Head, Heart, and Hands: the Anatomy of Discipleship

Published on October 18, 2019

Discipleship –– what is it? This is a question that by the end of this article, you as the reader, will be able to answer with certainty. Together, we shall examine three core attributes which compose discipleship as a whole. The first of these metaphors is the head: the central nervous system of the disciple’s servitude. We then have the heart or the compassionate motivation to love and serve. Last are the hands. The hands are the attribute which translate the knowledge and understanding of the head, as well as the humility and passion of the heart, into action.

In order to make this simple to understand for all readers despite any religious background, we will use a doctor as our practical example. As a disciple of medicine, the medical doctor must devote countless hours of time to the study of biology, biomechanics, biochemistry, and countless other subjects. This is the main idea behind the head portion of the body of discipleship: sleepless nights, examinations, year after year of relentless learning what makes the human body function, as well as how to maintain its functionality. If the knowledge is not worked for and ultimately achieved, how could the disciple of medicine ever be proficient at their practice? It is impossible. The same holds true for all other disciplines as well. A solid foundation of the material needs to be readily recollected at a moment’s notice.

“I shall take the heart. For brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” This quote by the Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum paints a brilliant picture of the motive behind discipleship. Though the head is a crucial piece and the intellectual foundation, the heart is the desire to make change for good and to be the light in the dark.  When the medical students walk into class sleepless and fatigued because they spent the previous five nights studying, they are not simply doing it for the paycheck but rather to preserve the lives of fellow humanity. Compassion for the person next to us drives us as disciples to make the most impactful version of ourselves so that we can use the knowledge. Without the motivation of the heart, the knowledge of the head will never be attained.

Finally, we come to the hands. The hands are the visible practicum of our triad discipleship.  The knowledge of the head coupled with the motive of the heart is then made apparent by the action of the hands. When the patient with head trauma lies before the surgeon, years of preparation for this very moment make the hands into valuable tools. Driven by a yearning to save the life of the patient, the surgeon‘s hands carefully perform their duties with unmatched precision. Knowledge, desire, and action; in this single moment we see the disciple of medicine making a positive impact upon the world around them. This same principle holds true for all discipleship. The marriage between knowledge through study and compassionate motivation then come to fruition by action.

In conclusion, discipleship can be broken down into three pivotal pieces: the Head (knowledge), the Heart (motivation), and the Hands (action). In the absence of any one of these, the disciple is incomplete and out of balance.  For example, the head and hands with no heart will do only what benefit themselves. All true discipleship must be centered on others; this is how the world can be changed.


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