Physical Therapy as a Picture of Disciple-Making

My journey of physical therapy began after I tripped and shattered my shoulder socket, tore my labrum, and dislocated my shoulder. After three weeks in a sling and a second dislocation, surgery was scheduled. Then due to time required for the socket to heal, four more weeks were spent in a sling.

The result was much atrophy of my shoulder and arm. Physical therapy was behind from the beginning. After months of help from a physical therapist (continued by hard homework during the pandemic), much had been gained but much range of motion was still needed. When we were together, he showed me what I needed to do between sessions to maintain and continue progress.

Shoulder manipulation was recommended and scheduled. Return to the physical therapist was scheduled the same day as the procedure. The therapist again showed me and Yvonne how to do home therapy exercises required multiple times daily to prevent scar tissue from returning. Again, I experienced progress with still more needed.

Physical Therapy as a Picture

In a similar way, we are physical therapists for our disciples. Our job is to show them good exercises to practice between sessions. The more they work between sessions, the more they make progress.

We recommend additional exercises to help them take next steps. Sometimes an exercise is quickly conquered. At other times, busyness and poor habits between sessions lead to stagnation and frustration. Disciples may quit or buckle down. When progress was arrested, I was eager to get beyond the roadblock. When the surgeon suggested manipulation, I was ready for it despite the painful journey required.

A week later, I am happy with my choice. Yes, there has been pain and it has involved hours of loss of sleep, schedule change, and hard work. Honestly there have been moments when I was tired and tired of hurting. But the goal of increased range of motion for my shoulder stayed in my mind, pushing me beyond tiredness and pain.

A good physical therapist has to help the patient see what is possible and want to pursue it. Ultimately the patient has to want it enough to pay the price for it. The same is true for the discipler and the disciple. The discipler cannot make the disciple want it, but he or she can provide encouragement and a pathway to greater relationship with God and equipping for obedience and service.

Seek to discover what God and your disciple want from the disciple-making time. Keep it in front of your disciple and focus on it. Help your disciple understand how steps along the way contribute to accomplishment of his/her desire. Make disciples!

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