Think of the left side of the brain as responsible for cognitive function where theology, doctrine, and Bible knowledge reside. Yet, as important as these things are to our discipleship to Jesus, biblical information does little to affect our character. Why? Because character formation is largely a relational, right brain process. This explains why Jesus invited the disciples to be with him instead of merely showing up at the synagogue every morning at 9AM for a Bible study. Don’t get me wrong, biblical information is important, but alone, it is not enough to change our character. If you doubt that, just think about the group of Pharisees who were constantly challenging Jesus—these men were Old Testament scholars but possessed little to none of what we would ascribe to a godly character. Of course, there is more to the relationship between how the brain works and how godly character is formed, but just this simple understanding of the how the different hemispheres of the brain work, is a game changer when it comes to how believers become more like Jesus.
Discipleship in Jesus day was understood to be an informational AND relational process whereby the student (disciple/learner) would become like his Rabbi. Discipleship was not limited to knowing what your Rabbi knew, but to becoming like your Rabbi in his character.
Jim Wilder and Michael Hendricks provide what I believe to be a paradigm shift in our thinking about discipleship. It’s not that we need to stop reading and studying our Bible’s but that we need to add a highly relational process where every disciple spends a lot of time with others who demonstrate a greater degree of the character traits of Christ (Gal. 5:22-23). Paul put it this way: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1), and “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put into practice” (Phil. 4:9).
To become like Jesus in his character requires biblical information and relationships with other men and women who demonstrate his character. For example, if you find yourself lacking in patience, it’s not enough to just read what the Bible says about patience—that’s a good thing—but you also need to spend time with patient people. You need to follow them around and watch how they exhibit patience in everyday life experiences. Over the course of time, you will become like them: a patient person regardless of the circumstance. As you become a more patient person, in a situation that requires patience, you won’t even have to try hard to do it: you will exhibit patience because you have become a patient person.
Wilder and Hendricks are NOT promoting a right brain only Christianity but a whole brain Christianity that gives equal emphasis to how the left and right hemispheres of the brain contribute to the Christ-formation process.