The following is a blog from a facebook friend, Miguel Labrador . He is in Ecuador, “practicing what he preaches” about Kingdom Discipleship. He presents some very thought provoking ideas regarding the typical discipleship program. Enjoy. Check out his blog. Subscribe to it below! (used with permission: thanks Miguel)
This blog was born from a single post entitled “7 God-Directed Deviations in Disciple Making,” Almost 2 years ago. You can read that post, which was syndicated here. I would suggest that you read that post first to provide some context for this one. I laid out how a multi-generational discipleship culture, 4 generations at the time, had occurred within a year. This happened via movements away from accepted norms to what I called “God-Directed Deviations.” Recently, a respected brother, after a series of provocative posts, said “Hey Miguel, why not post on what works?”
He had a point. His comment struck a nerve and yet, at the same time, drove me back to my “shtick.” I had been focusing what didn’t “work.” The post I referenced earlier went viral and was picked up by various news syndicators. After having gone back to read it myself, I thought it might be a good idea to write a follow-up post. The first post and this one are not to be construed as listing programatic systems or closed ended models to be copied, but movements or open ended processes that have been identified and developed in our context. I’m convinced that these movements can work in any context.
Let’s take a look at 7 More God Directed Deviations in Discipleship:
From Drivers to Passengers – “If I can’t drive, I call shotgun!” Most have a tendency to want to drive. Disciple Making is not too different. Our tendency is to want to drive the vehicle. Hands in the eight and ten position, checking the rear view mirror, following the 3 second rule, and of course, controlling the vehicles sound system. We determine the direction, speed, and destination. Sometimes, our chauffeuristic inclinations get the best of us. Getting in the back seat, or moving from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s position seems to be a natural movement in biblical discipleship. Unfortunately the resistance to letting others take the wheel is ingrained in our old nature. Even if we “get it,” our tendency is still to be a back seat driver. So, in discipleship, take advantage of every opportunity to become a passenger in other’s journeys.
From Occupation to Obedience – By occupation, I mean the idea of letting the professionals do “their work.” You know those seminarians, pastors, elders, and other Church Folk. Any time we as disciple makers act in such a manner as to communicate the idea that there will be those coming after us to do “the follow-up,” those more qualified than ourselves, we discapacitate them. We tell them by our actions that the occupation of discipleship is relegated to someone else, someone more “professional.” We create an unnecessary dichotomy between evangelism and discipleship. “We were just here to get you into the Kingdom, others will come and tell you how to live in the Kingdom.” Every believer, in order to be obedient must teach others to obey all that Christ commanded which necessarily includes the command to make disciples. I always tell my gang, that if you only know one thing about Jesus, then teach that one thing. Use that one thing you know to bring someone else one step closer to Christ. This move from demystifying the occupation of Disciple Making and distinguishing it from the obedience of disciple making has been a key factor in our regional growth.
From What works, to Who works – Getting back to what inspired this post, my friend and respected fellow harvest worker, Justin Long, said “Hey Miguel! Why not post on “what works?” Justin’s short comment is double edged. On the one hand it reminds me not to be defined by what I’m against, to encourage others, to equip them for ministry, and to always speak the truth in love. But, on the other hand, Justin’s comment smacks of pragmatism. I don’t think he is a pragmatist, in fact, I know he’s not, but “what “works” for us is often determined by our own benchmarks, criteria, and unfortunately, numbers. We create our own disciple making success stories by defining what it means to be a successful disciple maker. I know that Justin avoids those things as much as I do, but the church’s propensity is towards conversion and salvation and drawing Kingdom lines in the sand. I think that part of why the Disciple Making Movement “works” here is because we’ve stressed the “One who works in you,” rather than “what works.” My desire to analyze trends, determine strategies, and bottle a system have always been met with frustration. Justin is gifted in that area. Sometimes, I feel that I am extremely inept at this whole disciple making thing. I pray it’s not a situation where God is using me in spite of myself. It’s when I feel this way, that I’m gently reminded by the Spirit’s still small voice, that “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 It’s when I let go of my desire to capture what works and duplicate it, that I’ve been able to freely and effectively communicate that idea to others and watch them run with it. I am consistently surprised by how effective the scattering seed concept can be. I would challenge you to stop chasing after “what works,” and simply abide in “The One Who Works.”
From Apologetics to Answering – I’ve been reminded recently, that we must “strive to answer the person behind the question.” I’ll take that one step further in saying that “We must answer the person behind the question with a person, the person of Jesus Christ.” A while ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “Apologetics is not about defending the faith.” I still believe that. In that post, I suggested and “defended,” that apologetics is about “giving reasons for the hope within us.” That article was read repeatedly and continues to be read. The simple proposition has the potential to unwind all artificially propped up apologetical systems. One of the most important concepts that has propelled the ongoing disciple making movements here in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador is the apologetical approach of “I don’t know, but let’s search for an answer together.” Rather than getting all beefy, apologetically speaking, and getting amped up on theological responses, the sincerity of the “I don’t know, lets search together,” deviation has actually caused Christ centered community in our midsts. Disciples making disciples is a natural outgrowth of this. Vulnerable transparency breeds Christ centered curiosity. Curiosity is more powerful when it happens in community. Christ wants to satiate our curiosity when it concerns Him.
From Systemization to Story – I love the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I love Systematic Theology. Many of you also love these “systems.” I’m always drawn to them. When it comes to disciple making though, I have to consistently push away from the desire to use them. I am not adamantly anti-institutional because there is “structure” within disciple making processes. I’ll cover that point more fully in the next paragraph. What I’ve realized, and seen, is that story has more of a disciple making impact than system. Theology can be transmitted through story. I am working on something called “The Catechizing through Story Project,” which is in it’s infancy stage, but when it comes to teaching through story, it has been much more effective in disciple making than marking off check boxes on a disciple making list. If you’re interested in joining in on the “Catechizing through Story Project,” click HERE
From Fabrication to Framework – Widget factories make widgets. Disciples should be Making Disciples. Problem is that many of our disciple making efforts yield something other than disciples of Jesus. The production or fabrication of disciple making materials far outweigh actual disciples. I understand the desire to corral disciple making methods into a unified and presentable whole, but I think that a “the wind blows where it wishes” approach is more suitable to effective disciple making. We have steered clear of fabrication and moved towards framing. It has becoming painfully clear that fabrication creates religion and hinders relationship. Providing all the requirements gives people something to attain rather than to operate within. The insert thumb and pull tab discipleship methods have done little to foster disciple making movements. A loose or elastic framework allows disciple makers to push the envelope, stretch the boundaries and ask “Lord, what does this mean, and what must I do.” We have sought to frame, guide, question, and provoke growing disciples into thinking with their renewing and transforming minds rather than providing the thoughts that others, and ourselves at times, think they should have.
From Orphanages to Organic Nurseries – I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like to visit orphans. It is, after all, part of what “true religion” consists of. Likewise, I’ve never heard anyone condemn an orphan for being an orphan. But, I’m always astounded by how easy it is for the church to make spiritual orphans in our discipleship methodology. We are sympathetic to orphans who have been institutionalized or “taken into the system,” but at the same time we are very industrious at making them and leaving them there. How do we make them? By thinking we can “get them saved” and leave the disciple making to someone else. I have personally seen and experienced the fruit of this sort of mentality. I have spoken with countless mission minded people who have come to a similar conclusion that there is rarely biblical “follow-up.” In fact, it’s better to assume that there will never be follow up, if you’re not doing it.
The Organic Nursery approach, a little less than a greenhouse, a little more than “the wild,” provides the optimum arena for a disciples growth until such a time as they are ready to foster their own nursery environments. Church Planting has not been our goal as we believe that these hot house organic nurseries will naturally produce gatherings of God’s people. We have encouraged gathering by way of “studies” in homes, various activities in community centers, Discipleship Groups, Life Transformation Groups, and other focal assemblies, and our goal is to continue to do so. If some of them look like what other’s consider “churches,” then so be it. We are not Anti-Church. One thing we know for sure. If we seek to plant churches, it will sometimes result in disciples of Jesus. If we seek to plant ourselves and the Gospel in communities, we will always get churches or gatherings of God’s people. Orphan producing discipleship produces more orphans. Organic nursery Discipleship seeks to create an environment of growth, fruit production, and more disciples.
This follow-up post comes on the heels of a continuing disciple making epoch here in the Cloud Forest Region of Ecuador. When I wrote the original post, we had exceeded 4 generations of disciples made. To put it another way, we saw disciples who had made disciples who had made disciples who had made disciples. Glory to God!
At the writing of this current post, we have passed 10 generations of disciples and we can no longer see the horizon. It’s a good thing. We’re not pushing the boundaries, we’re blurring them. Instead of asking my usual few questions, I will be happy to answer any of yours.
We invite you to come spend some time with us and see these deviations in action. Find out more by emailing us HERE.
Each of these 7 deviations will be expounded further in the coming months. Subscribe to this blog to receive those updates.