What is most important when considering the disciple making process? What can we learn from the ways of Jesus? What we do know is this: He did not simply sit them down, provide them with loads of information in “the way” and then set them loose. He did invite them into a covenant relationship and challenge them to step deeper into the life that God had for each of them and their extended families. He modeled what it meant to be a disciple, trained them in the skills of living and leading a kingdom life, and gave them opportunities to experience it for themselves. He then sent them out to do everything he said and did. (Figure 1) Jesus moved from providing information, to giving them an imitable example to follow, to empowering them to innovate by applying the principals in their own context. We need to follow the same example as we invest in others.
There was a significant element of shared life evident in Jesus’ model of discipleship as well. It involved more than just a number of rhythmic, formal meetings. Jesus invited them into a shared life with himself. Yes, they sometimes met in more organized settings, where He gave instruction, cast vision, and allowed for the application of skills. However, at other times he interacted with them in more informal, or organic ways. We want to actively pursue the development of this culture of discipleship at Grace Gathering. Every discipling relationship should include an organized/formal element, where information is shared, discussed and where every disciple can be challenged with some new way of observing and living and leading towards a kingdom life. However, if we are to desire to disciple in the way of Jesus, our relationships must include some level of a shared-life as well. (Figure 2)
In a shared life we, EAT, PRAY, PLAY, SHARE resources, and do MISSION activity together. In modern American culture it’s difficult enough for many to practically envision doing these things with those INSIDE their immediate family, let alone with those outside the family. This is paradigm shift that we need to make to take the next step in discipling in the way of Jesus. It often helps by realizing that Jesus defined “family” as those who do the will of God. Thus we can open our definition of family to include those in whom we are investing towards doing the will of God. So, In what ways can we structure our personal and family rhythms to create opportunities that open our lives in these ways to include those in whom we are investing?
We can get a better picture of what this looks like practically by imaging a continuum (Figure 3).
The continuum stretches from low bar shared-life activities to high bar ones. Low bar activities could include grabbing a coffee together, going to the theater or sporting event together, send a text to encourage or let someone know you are praying for them, asking for prayer, loaning out a lawn tool, grill, coffee maker, etc, visiting a nursing home together, joinging one another to care for the lawn of a hurting or needy neighbor. These are simple ways to share life in meaningful ways. As you move right on the continuum you could think in terms of greater commitment or personal sacrifice, such as inviting them to a meal in your home on a weekly basis, making a shared purchase of a more expensive home appliance or vehicle, a vacation property, leading or serving with a mission community together or having someone move into your home. These are but a few pictures of shared-life. There are obviously an infinite number of ways to step into in a shared life in today’s world.
As this PROCESS moves us towards reaching the end GOAL of every disciple growing in living and leading like Jesus, we recognize several other key elements from the life of Jesus. These are the “DNA” we want to breath into every discipling relationship at Grace Gathering. Next week we will take a look at these “DNA.”