Truth & Transformation: Push vs. Pull


Recently I have found myself considering the difference between “push” and “pull”. I believe these words may be a useful starting point in contrasting two different approaches in seeking to become more like Jesus and helping others to do likewise.

Let’s start with “push”, which the dictionary describes as “moving something in a specified way by exerting force.”

I think this definition often applies to our behaviour as Christians. We feel the push to pray more, read the Bible more, give more, and do more. If we are not careful we end up as burnt out people desperately trying to do the “right thing” but never hitting the mark.

But it doesn’t end there, because we too feel the need to push others into doing the “right thing”. I remember when one of my friends became a Christian one of my first thoughts was, “Well that is great, but it’s going to be a big job (for me) to straighten this guy out. He needs to stop smoking, getting drunk, etc.”

The exact opposite turned out to be true, his transformation had nothing to do with me. He would turn up at small group and share how he was enjoying hour upon hour walking and spending time with God, and quit smoking because he felt like God told him to! This story for me illustrates pull. My friend changed his lifestyle not from an external sense of push, but from a sense of pull towards Jesus.

Photo by Lauren Malpass

I believe the push/pull analogy is useful as we consider the process of “discipleship” and would suggest that sometimes our focus is on the wrong end of the stick. I think we need to remember that it’s less about the action of “discipling” and more about “disciples”. A disciple is someone who has made an internal choice to follow somebody or something. Therefore we cannot push anyone into being a follower not matter how hard we try or how good our program is. I believe our emphasis must therefore be on following God personally, and living out His Kingdom – if we really do that others are sure to feel the “pull” and follow.


Photos:Lauren Malpass, Russ Morris: