Apprentice: It’s Not a Program, It’s a Way of Life

Phillip and Jennifer Smith

Answering the Tough Questions

Have you ever thought or asked, “Why does God seem to always be upset with me?” or “Why do I always seem to get upset when I don’t get my way?” or how about what seems all too common in our American churches, “Why is it that the people in our church look and act just like the people outside of our church?”

The reasons for these thoughts and the behaviors they manifest come from what is called our core narratives. All of us have beliefs, many false, about life’s toughest questions—some conscious and some unconscious—but nonetheless we have our beliefs. Many of these core narratives come from our families, our culture and yes, even our churches. Often we spend a lifetime reacting to them, and our lives never seem to truly become transformed.

Over the past several years, my wife Jennifer and I have been working with Pastor Deidre Franklin as we explore our own core narratives through the Apprentice series. It has been truly amazing to see how many false beliefs we have had that have kept us from the freedom that is found in the kingdom of God. For example, one of my false core narratives is “I must always be in control,” and one of Jennifer’s is “I must be perfect all of the time.” Whereas the true narratives are: Jesus is in control and nobody is perfect—and He accepts us just as we are. The trouble with our false narratives is they often result in unmet expectations, thus leading to frustration then finally anger, which can be sin.

Adopting Jesus’ Narratives

I cannot tell you how many times we have tried, and failed, to not get angry with life’s unmet expectations, but we still often do get angry. This leaves us feeling expatriated with ourselves. Jennifer explains, “Although I was raised in a devout Catholic home, I, nonetheless, had many family, cultural and religious false narratives that were running and ruining my life. While studying The Good and Beautiful God—the first book in the Apprentice series—I discovered the key to transformation is to shed my crippling false narratives and adopt Jesus’ narratives. As I began to pray, study my Bible, fellowship with other apprentices, and practice the spiritual formation disciplines, I began to notice my narratives changing. I was adopting Jesus’ narratives!”

And this is where Pastor Deidre and the Apprentice series come in. If we are to live a life without sin, we need to experience true transformation, the kind that goes from the soul outward. This is done by what the apostles, early church fathers, and countless Christians have done for centuries—by instituting spiritual disciplines, surrounding ourselves in a Christian community and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Running the Marathon of Life

Just like marathon runners condition their bodies to run 20 plus miles, our Lord has given us the amazing privilege to condition our souls to run the marathon of life. Jennifer describes the Apprentice program as being life-changing. She admits, “I still have sin but, by the grace of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, and practice of the spiritual disciplines, sin is no longer welcome to reign within me. I believe I have been given a new identity—I am one in whom Christ dwells. I am grateful to God and to Deidre Franklin for bringing the Apprentice program to Crossings; it has made all the difference!”

This fall, Jennifer and I, along with the support of Pastor Deidre, will continue our marathons as we begin a new Apprentice class. We are looking forward to the challenge of facing our false narratives, practicing our spiritual disciplines, living within the kingdom of God and being transformed each day into the image of our Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. I challenge each of you to truly take on the honor of being called an apprentice of Jesus Christ.

The paradox of spiritual formation is we cannot try harder to not sin; we have to train ourselves to the point where we do not want to sin.

The next Apprentice series begins Monday, September 8th at 9:15 a.m. for women only, depending on demand.
Find out more about the series and register here.

“Apprentice: It’s Not a Program, It’s a Way of Life” originally published by Phillip and Jennifer Smith, Crossings members, in the Fall 2012 edition of Crossings magazine.