Wednesday, August 18, 2004

How Jesus did Discipleship? Go to the Gemba

This is a short section of a longer essay - enjoy - very important point

Where do you do discipleship? - Go to the Gemba!!!
Learning is at the Gemba not the Academy
The current Christian education system teaches church leaders and ministers as if they are mathematicians. Mathematics is the study of a system of abstract ideas and the relationships between these abstractions. So too theology is taught by teaching a series of ideas which are accepted as true, namely bible prepositional truth statements, and the good student is the one who can create a sound system that relates all of these abstract ideas together. The simple fact is that different church groups are distinct in the theological house they build out of all these ideas. The nature of the Greek debate is to discuss the logical relationship between generally accepted known truths and from these truths ascertain the answer to other questions. The brilliant student in the Greek educational system is the student who can create a robust system of ideas which can withstand the test of debate. All this activity takes place in the realm not of time and space but in the realm of static ideas or the mind. But discipleship and the lessons of discipleship are not learned in the mind or in the emotions or in the heart but, instead discipleship is learned in the realm of time and space.

In manufacturing, we have a saying, “go to the Gemba”. The Gemba is the place where the process is actually taking place and where observation and learning occurs. The phrase means that a group of engineers sitting in an office, talking and analyzing a problem, cannot discover any new learnings unless they first observe the process itself on the manufacturing floor. The phrase was developed from the observation that western engineers spend so much time in the office and so little time actually observing processes. To learn and discover the student must “go to the Gemba”. We “go to the Gemba” to observe and to learn. All real learning is at the Gemba. A greater example is the process of training in the manufacturing world. The expert machinist for example will teach the student how to run a machine. He shows the student over and over for often many weeks. Then the student tries. After the mentor and the student together have learned the best way to run the machine, they go in the classroom and write down what they have learned. They first learn at the Gemba and then they standardize the process in the classroom. This is a perfect analogy of how Jesus taught the disciples. First, Jesus lived by example. Then, he sent the disciples out and then they reflected on what they learned. Finally, at the end or near the end of their lives, the apostles wrote the Gospels and put all they had learned down on paper for all of history. The disciples learned from Jesus example, then they learned by doing and then they codified all that they had learned in the New Testament writings.

An Example:
I will use one more practical example to illustrate the difference between our old “living in the abstract” method of discipleship and discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus.

Just today I am aware of a couple which went to visit a pastor for help with their marriage.

Lets say for example, a man comes into our office. After some small talk, he gets to the point and says, “I am having a problem in my marriage. We are always arguing. We go round and round until I am drunk with anger. This is no way to live. I cannot take it anymore. Can you help me?” The pastor says, “I respect your honesty. Tell me more.”

The man proceeds to say how he gets home from work and is very tired. His wife usually is pretty tired too and the house is a bit of a mess. He is patient and even helps a little with the kids but he continues, “If I help too much she will say, ‘I can do that’. So the man will let her do the particular chore and he eventually is pushed out of helping. After dinner, he often falls asleep or watches TV.

And then he says, “And last night, I was watching TV and she was putting the kid to sleep in another room. She came in and I was asleep. She yells at me, ‘How come you never spend time with me?’ I guess I was relaxing for awhile but what am I supposed to do. Well, it turned into a knock out drag out fight. She says I think she isn’t pretty anymore. But I say that I am tired. The problem is this happens a lot. We just do not get along.”

The pastor is very wise and says, “You know I think my life is rather similar in terms of stress and my wife, when the kids were young, felt pretty bad about herself. During that time of our life we learned a few lessons. I learned edification. The bible says husbands need to build up our wives. I learned that my wife is very prone to feeling less than pretty. So I began to make it my job to build her up. I discovered she likes gifts and little tokens, so that I made it my job to build her up even when I was tired. What do you think would make your life feel better about herself?”

To this the man answered, “She likes to go out and be pampered. I think she likes time. I need to give her my time. Maybe we should start a date night.”

“That sounds like a good place to start. Why don’t you set up a date night for this weekend and set another appointment with me next week. I would like to hold you accountable for maybe a few months until the two of you get through this season of difficulty” said the pastor.

Seems like pretty good advice and counsel. It might even be helpful. Lets say that the two work at this accountability relationship for a year and the husband even reads a few good books and gets somewhat better. Not perfect but better.

Now by no means is that bad discipleship relatively speaking. It actually is pretty good in today’s church. I intentionally used what I believe to be probably the best method of discipleship used today, which is very intimate small group accountability. These groups come in all different types and the pastor meeting weekly with the husband and holding him accountable for following through on some new behavior is one form of accountability.

Lets analyze what the pastor did. He listened and then distilled the behavior that is needed down to a principle. Then he gave a learning task. Then they met the next week for follow-up. He explained. He instructed. He followed-up. Pretty close to learning by doing.

But this is not how Jesus would do it. !!!!!!!!!!!

How Jesus Would Do It!!
The proper method of discipleship is to invite this man over to your home. The disciple must observe how the mentor treats his wife if he is to learn. The discipleship method of Jesus requires the living of life together, and the primary method is observation and imitation of the teacher’s example. Then, after the disciple attempts to imitate and experiment with learning the new behavior, the teacher distills the lesson through explanation. Is this how we disciple in the church today? Is not this the obvious method of Jesus? Observation, imitation and explanation.
Notice that the method always begins with the modeling of kingdom living by the mentor and observation by the student. The call is to live with and learn the life of Jesus by observation. Thus, living the kingdom together is the primary activity of discipleship. I must admit I have only very rarely seen my pastor in his everyday life with his family, yet my main discipleship concern is in the realm of my family. Instead, we talk ideas. We seem to follow more the educational model of Socrates and Plato than the discipleship model of Jesus and Peter.
If anything comes from your reading of this treatise may it be that you and others come to consider our efforts to qualify as “discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus” only when we first model the desired behavior. Let me say it again. The proper answer to almost all our disciple-making needs is to say “come follow me”. Jesus said to the disciples “Come let me show you how to be a fisher of men and then I will make you fishers of men.” That is the call to discipleship. “Come and learn from me”. This phrase means learn from my example. Certainly there is a place for communication and the use of the abstract but the priority is Observe, Imitate and then Explain.

Observe Imitate and Explain – That is our method.

I want to focus your attention for a moment. Did you hear what I just said? The most foundational of all principles in this book just explained!!!! Listen:

But Jesus would not do it that way!!! The proper method of discipleship is to invite the man to your home.

This simple truth changes everything. It is understanding the nature of Jesus’ discipleship method that changes what it means to “do church” and “to be a Christian” and to be a “pastor” or leader. All the rules change when we change our method of learning.

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