a regular devotional life;
- the inspiration of other Christians.
There is no mention at all of the sacraments. Some of these things may be assumed, but for a course that claims to be for all Christians these are big omissions. The word 'truth' is used many times and participants are encouraged to believe and live the truth. Given such an emphasis, a full session on Jesus as incarnate truth would be very helpful.
There are suggestions for further reading but they are all from the same stable and many from the same author.
A particular concern is the introduction to the 'Steps to Freedom in Christ' which states that: 'we strongly recommend that you get the freedom-seeker to complete a Statement of Understanding which confirms for legal reasons their understanding that the encourager is not functioning as a trained counsellor'. The guidelines then make it clear that the session could raise some very deep, personal and, potentially, problematic issues. Just the sort of issues that do need trained counsellors or pastors.
Who is Freedom In Christ for?
The course was written for all Christians and particular mention is made of 'Alpha graduates'. Given the theology and pastoral approach under-girding the course not all Churches would be at home with the material.
Does it do what it says on the cover?
Freedom in Christ makes some bold claims as to what the course will achieve. Reading the endorsements in the handbook, the course has clearly been a blessing and benefit for many. The testimonials on the website are also very positive. Whether it has helped every Christian who has done the course to become a fruitful disciple is impossible to say.
How simple is it to use?
The course material is well laid out and the inclusion of PowerPoint summaries is very helpful (particularly if the material is being used in a Sunday service). More worship material or suggestions would be useful.
Would it work in a fresh expression context?
There is strong support for the course from Cell UK and a number of churches that take discipling in small groups seriously. The talks may need breaking up to maintain concentration levels.
Freedom in Christ will be a welcome resource for churches, established or fresh, that are comfortable with the theology that lies behind the material. It has clearly had a significant impact in some high profile churches. However, concerns remain over the narrow focus of the course and the pastoral approaches adopted.
How to obtain the material
The Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course is available from Christian bookshops or directly from the Freedom in Christ website. The website contains samples of the resources. The Leaders' Guide with CD-Rom costs £19. The full starter pack costs £175.