Friday, September 29, 2006

FAQ: What's the deal with non-linear discipleship?

We have 2 basic goals at NCC: plug into a small group and plug into a ministry. We had over 75 groups during the Fall 2006 semester that allowed NCCers opportunities to get plugged into disciple-making relationships. Our small groups are great for helping people take the next step in their faith.

But last year, we began to talk about the need for a discipleship map of some sort. We felt like we needed to give people a little more guidance than just "get involved in a small group." A brand new believer in Christ doesn't necessarily need to be in a year-long inductive study on the book of Romans. And someone who has been following Christ for 30 years may not be challenged the most by reading Purpose Driven Life.

I had to answer 2 questions:
  • What do NCCers need to know and do?
  • What environments, processes and programs do we need to create to facilitate that learning and growing process?

I went into this process with 2 basic parameters. Number one, I did not want to develop a linear approach to discipleship. A lot of churches have discipleship strategies that are built on linear systems. You go to a Christianity 101 class. Then Discipleship 201. Then Leadership 301. I didn’t want a linear system like that because we don't feel that’s how most people grow. Most people do not grow in a systematic, linear way; rather, they learn what they need to learn when God connects them with the right people at the right time in the right place in the right circumstances. On a related note, I did not want to intentionally or unintentionally suggest that there was an “ending point.” All linear systems have some sort of endpoint, whether it is stated or not. And I did not want to indicate in any way that there was any sort of endpoint.

The second criteria is that I did not want a one-size-fits-all system. A lot of church discipleship programs that I participated in try to cram everyone into one type of system. I was told that I would grow if I did (fill in your own blank here). But I didn't always grow in those environments. Everyone is different. Some people grow best in one-on-one discipleship mentor relationships. Others grow best in community with a larger group. One way people grow is through experiences. A worship experience or a missions trip or a service project or a retreat may be a more powerful discipleship experience for some people. Personally, I like academic lecture/lab style discipleship. Give me a textbook and an assignment and I start growing—it’s not just an intellectual activity, it is discipleship for me. But the academic style is not the best discipleship environment for others. So I wanted to prayerfully develop a strategy that was built on a variety of discipleship methods. Our "free-market" approach to small groups already facilitated a wide variety of groups.

So what we have is a map. Not a set of step-by-step directions. But a guide and an invitation to exploration.

American poet William Stafford writes of people who “want a wilderness with a map.” I think that describes a lot of us. There is a yearning for the mystery, excitement, and adventure of stepping into the unknown. At the same time, that yearning for adventure is held in tension by a strong desire for a map to show us where to go. There is something in us that wants to see the destination. While the unknown is exciting, it is also unsettling.

This map does not have all the answers. It does not include everything we need to do or learn to be a disciple. And it doesn’t lay out all of the unexpected things that certainly lie in the path. But it does give NCCers a general idea of some ways they can go to take the next step in their spiritual journeys.

We don’t want to give people boxes to check off. Rather, we want to expose them to experiences that ignite their passion for God and then get out of their way. Finishing a process is not the goal. Being in the process of growing closer and closer to Christ is the goal. We want to give people opportunities to become fully devoted followers of Christ.

And with our map, there is terra incognita-- places of growth that we haven't yet discovered. That means more experimentation and exploration.


At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins" (Luke 5:37-38).
Power of wineskins with New Wine….
When two wineskins pray about something in the name of the Lord (in the will of the Father) it will be done. Continual prayer wineskins that are praying about the same thing are in the position of producing dramatic change. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16-17. The groaning positional reality of continual prayer for this makes this type of prayer very effective in growth.
If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21: 22 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:10-11 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls Matt 11:29 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 Pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire.1 Thessalonians 5:17-19
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
"Have[a] faith in God," Jesus answered. 23"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."[b] Mark 11: 22-24 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:15-17 (
15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. [a] And by him we cry, "Abba,[b] Father." 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-1726 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,* who* have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:26-29 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:19-21 If you will put your self in this in position you will experience abundant growth.


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