In the 1930’s, a 22-year-old sailor who was on fire for Christ had an idea for an illustration that would enable him to teach others the basics of this faith that he had come to grip so tightly. Dawson Trotman would come up with the beginning version of what is now known as “The Wheel of the Obedient Christian.” This visual tool has been a staple for disciple-makers for the last 80 years and still features a prominent spot amongst the Navigators, a Christian ministry that was birthed by Trotman. I genuinely believe that this simple diagram has strong potential today in whatever ministry context you serve.
The Wheel highlights what should be at the center of every believer’s life, Christ (Galatians 2:20). Then, the Wheel identifies four actions that connect believers to Christ:
- Reading the Word (2 Timothy 3:16),
- Prayer (Philippians 4:6-7),
- Fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25), and
- Evangelism (Romans 1:16).
This is not the entirety of faith in Christ. There are many other areas that could be discussed, but for many of us working with young adults, we have a relatively short amount of time with them before careers and other opportunities take them other places. This is, however, a simple recipe to ensure we are passing on solid building blocks for future spiritual growth.
Why should you give the Wheel a shot in your ministry?
- It’s a visual, and it is simple! We are wired to remember what we see better than what we hear. I remember teaching the Wheel to one of the best guys I’ve ever met with in my ministry and would periodically revisit it. Our time together was sadly short, but I remember seeing a video of him on the mission field teaching from that very same Wheel in Hindi to a group in India. I was so excited to see that he still remembered it and that he was using it as a tool to then teach others how to draw closer to Christ. Simple is often equal to reproducible.
- It helps us all set goals. How can we experience any deepening of our faith if we are not constantly setting goals? Philippians 3:12-13 is one of my favorite passages. Paul talks about how he is not perfect, and he strains toward the goal. The Wheel shows us four basic measures of growth and the goal is to pursue each in equal measure. I like to go over this tool with my young adults every 6 months so that they can gauge areas where they are doing well and areas they need to strengthen. Then, we come up with a solid goal to improve the weak areas.
- When used at the beginning of a spiritual mentorship program, this tool establishes where we will be going and what will be important. A young adult with whom I use the Wheel will have an expectation that we will at some point go out and practice evangelism. Why? Because we looked at verses that showed it as an integral part of Christian faith. That same individual will know why I ask about quiet times and whether they are attending church. I love having this up-front knowledge because it helps me save time with folks who are not interested in growth.
- It’s a great start to verse memorization! The verses that apply to each of the spokes of the Wheel are also great starter verses to memorize with your young adults. I love it when I walk around our ministry center and hear students reciting the verses from this tool.
- The Wheel is useful to all, no matter how mature they are in Christ. All four spokes of the Wheel need equal attention, and a weak area will result in a misshapen Wheel. This kind of balanced growth can encourage new believers and mature Christians alike, regardless of knowledge or experience. The shorter the spokes, the less ground your wheel covers, but a small wheel is still doing exactly what God wants it to do. The more someone grows and learns, the longer their spokes become, allowing their spiritual wheel to cover even more ground than before. It’s a great visual for any Christian!
I hope that you’ve had an opportunity to see this tool in action. If you have not, click here for a brief illustration detailing how to effectively use the Wheel. I’m praying you’ll find simple tools to convey spiritual truths in a meaningful way (like the Wheel) that then gets remembered and used again as young adults pursue God’s calling in their lives. If I can help in this process, please feel free to contact me.
Conan Sherlin is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director at Nicholls State University in Louisiana. He lives in Thibodaux, Louisiana with his wife Christy and their four kids (Evie, Ada, Haddie, and Gilford). Connect with Conan via Twitter: @nsherlin10.