Like I mentioned in last Thursday’s blog post, while I was in the jungle of Pucallpa I taught on information, imitation and innovation. In today’s post I’m going to focus on that last part, innovation.
What on earth am I talking about when I say innovation in regards to discipleship?
I’m certainly not talking about some kind of new method that’s never been done before, because discipleship is a pretty simple and age-old concept. It’s something simple enough with regard to understanding what it requires. Implementing it on the other hand, and getting involved in people’s messy lives in order to help mature them, well, that is sometimes much easier said than done.
I think a big reason people would rather preach instead of make disciples is because discipleship is MESSY.
— Steve Bremner (@StephenGBremner) September 26, 2013
Like I mentioned before, discipleship is something that’s better “caught than taught.”
Discipling won’t happen just from the transfer of information from the leader to the follower. Information is transferred in this manner, nothing more.
Same seed, different soil
I was recently reading Frank Viola’s book Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, and he said something very interesting I’m going to borrow for our purposes:
“In nature, there’s a flowering shrub called the bigleaf hydrangea. If you take the seed of that shrub and plant it in the soil of Indiana, it will yield pink flowers when it blooms. But if you take that same seed and plant it in the soil of Brazil or Poland, it will produce blue flowers. Even more interesting, if you take the same seed and plant it in another type of soil, it will yield purple flowers. The bigleaf hydrangea, however, will never produce thorns or thistles. It will never bear oranges or apples. And it will never grow tall like a pine tree. Why? Because these features are not within the DNA of the seed. In the same way, the church of Jesus Christ—when planted properly and left on its own without human control and institutional interference—will produce certain features by virtue of its DNA. Like the bigleaf hydrangea, the church may look different from culture to culture, but it will have the same basic expression wherever it’s allowed to flourish.”
If you take the imperishable seed of Christ and sow it into good soil, it will produce fruit. However, if you change the culture, obviously there will be different peripherals and cultural things added to the mix.
Likewise, if you break this down even further, a prophet won’t lead or make disciples the same way an apostle does; a prophetic disciple can receive info and imitate his or her apostolic father or other leader, and then create a discipling culture based on his prophetic giftedness.
This is the innovation stage of the process.
Not every child turns out like daddy
You might be able to plant and launch a missional community, and then people in your community who launch their own will do it differently. Just as a father may be able to have children with his wife and share his DNA with her and pass it on to his children, likewise when you’re letting your disciples have access to your life and imitate you, they will each turn out differently.
Let’s say a man has 5 children. Each of them will have his blood in them, but each one will grow up and probably seek out a different profession. Maybe one becomes a lawyer, one becomes a doctor, and another a preacher, and so on. They will all provide for their families in different manners, but very likely have similar characteristics. They will pick up a lot of things from their daddy in the imitation stage, but when they’re fully grown they inevitably will do things differently based on their own character and skills.
If I started a discipleship huddle with five individuals, and it consisted of a budding apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher and pastor, then each one of them will grow in different ways and produce their disciples differently. The evangelist will likely impart a burden for evangelism, while the pastor has a bent towards caring for the needs of his disciples in a different manner than say, the prophet.
I may not be apostolic, but I can help my disciple(s) who may have apostolic DNA and show by example my prayer life, how to do things, what kind of character I demonstrate when things don’t go as planned. We can spend time together informally and formally. Likewise when he matures spiritually, he can do the same thing with his disciples and teach them likewise.
Skills and spiritual gifts
A practical way this plays out in my life right now is our leader Mark doesn’t consider himself a good writer. His own words. I think he’s being hard on himself and could write just fine if he sat down and wrote a blog. At any rate, his wife Anna is clearly a gifted writer and blogger, and as well I’m trying to talk Shaun Wissmann into publishing Kindle books.
That all being said, Mark can encourage and fan into flame our writing gift by the way he gives us space to do so or constructive criticism of what we write, even if he himself doesn’t consider writing his own gift. Likewise you may be discipling people who are meant to be worship leaders, and there are ways you can give them opportunity to grow in their gifting and let them lead prayer and worship meetings, though you might not have the faintest clue how to play an instrument yourself. When I try playing piano or the keyboard, my left hand doesn’t know what my right hand is doing.
Writing is a part of how God made me, and may not be a “ministry gift”, but is definitely a gift the Lord has given me and is a key part of my ministry. I didn’t learn how to podcast in Bible college — in fact it didn’t even exist in the public vernacular back then. But yet these are tools and aspects of discipleship in which I do it differently than how it has been imitated for me.
I realize that my last few posts mostly centred around discipleship can give the idea that I’m trashing big church meetings and can send mixed messages that I’m all about organic church only. But I’m not. Large “mega churches” can mobilize many people and resources to do significant kingdom work in their community. However, effectively creating disciples on a personal level doesn’t happen in large settings where the only thing that happens is information transfer from pulpit to listener in the pew.
The other sides of the triangle in the diagram above are also needed.
Questions to Ponder
Who has access to your life? Can you spend more time in your schedule letting people, other than your own kids, imitate you?
Would anybody want to imitate you as you imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 4:15-17)?