There is a phrase being thrown around like a rag doll in Christian circles: “I’m a person not a project.” The phrase is accusatory at best, and misleading at worse. It is a pendulum swing in the idea of Christian discipleship, and we need to carefully dissect it. We should continually seek what God wants us to know for our daily Christian growth.
When it comes to Christian growth, some churches have handled discipleship in a very secular way. The Christian worldview sees people are humans and very special, because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). In secular thinking, people have no added value over anything else living, because in the end, they are just atoms like a horse, cloud, or lima beans.
Lecretius, the earliest known atheist, materialist philosopher, wrote about this in his book On the Nature of things, which you can read more about here (How to Dehumanize Culture). The industrial revolution, which mechanized labor in the late 1700’s and 1800’s, helped people produce things at a faster rate. This also created downfalls in society – people, who were connected to repetitive machines, started to be seen as more machine-like than man.
This then crept into every area of life, including children’s education in the modern era and church life. Churches began looking at people more as assembly line widgets than beings. The thought was – through enough Sunday school classes, discipleship classes, and Bible studies – we would eventually spit out mature believers.
While this helped in educating people in Scripture, it also created downfalls. One such downfall resulted in many Christians with a bunch of head knowledge, but little action. Christians knew a lot, but did nothing with what is addressed by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 8:1: “Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.”
The other undoing of the industrialization of people was they were seen more as a project rather than an individual person. When you see people as only a project and not a person, you often miss speaking to the heart. Why? Because projects aren’t eternal beings, but people are. So while people knew what to do, they didn’t have a heart for following Christ.
This leads to the phrase, “I’m a person, not a project.” I’ve heard this many times from modern Christian friends when I’m trying to encourage them in God’s Word, and help them grow in their faith in Christ. But like most things, we have often thrown the Baby Jesus out with the Holy Water (link here).
The fact is that people are also a project. A project is something that needs to be evaluated, planned for, goals needed, and work should take effort. We need to be assessed, cultivated, and changed.
People finally realized that the church was on the wrong path putting people in some assembly-line spiritual-growth tract. They found it dehumanizing, and rightfully so. They wanted to be seen as the image-bearers for which they were created. In doing this, instead of coming back to what Scripture says about them, they ran with the pendulum to the opposite side.
Ephesians 2:10 talks about us as a project. This verse literally says that Christians are a “workmanship” – the Greek word poiema means to make or create. We are a work in progress, a project! How does this work become a masterpiece? It happens by the Spirit of God, through the knowledge of the Word, and by the blessing of those who God has placed in our life to help us grow in our spiritual walk in life. Those can be pastors, fellow believers in our church, or other Christians God has placed in our lives.
Therefore, another believer can help us in our walk with Christ. We can receive “wise counsel” as mentioned repeatedly in the book of Proverbs. A fellow believer can assess our situation and tell us steps necessary for moving forward in our walk with God.
Throughout the New Testament believers are told to encourage each other in their spiritual walk. In order to do so they may have to lay out steps to avoid certain temptations, fears, or situations. Just because someone is trying to help another grow in Christ doesn’t mean that they only see a project and not a person.
Some Christians can use the “I’m not a project” lingo to hide and avoid spiritual growth. If they are sinning in an area they need to be confronted about it. If they are misrepresenting God or Scripture, they need to be made aware of the truth. Why? Because God desires for them to continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” as II Peter 3:18 says. To avoid that growth is to avoid God’s plan for their lives.
How do you see spiritual growth and discipleship? Do you see people or yourself as merely a project, and miss out that they are people made in the image of God? Do you understand that people need to be cultivated that way? Do you use the phrase or idea “I’m a person, not a project” to avoid being challenged in the truth of God’s Word or letting someone help you grow in Christ?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.