I remember clearly the day that I asked my parents if I could quit swimming lessons. I had failed Maroon colour 3 times because I couldn’t master a fundamental: keeping my eyes open underwater. Failure to me was a new enemy. Academics came easy. Music, naturally. Video games, like breathing. Team sports I deemed both impossible and unnecessary. I was 8, so I imagined I had a fairly strong grasp of these things. To my great surprise, for the first time in my childhood, dad let me quit something. To this day I still need to wear goggles when I dive.

Prerequisites. Fundamentals. You can’t do calculus until you’ve learned arithmetic, or write a story until you learn proper sentence structure. People really shouldn’t drive until they have mastered the use of their indicator lights (and everyone said amen). We also really shouldn’t make disciples until we have made disciples of ourselves

Paul frames reality for the spiritually immature disciples at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 3:2: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” A disaster in discipleship led to a disconnect in relationship, to a dysfunctional ministry, to a defunct mission. The Corinthians needed to get their eyes off the spectacular nature of sign gifts, especially tongues, and focus again on the fundamentals: being a healthy community (Mutual Health).

Formission was initially released as an 8-year plan: My Health, Mutual Health, Ministry Health and Missional Health. The idea was to introduce the next dimension of health after two years of intense focus on the former. You never leave My Health. You simply add the relational dimension. My Health is a prerequisite for Mutual Health and also a continually practiced emphasis. As it was in swimming lessons, there comes a time for evaluation. As it was in Corinth, there is a need to frame reality. We are in year 5 of Formission’s discipleship plan, but are we yet ready to focus on ministry health? Have we learned the necessary prerequisites?

I have learned a thing or two since my childhood swimming class. Failure is no longer a new enemy. Gradually, I have come to recognize it as a hard but fair teacher. Some skills take a little longer to learn, and some ideas (usually the best ones) require trial and error, humour, humility and perseverance. We are not in a hurry. Dallas Willard called hurry the great enemy of the spiritual life in our day.[1] This year has taught a number of valuable lessons about My Health and Mutual Health, and we want to sit a little longer and learn. Ministry Health is still loading (Karl Vaters introduced us to some excellent concepts this Spring), but we are going to bridge the gap with a lot of intentional focus on the fundamentals.

Discipleship Conference 2019 is just a month away, and the theme will be “Ministry Relationships.”  We recognize that right relationship with God, ourselves, our spouses, our staff, our boards, and our denomination are necessary prerequisites as we graduate to a focus on healthy ministry systems and programming. Thanks for your patience, feedback and encouragement over the past 5 years, and especially for sharing your discipleship stories with us. We are so honoured that we get to serve and resource you to grow healthy in discipleship.


[1] https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2002/july-online-only/cln20704.html

About Jeremy Nippard

Jeremy Nippard is the Director of Formission with the PAONL. He has been in full time ministry for 11 years and lives in Paradise, NL with his wife Cheryl and kids Christyn (9) and Carter (7). He is passionate about discipleship and loves to see leaders and churches becoming healthy and missionally engaged.