Been reading Alan Hirsch's Handbook to The Forgotten Ways. There is a section in there on Apostolic Environments that talks about the "minimum discipleship standard." The idea is that you distill what discipleship is about into its separate components and then boil it down into short, memorable concepts and phrases that reflect the habits, practices and rhythms of what it means to follow Jesus. These concepts should be "sticky", or, be able to be easily passed along. I thought of this illustration as I contemplated this idea of distilling discipleship.
Think of someone looking into the sky and discovering the big dipper. Out of what seems to be random collections of stars, there appears a pattern or shape. The same thing happens when we look at what appears to be random stories, metaphors and commandments in scripture. We look at it long enough and we begin to notice patterns,shapes, themes and concepts. For example, look long enough in scripture and you will notice a common theme of love.
Then think of this star gazing person coming to you and sharing what they saw and experienced. They describe to you in a short, memorable way what the big dipper looks like and how to find it. Then, based on their description, you look up into the night sky to find it. Scripture is like the night sky, and we look into the story and pages of scripture and we see patterns or shapes of what Jesus is all about. Our task is to describe what we see in scripture, especially the life of Jesus, come up with a constellation of metaphors and concepts that describe who Jesus is and what he is about. This constellation then gives birth to habits, practices and rhythms that help us to be like him. Living into these habits is the process of discipleship.
Making disciples happens after we notice these beautiful patterns and shapes, and in turn try to come up with ways of helping other people, in short and memorable ways, see what we have seen. Imagine looking up into the sky with someone next to you and saying "Now look to the left a little, see the really bright one, now look to the right and up...." Making disciples is helping people see what we have seen and go through the process of distilling these shapes into visible habits and rhythms.
The goal of course is not to get it all right. If you remember the old days, sailors would learn the stars to help them get where they were going. We want to discover the shapes and patterns of Jesus and discipleship in scripture not as a end in and of itself, but as a means, or tool for us to find our way into becoming a new creation in Christ. Like the sailors of old, the journey is towards a new heaven and new earth. This is the destination!