This post will link a handful of assumed concepts.
One is that our worldview is molded in the context of our community story or our culture. This article referenced by echoes from home and also by Jason Clarke talks about the difficulty of change and the need for a supporting community or a frame if individuals are to find change. The article emphasizes that change doesn't happen, even in life and death situations, unless this corporate life is created upon which to frame the change or learn a new lifestyle. In other words, change only happens through community. Lately, we have been making our way through the fact that the church is in need of a 21st Century Reformation. In other words, we the people of God must find a doorway to change if we are to recover a powerful witness in the West.
That being the said, let me share my expereince strenght and hope.
My life is simply going through a euphoric season of growth. After 20 years of being a passionate spirit-filled Christian, I am entering into a Christian practice and joy that I simply have never experienced. What has changed you may ask?
Let me give you a little background. If you have been reading this blog for long, you know that I constantly emphasize the need for changes in our Christian practice. I really believe we know enough of the bible but we lack a discipleship culture that leads us into the experience of the kingdom and of freedom that is our inheritance. I have contemplated “How to make disciples?” and I have been discipling Christians young and old through bible study and small groups for 15 years non-stop. I have lived in intentional community. I have attended cutting edge worship focused churches for years. I have been in conservative circles, Pentecostal circles, third wave circles, reformed circles. You name it I have enjoyed and prayed with the whole body of Christ.
Over the past 5 years, I have been contemplating the life of the disciples and their relationship with Jesus. I have come to the conclusion that the key to learning is to observe the life of another and to imitate and therefore, I have attempted to implement what I call “observation based discipleship” but it wasn’t until just recently that I have discovered a few keys to making the mentoring process work.
My renewal started when I asked myself a few basic questions:
1. If the job description of the church and the Christian is to make disciples then, who am I discipling? And who is discipling me? The sad answer to this question is that I am not effectively and consistently discipling anyone and being a pastor I am not being discipled by anyone. If this fact is true, and it is, then I am not doing my job. I am not getting the job done.
2. If discipleship is based on observation what areas of my life do I need to expose to a discipler and to anyone I am willing to disciple. The reality for me is that I think the discipleship relationship can be a mutual relationship of mutual observation of one another’s lives. The true break through was contemplating the areas that I as a leader need to expose.
True transparency, even in the context of a loving confidential friendship, was a fearful proposition. I am a pastor and are not pastors supposed to be “more mature” than most. But I know I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. My heart is filled with dead mans bones. But then it again hit me, we learn even the Spiritual truths of grace through the tactile context of grace filled relationships in the community of the church. Not only are skills like prayer and devotion or evangelism learned in community but spiritual truth like the grace of God are learned through the flesh and blood relationship of a no condemnation community. The forgiveness and grace of God is to be proclaimed to one another in the context of transparent confidential relationships. Confession in the context of a confidential discipleship relationship becomes the place of healing. So long the church has tried to teach people the love and grace of God by teaching contemplation and worship alone BUT the key is to model this grace and forgiveness in our relationships and specifically in our discipleship relationships.
So I have personally pressed into discipleship relationships. Though all these relationships are fundamentally peer relationships for we are all one in Christ, nonetheless, I have begun to cultivate such transparency with some spiritually “younger” than I and some spiritually “older” than I.
I have come to understand that the flip side of the doctrine of justification through faith is the practice of confidential transparent relationships where acceptance is assured and fear is driven out by unconditional love and the proclamation of forgiveness. Not only is the church to believe that there is no condemnation in Christ but the church is to become a “no condemnation zone”. It is in there discipleship relationships that we come in a tactile way to learn the grace and forgiveness of God proclaimed and experienced in the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Therefore my fourth Thesis is;
Since the job description of the church is to make disciples, a central aspect of community life must be loving discipleship relationships based on transparent accountability and which constitute a primary means, if not the primary means, of modeling authentic grace-based relationship.
A core aspect of the discipleship relationship is that of knowing and being known in the context of the living Christ and His word. Such relationships abide in an awareness of the Gospel of abiding and eternal forgiveness and the grace of God.