What IS discipleship, really? Part 2

By Ben Hardman, gravityleadership.com

Last week, we covered that discipleship isn’t programs, and that discipleship starts and ends with people. In part 2 today, Ben unpacks 3 key ingredients for discipleship.

3 key ingredients for discipleship

We like Willard’s definition of a disciple: someone who is intentionally with Jesus to learn from Jesus how to be like Jesus in every aspect of his/her life.

But this never happens individualistically. It’s always in the context of community, and so our plan for discipleship must involve 3 key ingredients.

1. A person who invests

Jesus chose twelve people and poured into them for three years. He walked with them, journeyed with them and really knew them. It was a long process of investment into relationship. Up close, not from a distance.

When we over-identify discipleship with “programs,” it actually becomes a barrier to real relationships, because we think that “running the program” will do the job.

Great disciple-makers don’t simply lead a program or facilitate a curriculum, they participate in our lives. They teach us to live as Jesus lived in the context of what’s actually happening in our lives right now.

Discipleship requires that someone decides to invest their life into another.

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2. A participant who follows

The other side of this coin is that discipleship requires that someone decides to receive the investment. Someone decides to follow, to learn, to grow. To look toward a living example (not a perfect example) of what it looks like to live out faithfulness to Jesus.

This discipling relationship should never become coercive or controlling, because Jesus taught us that we are “not to be like that” (Matt 20:26). Instead, it becomes a relationship of mutuality and vulnerability.

Because we participate in one another’s lives, we see each other at our best and our worst. We become spiritual friends on a journey of discipleship together, but it starts when someone decides to follow.

3. A path that is discerned

The final ingredient needed is a path toward Christlikeness that is discerned (not pre-programmed ahead of time).

Rather than simply giving a list of goals to accomplish, hoping the result will be some kind of growth toward Christlikness, good disciple-makers help their disciples discern what God is doing in their lives. Then they can lead them in repenting and believing in those areas.

It’s not enough to just “read your Bible more, love your kids more, be a better spouse and try harder.” Discipleship has to involve actively discerning where God is working right now, and where he is leading so we can align our lives with his rule and reign.

People and programs

“Go and make disciples” was Jesus’ commission to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. This means we must have a relentless focus on people and whether or not they actually are becoming disciples (which also means learning to do everything he commanded!).

Yes, programs are necessary to organize our discipleship efforts, but I recognize that if I’m not careful about where I put my focus, my heart will often go the easy way of simply creating programs, because they seem more manageable. I build policies, parameters, and outcomes, and I’m done!

Actual people are messier. They disappoint you. You disappoint them. They can hurt you and walk away from you. And you’ll hurt them. But discipleship demands that we work with actual people, investing in them along a pathway of discipleship that we discern together. Even if it feels risky. Even if we get hurt.

What about you?

  • Where does your mind go when you hear Willard’s questions about discipleship?
  • Have you overemphasized the “programmatic” element of discipleship?
  • What would it look like for you to begin this week investing in a person, participating in their life and discerning a path of discipleship with them?

This article by Ben Hardman was reposted with permission from Gravity Leadership’s blog: gravityleadership.com/blog

Justice: Restoring Community Relationships

By Shannon Youell

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

This familiar verse from Jesus’ Big Sermon in Matthew 6 finds itself right after Jesus has broken down and reconstructed some preconceived thinking about kingdom, justice, righteousness and mercy.  After He helps reframe the hearers’ understanding of these things within God’s kingdom vision, He tells them not to worry about their life (worry causes humans to become self-preservationist, self-focused, self-ish), for God is already quite aware of human needs. Jesus’ reframing language leads to this phrase inverse 33 and implies a promise from Isaiah 9 of the coming King who will be called wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and will reign as Messiah, establishing God’s kingdom with justice and righteousness.

The Hebrew word for “justice” is tsedaqah, which means “the kind of justice that delivers from slavery and oppression and restores community relationships.”

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Justice is most often paired with righteousness in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for “righteousness” is misphat and means “the deliverance of justice that restores community relationships.”  The text note in Psalm 4:1 of the NIV says this: “often the righteousness of God in the OT refers to the faithfulness with which God acts. This faithfulness is in full accordance with his commitments to his people and with his status as divine King—to whom the powerless may look for protection, the oppressed for redress and the needy for help.”

The combination of justice and righteousness is a strong thread that winds through the story of God and his people. It is a foundational ethos of God’s kingdom citizens and ushers in the Abrahamic covenant and Jesus’ reiterated call to his followers. Therefore, justice and righteousness are aspects of the Gospel, the Good News that Jesus as Lord and Savior delivers to us and enlists us to, for the sake of the world that God so loves.

Matthew 6:33 reminds us that our struggles with individualism, consumerism, and materialism are, as the Justice Primer highlights, “all barriers to the kingdom; thus, all barriers to justice.”i These things keep our hearts paralyzed from participating fully in our call as followers of Jesus to be deliverers of the kind of justice and righteousness that restores community relationships: human to God and human to one another.

When we do justice, our hearts are aligned with the truth of the Gospel—which is that Christ died to make things right, to make them as they should be. Restored.  When we act, participating in God’s restorational justice, we begin to realize that this Gospel is bigger than any weekend service project.  We intuitively begin to move from a ministry of relief to a ministry of restoration, from a “service project” to a new way of living, from the heart of mercy to desire for true justice…Mercy offers compassion and relief.  Justice offers an advocate and action.ii

Tim Keller has written that “The Gospel…is not just about individual happiness and fulfillment. It is not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world. It is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew everything. Gospel-centered churches do not only urge individuals to be converted, but also to seek peace and justice in our cities and in our world.”iii

What does this search for justice look like for us, as we enter into this season of Advent that is abundantly marked with “goodwill towards all peoples?” Often this is the time of year where we engage in mercy-motivated projects. We think of children and families and those who are homeless or lonely. We long to see them enjoy the good things the celebration of the season espouses. My work at our local food bank often highlights for me how good and generous we are towards those who struggle. Sadly, it also highlights that goodwill often ends with the taking down of the decorations.

God calls us to reorient our lives around mercy and justice, around being healers of the world. This is not a project, but—as the Primer continually points out—a transformed heart that desires good news to be good news both now and into eternity for humanity. Jesus describes His followers as the “light of the world,” those who participate in acts of righteousness that deliver the kind of justice that reveals our Go: our God who loves the world He created so much He gave His son Jesus to usher in His kingdom where peace and justice prevail.

Hatmaker notes in Justice Primer:

  • True mercy changes judgment to humility
  • True mercy changes sympathy to action
  • True mercy changes our kingdom to God’s Kingdom
  • True mercy changes selfishness to selflessness
  • True mercy changes doubt to faithiv

As we engage our neighbourhoods and our communities this Advent season, may we be ever mindful of the thick Gospel that Jesus as Lord teaches. We ourselves discover our lives in Christ when we lay them down for the least of these.

May we discover together that when we give more to those who have need than we give to ourselves, not only for a season, but as a lifestyle, we engage more fully with a Gospel that changes not only those to whom we proclaim and demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy, but ourselves as well. May we be transformed to love God and love others more robustly and generously.

PS: There are plenty of great Advent resources for personal and corporate devotion out there. Check out our tribe’s Advent Devotional here, or sign up for daily readings from waiting in the margins: an advent reader from our friends at New Leaf Network.


 

i. Brandon Hatmaker, The Justice Primer (Missio Publishing: 2016): 83.

ii. Ibid: 75.

iii. Ibid: 42.

iv. Ibid: 58.

Refereeing in the Kingdom

By Joell Haugan

Thoughts spawned from David Fitch’s book Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines That Shape The Church For Mission.

David will be joining us in Banff in November, so we at Church Planting thought it would be a good idea to read something of his in advance.

Here is my reflection on the chapter regarding reconciliation.

What strikes me most about Fitch’s approach to reconciliation is the stress he places on presence (yah, I know, it’s in the title to the book). We in church ministry often get called on to help mediate situations and, more often than not, we end up being an arbitrator or judge. And, more often than not, we end up rendering a decision that offends one party or the other….or both!

Instead, Fitch shares, being faithfully present in the situation means coming together in the conflict not so as to render a verdict but to be present with the ones in conflict, and to be Spirit-led into finding the heart of Jesus in the matter.

That sounds like a lot of work. And it goes against the roll-up-our-sleeves-and-fix-it mentality that many of us have as pastors. But, actually, it sounds Biblical.

When I reflect on how Jesus managed his little church of 12, I see an amazing commitment to long term faithful presence. And, I wonder, how many times Jesus mediated conflicts with them (I’m sure they were many)? His faithful, long-term presence with them was what turned them into a band of brothers that set the world on fire. Mark 10 recounts the time there was jockeying for positions in the coming kingdom. A huge conflict arises and Jesus’ management style kicks in, as exemplified by the phrase “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” Conflict was defused. Disciples were left pondering and realizing that they needed to get their priorities sorted for the kingdom’s sake.

It also sounds like something that will not be possible when people in conflict walk in off the street. There needs to be relationship. There needs to be trust. There needs to be mutual submission between all the parties. And, actually, that mutual submission needs to start not with the conflicting parties, but with the leadership… the “referee” in this case.

Aside: wouldn’t it be nice if when an NHL fight breaks out the referee would sit with the two players in a private room (the “quiet room” for concussion protocols will probably be available) and have them enter into being present and attentive with each other and having the ref demonstrate mutual submission as they listen for discernment… oh, wait. Nevermind.

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It won’t work in the NHL, but it is the right way to approach conflict in the Christian Church League (CCL). Yes, sometimes folks aren’t going to allow for this kind of laborious process to bear fruit… but fruit we will bear if we bear with it. As we plant new churches and grow/refresh existing ones, learning to lean on God’s direction while we practice this faithful presence is going to bring about Kingdom relationships and Kingdom change.

It’s going to be cool. I may not like it because it cuts down on my ability to just walk in, speak from my own wisdom, and walk out to head back to my office and write blog posts. But, I think it’s the right thing….er….way to do.

Joell

PS. Here’s the 7 disciplines Fitch lists:

  • The Discipline of the Lord’s Table
  • The Discipline of Reconciliation
  • The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel
  • The Discipline of Being with the ‘Least of These’
  • The Discipline of Being with Children
  • The Discipline of the Fivefold Gifting
  • The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer

Summer Video Series 6: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Today’s video is another from Forge America. Brad Brisco: God’s Mission and the Places We Live, Work and Play is the longest of the resources we’ve made available here, because it actually includes a story of a group of people who’ve been contextually living out the stuff we’ve been talking about here on the blog.

God's Mission & The Places We Live, Work, & Play – Brad Brisco from Forge America on Vimeo.

We saw one example of how to live and work missionally. But what are some other ways we can be a light in the places we live, work, play, in our Canadian context?

Summer Video Series 5: Incarnational Evangelism

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

Forge America’s resources include several videos available online, one of which is Hugh Halter in our video for today, Incarnational Evangelism.

Incarnational Evangelism – Hugh Halter from Forge America on Vimeo.

Have you ever been in an uncomfortable or unsafe situation but knew that it was the place God wanted you to be to share His good news? Share your thoughts here or by emailing me: cmorgan@cbwc.ca

Summer Video Series 3: Living as Ekklesia

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

In today’s video, our very on Shannon Youell shares Living as Ekklesia, a call to consider the history of our language around the church and the ways in which we have exchanged Kingdom values for earthly values without even noticing.

Living as Ekklesia – Being the Church from Online Discipleship on Vimeo.

What do you have to add to the discussion on Ekklesia? In what ways do we as the church today need to change our perceptions and language?

Summer Video Series 2: Living With Intentionality

by Cailey Morgan

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Jayne Vanderstelt: Living With Intentionality, speaks to the reality that mission is not something that we add on to what we are already doing in our compartmentalized lives. Rather, mission happens when we respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, intentionally loving and serving those whom God puts in our path as we live lives that are visible and consistent.

Do you think the lifestyle Jayne presents is feasible? Why or why not?

Summer Video Series 1: The Church for Whom?

by Cailey Morgan

Shannon, Joell and I are thankful for so many resources that are available online for us as we seek to evoke and resources CBWC churches and members towards our shared mission of making disciples who make disciples.

At CBWC’s 2017 Gathering in Calgary, we were able to share several short videos we thought were particularly helpful for our context. Over the summer, we will be sharing those videos here on the blog in hopes of continuing the conversation, and hearing from you about these important topics.

Today’s video, Michael Frost: “The Church For Whom,” helps us consider who it is our churches are actually trying to reach. What sticks out to you? What do you need to do differently? What bugs you about Mike’s assessment of the church?

Post-Christendom and Bivocational Ministry

By Scott Hagley

Post-Christendom Ministry

Standing in the middle of a field in Burnaby, British Columbia, I could not help but smile. Hundreds of people from our neighborhood—new immigrants, families, elderly, young professionals— streamed into a park for the second annual “Inclusion Festival.” A youth band from a local music school played on a stage and a Peruvian dance troupe was the next act. Across the field, children worked on art projects, waited in line to jump in an inflatable castle, played games with the city parks staff, and tested their soccer skills against some coaches from a local camp. Increasingly, this is what pastoral ministry looks like in North America: finding a way to be present in the middle of one’s neighborhood in love and hope.

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The Inclusion Festival grew from the vision of a refugee claimant named Sofia. A married mother of two from Peru, she found government-sponsored housing in my neighborhood and began to make herself a vital part of the community. Occasionally, Sofia came to church functions. After a bullying incident in her daughter’s school, Sofia decided that our neighborhood needed a public event focused on the message of inclusion, hospitality, and acceptance.

The surprising success of the first Inclusion Festival drew public attention. City officials approached Sofia and offered a grant to establish the Inclusion Festival annually, with one catch: she needed to find a registered nonprofit to receive the funds and claim responsibility. Suddenly our church became the sponsoring organization for a community event that we did not plan or initiate, and one run by a non-member whose status in the country remained (at that time) uncertain. It was a mess. I like to lead. I have experience running and planning such events. But instead of leading, I found myself in a supportive role alongside Sofia.

She pulled together neighbors and created an experience that we (the church) could not. She blessed the neighborhood. And so did we . . . by supporting her. This, at least in part, is what post-Christendom ministry looks like.

Decline of Christianity in North America

We are all aware of surveys that report ambivalence toward religion generally and declining interest in Christianity specifically across North America. American Grace, by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, reports the rise of those claiming “none” for religious affiliation, while Christian Smith (Soul Searching) describes the Christian commitment of our young people as “moral therapeutic deism.” Sociology aside, we all likely know of a congregation that has closed, a church plant that has failed, or a church building turned into a beer hall. Post-Christendom describes (albeit imperfectly) this reality.

The Christian church in North America has lost significant power and influence. The fairly recent interest in “bivocational” ministry emerges as one solution. The reasoning usually follows: congregations have less money available for ministry staff and less energy for fundraising; congregations will survive if they have more financial flexibility; therefore we need pastors who are not solely dependent upon the church for income. It argues for bi-vocational ministry as a strategic element for congregational survival. But that argument misses the opportunity that bi-vocational ministry places within the congregation.

The North American church is not the only casualty of changing cultural meanings and social upheaval. Since (at least) the 1980s, observers have prophesied the loss of public life in America—declining civil society institutions, voluntarism, and civic practices crucial for democracy. We face a slate of social problems that seem intractable. Institutions as basic as government, school, law, and family are in various stages of upheaval. As Barbara Kellerman suggests, we seem to be facing a crisis in leadership (The End of Leadership); we have lost a collective faith not only in the pastoral leader, but also authorities in general. We must not lose sight of the fact that our congregational malaise participates in a broader cultural uncertainty.

Bi-vocational Ministry as an Opportunity

Here bi-vocational ministry becomes a Spirit-given opportunity for the church to discover the shape of mission and ministry in our dynamic era. Recently John McKnight and Peter Block have made the principles of Asset Based Community Development practically accessible in their book The Abundant Community. McKnight and Block suggest a gift-based localism, arguing that we will not build community and social trust/capital by consulting experts to solve societal problems. Rather, we will address a variety of social ills by focusing on the gifts already present in a neighborhood in order to cultivate local communities of shared gifts. Cities across North America have begun experimenting with this thesis.

The cry for abundant communities invites us to reconsider the ways that pastoral ministry might be gifted to the broader community. Bi-vocational ministry presents a distinct adaptive challenge to the church. It invites us to think more publicly about pastoral ministry, to imagine different possibilities for sharing life and funds. It is not simply “tentmaking” for the sake of making ends meet, but rather the practice of ministry for the well-being of the neighborhood.

Sofia’s invitation did not fit within the usual bounds of pastoral leadership. Her event was not one organized by the church, it did not promise to grow the church as “outreach,” and Sofia was not a member or in frequent attendance at the church. My work with the Inclusion Festival gave me the opportunity to be present in and with my neighborhood in an entirely different way. Consequently, our church community received an opportunity to participate in the sharing of gifts—Sofia’s vision, our volunteer base, city funds, a host of neighborhood organizations, and the sharing of a collective and public neighborhood event.

In a place described by several polls as Canada’s loneliest city, such an event and the sharing of such gifts certainly reflects some of God’s trustworthy character and work in the world. Perhaps, just perhaps, so-called bivocational ministry provides the push that we need to live in and with our neighborhoods in such a way that folks like Sofia and the gifts of our neighbors might be given fresh expression in the name and hope of Christ.

Dr. Scott Hagley is assistant professor of missiology at Pittsburgh Seminary and also works with the Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative and teaches in the MDiv Church Planting Emphasis program as well as the new Church Planting and Revitalization certificate program. He previously served as director of education at Forge Canada in Surrey, British Columbia, where he worked to develop curriculum for the formation of missional leaders in hubs across Canada.

This article first appeared on the Seminary’s blog. The Seminary offers multiple programs for those interesting in church planting including the Graduate Certificate in Church Planting and Revitalization, Master of Divinity with Church Planting Emphasis, and the Church Planting Initiative. Learn more about these programs online.

Missional Mindset in Everyday Spaces

By Cailey Morgan

While our homes and neighbourhoods should be seen as perhaps our primary mission field, we cannot forget the large amount of time that many of us spend away from home: at work, or in shared public spaces.

Second Place: Vocation
At first glance, there’s nothing epic about your workspace or office lunchroom. Forty hours a week standing behind your customer service counter or at the front of your classroom may not seem like the exhilarating adventure of a missionary. But it can be. God has put us where we are for a reason: to be His hands bringing kindness and mercy and His voice proclaiming justice and love.

“Theologically speaking, our vocation is not about economic exchange. It is not about making more money, or achieving the American dream. It is about contributing to and participating in God’s mission” (Tom Nelson, Work Matters).

As with anytime we want to join God in His good work, prayer is the ultimate tool for us to grow as missionaries in our workplaces. Here are a 3 simple practices to try:

  • The List: Write down 10 people you regularly interact with in the course of your workday (including those you may not like that much). Each day for a month, pray for a different person on this list. Ask God to give you His heart for that person, and ask Him what your role is in that person’s journey this month. Write down these conversations with God, and make sure to follow through on what He asks of you.
  • Constant Awareness: Choose a short phrase to repeat to God throughout the day as you engage various people and situations. It could be a question: “where are You at work here?” a declaration of intent: “I will speak the truth in love,” a statement about God: “the Lord is gracious and compassionate to all He has made!”  or a request: “Holy Spirit, please help me listen well to You and to others.”
  • Share It: Personally, I find that praying with others makes me more consistent and focused in my conversations with the Father. Ask a mentor, someone in your small group, or your spouse, to pray with you regularly for those in your workplace. There’s nothing better than the joy of sharing an answered prayer with a friend!

Third Place: Informal public spaces
In his book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg explains that informal public places where interpersonal ministry can flourish (also known as third spaces) have been minimized in our culture because urban sprawl, automobile culture, and home entertainment changed who we are and how we get our needs met. However, the trendy nature of coffeeshop culture and the emphasis on exercise for health in our society has provided some renewed opportunities to simply hang out and meet people!

Here are some of the benefits of third places, that should make us want to be intentional about spending our time there:

  • Third spaces are neutral ground—there’s not usually a single host.
  • They often act as a social leveler where all kinds of people can be found in the same place.
  • Conversation is often the main activity.

Think about your life. Do you have third places, like a coffee shop, park, gym or even grocery store that you frequent? If not, your first step is to consider why not, and one way you could alter your life routine to include regular times at a location like this.

If you do have regular third places in your life, have you considered the implications of your time there? What is your purpose? Can you add the goal of living incarnationally as Jesus did into these spaces? What hope can you bring? Where is there darkness that you can bring light? Who in those places needs to be listened to? Needs to hear your God-story?

Glow lightbulb

If we really are called to be salt—bringing preservation and drawing out the good aromas around us—and light—casting out the darkness and pointing to the hope of Jesus—then we need to get serious about seeing our every movement and moment in our lives’ routines as opportunities to live for the sake of others.

I pray that as we listen to God and to those around us, that He will guide each of you into His crucial and beautiful mission in the places you live, work, learn and play.

This is the final article in a series. Read the other posts here:

  1. Why, Oh Why?
  2. The Missionary Nature of God and His Church
  3. Incarnational Presence
  4. Space to be Truly Present
  5. Missional Margin
  6. Second and Third Spaces