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Focus on the Family Broadcast

Ending the Pursuit of the Perfect Life (Part 2 of 2)

Ending the Pursuit of the Perfect Life (Part 2 of 2)

Authors Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory encourage women to stop striving for perfectionism and to cling to the truth that God accepts them for who they are, not what they do. (Part 2 of 2)

Original Air Date: November 18, 2014



Kathi Lipp: I had a daughter who said, “I miss you.” And I’m thinking, “How do you miss me? We live in the same house.” But she didn’t have the time with me, because I was working so hard to try to provide for her, to try to do the things that I thought were important to our family, you know. And I mean, it was simple as, “I have to clean the kitchen floor, otherwise nobody in the house is gonna be happy.” You know the only one who wasn’t happy when the kitchen floor was clean was me.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well that’s a confession from Kathi Lipp. She has more to share, along with Cheri Gregory about letting go of expectations and perfectionism. And your host is Focus on the Family president Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. 

Jim Daly: Last time, we started a great conversation on the four bullies and how they impact our relationships. They were one, perfectionism; two, people-pleasing; three, “performancism”; and four, procrastination. And we’re going to hear more about those today and how they try to knock us down and the reminder that God loves us for who we are, not for what we do. Just think of Martha and Mary. It’s that kind of trap. Here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you grow in your faith. We have so many resources to guide you if you’re struggling to find that better course for your life.

John: And certainly the website is a great starting point where you can get a CD or free instant download of this conversation with our guests, and their book, You Don’t Have to Try So Hard – focusonthefamily.com/radio, or call 800-232-6459.

Kathi and Cheri are both popular speakers, authors, and podcasters, and let’s go ahead and hear the second part of the conversation on Focus on the Family. 


Jim: Let me welcome both of you back.

Kathi: Thank you.

Cheri Gregory: Thanks, Jim.

Jim: We talked about the four bullies that women particularly, but it applies to men…

Cheri: It does.

Jim: …um, these four bullies that really pick on you each and every day. Um, I want to hear from your hearts about how these bullies operate, so give us the four again. We’ve got two more to cover, which we’ll do, but how they work in tandem to beat you down.

Kathi: Yeah, so we call the four bullies, they are perfectionism, “performancism,” procrastination and people-pleasing. And they do really work as a team. And both Cheri and I went into this project, which has been over a few years, thinking that we had primary bullies.

Cheri thought her primary bully was perfectionism, because she’s a perfectionist. And you know, that’s something she has to struggle with. For me, it was procrastination, because my mom’s motto in life was, “I work better under pressure.” And so, I grew up thinking that. But we both came to realize that we had underlying other bullies. And our biggest bully for both of us really was people-pleasing. And when we saw how all four of these work together and that when you take one down, it really affects all four, to take them…

Jim: It diminishes them all.

Kathi: It diminishes all of them. I get something in my brain about, I want something to go perfectly. I want – and what I’m doing there is usually because it’s people-pleasing or there’s performancism. I think about this Father’s Day a couple of years ago, where I told my husband, we were gonna have the perfect Father’s Day.

Now I know better than that, right? But we decide that we were going to go to Starbucks, ‘cause that’s what he – my husband has very simple needs. He wanted a certain kind of donut and he wanted a Starbucks. So, we get to Starbucks and we’ve driven up to wait in line. It’s one of the drive-thrus. And there – it’s merging lanes. And we wait in our space and it’s our turn to go and somebody cuts in front of us. Now, I don’t consider myself an angry person, but I lost my mind.

Jim: You’re talkin’ my language now.

Kathi: Oh, yeah, you get it now? Okay, I lost my mind. I leaned out the car window and I screamed, “Unbelievable! Who raised you?” And I’m just seething, because in my mind, we’re gonna have the perfect day and this woman who just pulled in front of us took away our perfect day. And Roger – I’m sitting there silently seething.

Jim: I’m sure he’s shrinking in the seat.

Kathi: Yes it – so he said, “I – Kathi, I need you to calm down.” And I’m like, “Wait, I’m calm now. I screamed out the window and now I’m calm.” And he goes, “Well, then why are you unbuckling your seat belt?” And I – I…

Jim: Just in case.

Kathi: I was having an out-of-body experience. We get to the front of the drive-through line and the barista’s there and he said, “I don’t really understand what’s going on here, but that car in front of you just bought all your drinks and told me to tell you that they were raised by wolves.”


Jim: That is good.

Kathi: And here’s the thing: I don’t consider myself an angry person, but you know what drove me to anger was the perfectionism. And it was because I wanted to please Roger. I wanted to have a great story of how we – you know, had a great day and we did everything. And so, not only the perfectionism, but the people pleasing take me to places and take me to behaviors that I don’t want to be a part of. So, I’m gonna get – Cheri’s gonna talk more about people-pleasing, ‘cause that’s really where she’s done a lot. She’s done a ton of work over the past couple of years, so she can explain that bully better than I can.

Cheri: Well, people-pleasing is focused on getting the right response from other people where…

Jim: The response you want.

Cheri: The response I want and the response I need in order to feel good. It’s not about serving other people. It’s not about being in a good, healthy relationship. And again, this isn’t conscious. This is the bully working in the background, you know, kind of a process in the back. Um, and when I think about people-pleasing, the example that’s just been really kind of astonishing to me as I reflect on it is I spent 10 years in direct sales with a party planning company. And I wasn’t ever gonna sell a dime. I wasn’t gonna recruit anybody. I just was gonna sign up and buy the kit. A lot of women do this. They’re – they’ll find…

Jim: ‘Cause you get a little discount or something.

Cheri: You get the discount, that kind of thing. And when the kit came and I looked at the materials inside, I realized, “Wait, they offer recognition and incentives.” And there was this cute little charm bracelet with 15 exclusive charms. And I’m like, “Hang on a second. I could – they even tell me how to earn those.”

Jim: And they’re tappin’ right into your psychology.

Cheri: I’m on that and so absolutely. And I’m not placing any blame on the company. I’m just saying, I happened to fall right into it. So, I went to the national convention that year and I had women…

Kathi: I love that you signed up for the toy kit and then the next sentence, you’re…

Cheri: Oh, absolutely.

Kathi: “And then I’m at the national convention.”


Cheri: Oh, yes.

Jim: Yeah…

Cheri: And I had…

Jim: …a little bit of work in between.

Cheri: …women stopping me in the halls going – and they would touch me, which was cool, ‘cause I – being somewhat on the intimidating side, I don’t get touched a lot and they would grab me and – and look me in the face and say, “How did you do it? How did you do it?” And to me, it wasn’t odd. You just followed the instructions that are in the incentive booklet. You recruit this number of people. You sell this much; you get the bracelet. And I went from thinking that “Wow, those bracelets would be cool;” to “What does it take to make the women do this in the hallway?” Then I met the company president and she grabbed me and she looked me in the eyes and she said, “You are remarkable.” I’d never heard those words from my mother.

Jim: Ah.

Cheri: My mother was always saying things like, “I don’t understand you. I don’t understand why you would want to do drama. I don’t understand why you would want to go to parties.” She wanted me to keep my room clean. She wanted me to practice my piano. And she’s a wonderful woman, don’t get me wrong. We both fight the perfectionism bully together. It’s taken me years, but because of the process we worked on together, I realized we’re both on the same side. For years I thought we were enemies. I realized, no, the two of us were on the same side; it’s the bullies that are our enemy.

But when the company president looked at me and again, touched me, I was like, “I will do whatever it takes to make this woman proud of me.” And so for eight years I sold and I recruited and the incentive booklet would come and whatever it took to make sure I got an invitation to her table, I would do that. And so, I would spend all year working hard and let me take the flip side. If somebody is in a company like this and they’re enjoying it and the product is meaningful to them and there is joy in their life and there’s balance, that’s a beautiful thing. For me there was no balance. There was no joy. It was – I was killing myself all year long for that moment on stage. I mean, I still remember one time when I went on stage for major recognition and she gave me a huge hug and she said, “Now when you turn around, you’re gonna see what a standing ovation looks like.” And I turned and there were 2,000 women, who in my mind thought I was wonderful. Now of course, they didn’t. They didn’t know who I was. They didn’t value me as an individual. But for that moment, I mean, the amount of adrenaline and dopamine that courses through the – at least my brain under that situation. And it took me years, it took actually a back injury to get me out of that level of living and then to be able to look and go, “None of that was real.”

Jim: And I want to hear your heart on that aspect of it, the good and the bad. I mean, talk about the damaging aspect of that. What need were you trying to meet through working yourself to death?

Cheri: I wanted somebody to see me and touch me and tell me I was worthwhile – I was worthwhile.

Jim: So many people are in that spot, Cheri. You’re not alone.

Cheri: I know that now.

Jim: And you know…

Kathi: Yeah.

Jim: …for a lot of men…

Cheri: Yeah.

Jim: …we’re in that spot. We are highly performance…

Cheri: Yeah.

Jim: …oriented. We have to measure up.

Kathi: And they desperately want somebody to say, “I’m proud of you.”

Jim: Oh.

Cheri: Amen.

Jim: Every little child…

Cheri: It’s their – yes.

Jim: …wants to hear that. It’s the yearning of our heart.

Cheri: Though we’re afraid that we’re gonna make children egotistical if we say things like that to them.

Kathi: Yeah.

Jim: How um, I mean, how – your back injury, how did you begin to evaluate who you were inside and what was goin’ on with the needs that you were needing to be met?

Cheri: There were two huge reality checks. One of them was that year I wasn’t able to meet my recruiting goals and there was some bling I wanted to earn. And it was never the bling because I liked it. It was the bling, because women would stop me and…

Jim: And notice.

Cheri: …talk to me about it. It was always about being noticed. And so I did something that I never would’ve dreamed I would do. I falsified records. I faked Social Security numbers and sent in paperwork for people who were not even in existence.

Jim: That’s how driven you were.

Cheri: I was that driven. I violated values that I hold dear and it seemed perfectly reasonable to do at the time. I didn’t even question it. It was the next step. It was the thing that had to be done and I’ll take personal response – complete personal responsibility for it, but I will say, the bullies were bullying me. But I’m trying to say that it wasn’t my fault. It was my responsibility, but I was so far gone and the company dealt with me very redemptively when they discovered that’s what I’d done. But that was the first time I went, “Whoa, something is really – how did I get this far off?”

Jim: It almost sounds like an addiction.

Cheri: Oh, it was. I was…

Jim: An addiction to…

Cheri: …completely addicted…

Jim: …recognition.

Cheri: …to the recognition.

Jim: Yeah.

Cheri: And the – what I thought was love that came through the recognition. And then I did go on – the last incentive trip I went on, my daughter wanted to meet the company president, and I’d always had, you know, unfettered access to her. And she was too busy with other hotshots that year, and I was not welcome. And I realized, “This is just a construct.” This is not – I mean, she was genuine with me when I was an achiever, but she wasn’t my mother. She wasn’t my best friend, and she wasn’t God. I had put her in that position.

Jim: Well in that brokenness, I mean, I think the reality is to whatever degree, we all suffer from sin.

Cheri: Yeah.

Jim: And I so appreciate your transparency there and recognition of falling short. How did you redeem that with God? How did that conversation go with the Lord, I mean, to say, “God, I have failed You?”

Cheri: It’s been a long conversation. I mean, many, many years ago when I originally gave my heart to Christ, it was from Psalm 18, you know, that He reached down into the murky waters and rescued me, because He delighted in me. And I had to say, “Oh, my goodness. There is nothing delightful about me at this point.” I have – I had to tell my husband what I had done and he’s a very upright person. He didn’t – I mean, he was also very gracious with me, but he was stunned that I would make choices like that. But for me to realize that God still took delight in me and still loved me and still wanted to put me in a spacious place, I was putting myself into this ever-closing box. Um, I was trapping myself with the way I was dealing with this desire, this addiction, you correctly said, for recognition. And He pointed out He had so much more for me. And that it was gonna involved real friendships with people who really would be there for me when I needed them and that didn’t just stop me in the hallway because they saw that I had achieved something that they wanted my secret information and then, you know, they were gone.

Jim: It’s a fascinating story, and again, we all travel different roads with different bullies that pursue us. Kathi, as you hear Cheri’s story, I mean you’re – you’re glued.

Kathi: I am because I’ve known Cheri for 9 years and the Cheri she describes is not the Cheri I know. Uh, it’s not. And I’d never heard that – you know, about the falsified records. And this is the woman that I would trust with my PIN numbers and my social security number. Uh, that’s who she is now, and it just speaks to the work. Not the – but the self-reflection and the God-reflection that she has been through. To say, “I am no longer going to let these things rule my life.”

Jim: Right, and the redemptive nature of it; listen, if you’re dealing with things that are tearing you down and you’re having to hide from your spouse or from others, man, call Focus on the Family. We have counselors that are there to help. Take that first step like Cheri had to take and show honesty.

Cheri: Yeah.

Jim: That’s what it’s about. Talk to somebody if you don’t feel safe with an immediate family member. Call us.

John: Yeah, our number here is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459 and please do call if you need help. And because of call volumes, we have a lot of folks that are getting in touch these days, we might have to take your name and number and please know that we’ll be back to you just as soon as we can.

Jim: Cheri, I do want to ask you about the next couple of steps in that part of your life, because God’s in the business of redemption.

Cheri: Amen.

Jim: And you said something last time that really caught my attention about wearing the mask and projecting perfection, which we in the Christian community, we do it. And you said it in such a powerful way, that as long as the outside looks good, it doesn’t matter what’s goin’ on in your heart. How do you communicate when you see a fellow wife and mom, that you can see it, ‘cause you’ve been through it? You know that that woman is living in a dark spot. How do you even approach talking to her?

Cheri: Sometimes you can ask just how are things going, in enough of – with enough of a pause and with enough of a look that she’ll start talking. And if she goes off on the, “Oh, everything is great and everything is fine,” um, really?

Jim: Yeah, kind of tether…

Cheri: How’s it really…

Jim: …her.

Cheri: …going? Anything – you know, I can sometimes tell when the – but a lot of times women are ready to talk to somebody that they think understands. I mean, Kathi has this happen in retreats, I think we both do to some degree. People will make a beeline to us and the mascara’s already running down their cheeks.

Jim: Right.

Cheri: And they’re like, “I had no idea.”

Kathi: Yeah and I think one of the best things we can do as the body of Christ is be really brave. And that’s what our whole book is about, is taking brave steps and saying, “Here is what I have been through.” You know, with Cheri, it was the records. With me, it was a messed-up marriage. With me, it’s adult kids who are messed up. And you know, saying, “This is what I’m going through and God still delights in me.” God can delight in you wherever you’re at.

Jim: He does.

Kathi: He does, absolutely. He does delight in you.

Jim: And let me say it this way and I would like your reaction to this. What you’re saying in so many words is feeling God’s love…

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: …that He loves you.

Kathi: Mmm.

Jim: And that has to be hard when you’re not in a better place, Cheri, what you described. How could you feel or believe that God could possibly love you, ‘cause you weren’t perfect?

Cheri: For me, the back injury was huge. I mean, the pain was no fun, but at some point realizing everything I had attempted to do, I could no longer do. I could try to clean the house for five minutes of every hour, I was in so much pain. And I had a lot of time to sit and think and to read. I read books. I read my Bible. But more than anything, I had time to sit and think and just listen. And God speaks in the stillness. He doesn’t shout. He doesn’t force. And I discovered a lot of people will say, “Oh, I don’t hear God. I don’t hear God.”

I have never yet had a time in my life where I have slowed down and quiet – been quiet that God has not spoken to me in some way. I don’t mean a verbal voice. It could be through something on Facebook. It could be through a friend. It could be through Scripture. But when we are attentive, God will speak and reassure. And for me at least, it took failure, massive, massive failure and realizing I could survive it and I couldn’t fake it anymore.

Jim: I would like you to speak directly to that woman who’s feeling the guilt, who knows what she’s dealing with?

Cheri: Right.

Jim: You two have dealt with a lot. My wife, Jean has dealt with a lot. It’s every human being’s, you know, issue in this life. You deal with a lot of stuff. Women have particular issues though, that sense of guilt, that sense of not measuring up. Speak to that woman who’s in a dark place right now. What would you say to her?

Kathi: I would say, this – what you are going through is not a surprise. It may be a surprise to you, but it’s not a surprise to Cheri or me or any of the women that we talk to, because we all know that we go through this. And it is worth working on eradicating some of those things that we’re talking about here and being brave and saying, “Maybe my life could be different. Maybe I can trust God a little more today than I did yesterday. And maybe if I find a friend who is also in a tough place and we can be praying for each other and we can be honest with each other.” ‘Cause that’s what Cheri and I have done and the growth that has happened. It’s not that bad things stopped happening to us. I wish we could give you that. But the way we react to them is so different than it would’ve been five years ago. God is the first option, not the last ditch choice.

Jim: Let me ask you this. You’ve identified these four bullies. We’ll post those on the website.

Kathi: Okay.

Jim: And you know, people can get the resource, get your book, all of that. But do you continue, although diminished, do these bullies ever go away?

Kathi: They’re like “Whac-A-Moles.” They really are. You know, when something happens, you know, the fourth bully is procrastination. And can I just say that is my go-to every day? You know, Cheri’s fond of saying, “Virtue is its own reward.” No, it’s not. Procrastination is, because you get to avoid pain. So, of course, you know, avoiding pain is what we naturally want to do and procrastination is perfect at that.

But you know, there’s a point where you start to grow up a little bit and you say, you know what? The pain is gonna be bigger and it’s gonna be down the road. I’d rather have a little pain now and go do that workout than have to have heart surgery in 10 years. I would rather put my project that seems so pressing off for a little bit and spend time with my child, than have to restore that relationship five years from now. Procrastination hurts us and it pops up. It’s something that we naturally want to do. But as we get older and wiser a little bit, especially the wiser, you can get older without getting wiser.


Jim: Getting – that’s kind of naturally.

Kathi: But as you get wiser, you start to realize that while they pop up, I don’t have to lean into them.

Jim: Yeah.

Cheri: Well, and for me, I have started seeing so many areas of my life where perfectionism has impacted me that I didn’t realize. And it’s been both shocking, but I’m also very grateful for it. Kathi is aware, well, we’re in a group called the The Bad Moms Club, together.

Jim: The Bad Moms Club.

Cheri: We’ve been for about the last year and it’s because of just needing this kind of support that Kathi’s been talking about for our adult children, who’ve made choices that drive us a little crazy. Well, about a year and a half ago, I discovered a picture on Facebook of a young woman who – well, at first, I just thought it was – I actually thought it was guy who had massive tattoos all over. And I thought, “Wow!” And then I looked at the picture. It was my own daughter.

Jim: Oh, my.

Cheri: And I’m – the last time I’d seen her, she had no tattoos and…

Kathi: She was away at college and…

Cheri: Away at college.

Kathi: …she was on the college…

Cheri: And…

Kathi: …page.

Cheri: …and it – well, we weren’t talking about a butterfly on the ankle. We’re talking full – I learned the phrase, “full sleeve”…

Kathi: Full – yep.

Cheri: …from you know, talking with Kathi and friends. And I was able to realize that the reaction I was having was unhealthy and that I needed to process it. And I was able to go, “Okay, this is the perfectionism bully. Oh, this is the people-pleasing bully. I’m a pastor’s wife. What are the – what is everybody gonna think?” Okay, but that’s unhealthy and I was able to go, “Okay. I need to take these to God on a regular basis. I need to take these to friends.”

And as I’ve been working through this, I realized that my issue with her tattoos for me personally is not a moral issue. It’s prejudice. I grew up hearing phrases like, “Well, she’d be so pretty if she wasn’t so heavy.” And I grew up with phrases like, “Well, at least in our house we don’t.” And “Well, at least we don’t.” And God’s been taking me to places in my personal past, in my family history and doing cleaning up house. Because my level of concern over that is those external tattoos was so huge, I wasn’t asking her where her heart was. I wasn’t asking her – I – you know, I’ve had to have people tell me. I’ve actually been blogging about this, how to love your daughter when you hate her tattoos, ‘cause I figured I might as well go open with it and get as much input as I can. And people telling me, “Okay, there are people who see their body as a canvas.” Oh, well, I didn’t see it that way, but that was good for me to realize, ‘cause of course, in the ‘80s and the ‘70s, when I grew up, tattoos meant one thing. They seem to mean something else now. But they said, “Just talk to her. Can you talk to your own daughter and ask her about them?” And oh, you know? But if I had let perfectionism and people-pleasing really rule, it would’ve been, just keep it all closed; keep it hush-hush. Keep the – the jacket on, rather than realizing, I am battling with bullies, but I’m not gonna let them destroy my relationship with my daughter.

Jim: Well and it gets back to the point of looking at the log in your own eye…

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: …before you look at the speck. And I think…

Cheri: Yes.

Jim: …we’re losing that ability…

Cheri: Yeah.

Jim: …as believers. And you know, I’m just generalizing, I get that. But I think even in the cultural battles and other things, we’re becoming more pharisaical…

Cheri: Yeah.

Kathi: Mmhmm.

Jim: …if I could be so blunt. And it’s something we’ve gotta keep our mind – it’s like the bullies don’t stop just with you…

Kathi: No.

Jim: …they want to bully the collective Body of Christ.

Cheri: Oh yes, they’re after us all.

Kathi: Oh!

Jim: And they’re working on us all the time. Can I ask you to pray as we close for that woman who – and there’s probably many, but it will speak to a particular handful of people who are really in a dark place and they’re identifying with both of you and what you’ve shared with us. Pray for her right now.

Cheri: Jesus, right now for the woman who feels like she has tried harder and harder and harder, maybe than anybody else that she knows, and still can’t get anything right. For the woman who feels like she has failed too often, that there’s no chance that anybody else will work with her or that even You care. I just pray that You will give that peace that transcends all understanding, that You will wrap her in Your arms of love, that You will whisper to her how much You delight in her and that You have a spacious life for her.

Help Your voice to be the voice that she hears and takes into her heart until Your voice deafens anything else, that it deafens the voice of the bullies, the baggage from past relationships. Help her to feel Your love right now. We pray in Your name, amen.

Jim: Amen. Thank you for being with us.

Kathi: Thank you, Jim.

Cheri: Thanks, Jim. 


John: God delights in you, and I hope you’ve really heard that message today and sensed it in this conversation on Focus on the Family.

Jim: Let me add, if you’ve been touched deep in your soul by some aspect of what we’ve talked about and you have a – a serious burden and you don’t know where to go with that, please know that we have caring Christian counselors available on the team to give you that initial consultation and then refer you to someone in your local area.

John: Our number is 800-232-6459 – 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. And when you call, just ask to schedule a consultation with one of those caring Christian counselors.

Jim: And if you believe in what we’re doing with the counseling team and all the other resources that we are making available to folks to help them in their journey, in their growth with the Lord, we want to invite you into that relationship where you can be part of the ministry. And as we close out our budget year and prepare for next year’s budget, we’re a little down in revenue; so it is especially important for us to hear from you and if you can, become a monthly partner of the work here. To say thank you, we would love to send you a copy of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard as our way of saying thank you. Maybe you can’t be a monthly giver, but if you can give us a one-time gift, we’ll also send you a copy of the book to say thank you for being a part of the ministry and touching and changing lives in the name of Christ.

John: Contribute and get that book and a CD or download of this conversation at focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Well, join us again next time as we hear from a couple whose marriage was shattered by adultery, but redeemed by God.


Opal Erickson: That’s where I learned a new lesson about what God’s love really is. It isn’t just loving your neighbor – I thought I could do that pretty good – but I had to learn to really love my husband in a new way.

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Sara Hagerty, author of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet

Being Seen by God

Offering encouragement found in her book Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to be Noticed, Sara Hagerty describes how we can experience God in ordinary, everyday moments, and how we can find our identity in Him apart from what we do.

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Being the Hero Within You

Rodney Bullard, Vice President of Community Affairs at Chick-fil-A, encourages listeners to make a heroic impact on the world in an inspiring discussion based on his book, Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out.

RVL Discipleship: The Study

Want to read the Bible like never before?

Get your free episode from our new Bible study, RVL Discipleship: The Study, so you can understand the context of Scripture and hear Jesus’s words the way the first Disciples did.