Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Asked and Answered

Great questions by Gordon MacDonald at Out of Ur about the lack of spiritually mature Christians.

He distinguishes between churchly and mature...

"Now mature, in my book does not mean the “churchly,” those who have mastered the vocabulary and the litany of church life, who come alive only when the church doors open. Rather, I have in mind those who walk through all the corridors of the larger life—the market-place, the home and community, the playing fields—and do it in such a way that, sooner or later, it is concluded that Jesus’ fingerprints are all over them."

While he is asking what is wrong in our discipleship process, he also makes an interesting statement...

"The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre."

Great answers from Alan Hirsch at Forgotten Ways on the process of discipleship...

"And this is exactly how Jesus does discipleship: he organizes it around mission. As soon as they are called He takes the disciples on an adventurous journey of mission, ministry, and learning. Straightaway are involved in proclaiming the Kingdom of God, serving the poor, healing, and casting out demons. And it is active and direct disciple-making in the context of mission.

If we accept that Jesus forms the primary pattern of disciple-making for the church, then we must say that discipleship is our core task. But if disciple-making lies at the heart of our commission then we must organize it around mission because mission is the catalyzing principle of discipleship. In Jesus they are inexorably linked."

The structure of church has become like a noose in the discipleship process. Rather than discipling and training for mission, it seems that the majority of training is for "ministry" which has come to mean service within the church system.

So many people clamor for positional ministry while at the same time missing the opportunity to be involved in the real service of ministry. It saddens me to hear of young men or women who cannot find mentors and elders in their lives, yet within the same community there is a line around the block for "leadership" training.

Unless the institutions of church divorce themselves from raising up volunteers for their programs and creating structures of importance and inclusion based upon participation in those programs, we will not see real maturity or discipleship.


Anonymous said...

"Unless the institutions of church divorce themselves from raising up volunteers for their programs and creating structures of importance and inclusion based upon participation in those programs, we will not see real maturity or discipleship."

This statement is huge. The cynic in me does not see this happening. It would require too many "leaders" to swim upstream against a very strong and swift current.

My own discipleship took (and is taking) place outside the institution. The discipling I do is taking place outside the institution. The missional life I am living and encouraging others to live is taking place outside the institution.

Can it happen within the institution? I hope so, but I wasn't willing to wait because the remaining task is just too great.

Until ALL Have Heard,


Paddy O said...

This subject hits home for me. I felt a tremendous absence of mentors my whole life. My parents were wise and spiritual, but other than them I never found anyone.

But my questions were too pressing so I sought my answers from older mentors, who wrote many centuries ago. The dead became my guides, a communion with saints that transcends time and space.

This learning now has provoked me to press on to become the kind of person that I needed, to search not for leaders but for those who are hidden, who sit under trees, or stand mending nets, or who have complicated questions that bar them from being leadership potential.

That's the thing about discipleship. It resonates with the broken and those who need God. Leadership resonates with the fixed and who feel they can project God. The Kingdom belongs, as Jesus said, to the former not the latter. The church has far too long been the province of the latter.

And the Kingdom has faded from present view.

Thoughts From Jeff said...

The last paragraph is what I liked as I continue with my series as well. We has a church must quit asking for so much volunteer help for it just being for the church.

We also an not equate spiritual growth and maturity by the number of programs they are in or how many ministries they are volunteered in.

Anonymous said...

Grace, thanks for asking the right questions and wrestling with it in front of us.

Jeff, check out Willow Creek's Reveal study. This is exactly what they have come to see as well.j

Anonymous said...

Grace, you know I agree to a large degree. What I fear though is that we will simply substitute doing "ministry" in the church for doing "ministry" outside the church.

Eventually, I expect the IC to notice that the EC is having some "success" in doing "community service"...so, guess what? We will trade the nursery for habitat. We will raise up volunteers for community service programs - admittedly a good step - but it leaves left unaddressed the key question...Why?

Why serve in the church or outside the church? What motivates and moves us as a body to serve? Is it just that Jesus said do it and we want to follow him...so that...we can have a better life or so that we can advance the Kingdom (are we ever told to do either?)?

Seems to me the motivation for service is so sorely lacking in the IC (and EC?).

Tia Lynn said...

How true that real maturity and discipleship is gained when we encounter Jesus in the least, the lost, and the last of this world. Too often we are more concerned about "looking" like a christian, learning the jargon, getting the bumper stickers, going to every church serive and meeting, etc. etc. and all the while we miss the everyday opportunities to touch the lives of those around us.

Linda said...

The cynic in me agrees with the cynic in you. ;) There so much vested interest in maintaining and growing the organization.

paddy o,
I loved your comment about becoming the kind of person you needed and your contrast of discipling out of brokenness rather than leading out of perceived strengths. The ways of the kingdom are truly upside down.

jeff and jonathan,
There is hope that the measurements of success will change within the institution also. It encourages me that there are leaders within who see the need for missional change.

I agree and think that it is so important that we have more than just a surface understanding of what being missional means. Being missional is not an add-on do-gooder program, but rather a way of thinking, seeing the world, and living in it that comes from our understanding of participating in (not advancing) the kingdom of God in the ordinary places of our lives.

Exactly, and I believe that is the point that Alan is making as far as discipleship. If we want to help others grow and mature, we teach them the life of mission, of meeting Jesus in the least as you said.

Unknown said...

thanks Grace, it is an interesting perspective and i am enjoying chewing on it! My struggle is that i can not make myself so quickly come to the same conclusion as your last para - i think it certainly will be the case for some, stunted growth but i also feel that there are plenty of christians in that sort of church that are showing plenty of maturity and living out their faith in ways that are more than just than mere churchianity.

I also see the converse as well which for me sees those who would apply the tag missional to themselves as having an equal risk of producing less than mature christians.

Hmmm but i guess what i am coming to is asking myself what is helping me mature as a christian? :)

Linda said...

I've been thinking about your comments and this post. I think that we have to be careful to not view discipleship as information transfer nor to view ministry as service to church programs.

The reason I believe that mission is important to the discipleship process is that it requires that we begin a lifestyle of learning obedience to the Spirit's direction in our activity and service in every area of our life, not necessarily in a "mission program" but instead in developing an understanding of the missional role we carry into every avenue of living.