Saturday, October 22, 2011

177. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 2

When it comes to inviting people into a discipling relationship, if we look at Jesus in the gospel of Luke, we see Jesus moving through a process of:

1. Observation: Jesus observed people before he invited them closer, and people typically had time to observe him before they decided to follow him. 

2. Demonstration: Jesus demonstrated an area of mastery in areas other people were wanting to excel in. People demonstrated an openness to Jesus and his leadership before they were invited by Jesus into a discipling relationship. 

3. Invitation: There was a formal invitation to follow. There was a second formal invitation to the 12, constituting them as a sodality. 

Jesus did not have a cheat sheet when it came to inviting people to follow him, or selecting the 12 for that matter. He had to observe them, demonstrate his own capacity as a leader, and make formal invitations to those he wanted to invest in.  

We noticed in the last post that chemistry, among other factors, was one of the indicators as to whether or not someone should be invited into a discipling relationship (as well as sodalities.) So what about chemistry? Why would this be a part of the equation? Shouldn't we be open to discipling everyone? How can we make such distinction when it comes to obeying Jesus' command to make disciples? Isn't this whole chemistry thing a bit....well...selfish? Is the whole chemistry discussion an excuse not to love people who are different form us?

Chemistry is essential in a discipling relationship (and therefore sodalities) because in a discipling relationship, interaction will tend to be more intense and therefore will need to have higher levels of synergy in order for it to sustain that more concentrated interaction. If the person you are thinking about discipling is not open to you as a leader then it will be really hard to calibrate invitation and challenge (emphasis on the challenge part) in the relationship. If you already rub someone the wrong way (or if they rub you the wrong way), then imagine what introducing and ever increasing level of challenge will do to that "rub" in the relationship. There will be some serious friction...otherwise known as conflict!

Jesus, as a wise leader, knew what role chemistry played in the discipling relationship. Mark even says in his gospel "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach..." Even though Jesus is speaking only about the twelve here, we can extrapolate a general principle for the discipling relationship. Jesus invited people into a discipling relationship who had:

1. Openness to him as a leader
2. Chemistry with him

It is important to notice the difference between these two things. There is a difference between being open to a leader and having chemistry with the leader. The leader holds forth vision and values that set the center of gravity for a community to gather around. Someone can be open to your leadership based on the vision and values, but not necessarily have chemistry with you. No, chemistry is a personal thing. It goes beyond the vision and values of the leader. It goes to the level of cohesion between personalities.  This means you can lead people but not necessarily disciple them, but you can not disciple someone without leading them. 

If you noticed what Mark says, Jesus chose the twelve that they might "be with him." That means they would be around each other a lot! If there is no chemistry, then this can be a real problem....for both people involved, not to mention the rest of the group. Chemistry is the permission structure for challenge to take place in a discipling relationship. 

Yet discerning chemistry is not always so easy to identify or detect. It is not always mutually perceived by both people. This can make the process of inviting people into a discipling relationship a bit tricky. The leader may not have a lot of chemistry with one person, while that same person may actually experience, on their end, a higher (sometimes unusually higher) level of chemistry with the leader. Chalk it up to charisma, gravitas, or whatever. 

This can also happen on the leaders side of things where they think there is a high level of chemistry on both ends of the relationship, where in actuality, it is only on the leaders side. The other person could have virtually no chemistry with the leader at all. So how does this play out? What are the implications for discipling relationships when there are varying levels of chemistry in the relationship? I began thinking about this for about two or three weeks and came up with this diagram. 


Flop happens when someone is invited into a discipling relationship and the leader over estimates the chemistry in the relationship. If the potential follower is not open to the leader, and is not able to receive an ever increasing scale of invitation and challenge, it can make it quite challenging. In the long run, the relationship will be a flop. It will not be very effective at all. 


When neither the leader or the potential follower have any chemistry, then discipling rarely happens. There be may some transfer of information, but neither one of them necessarily says to themselves "I think I might like to spend some more time around that person."  Cause and effect typically keep this kind of discipling relationship from happening. 


Drop happens when someone is genuinely open to you and is open to being discipled by you, but you do not share the same level of chemistry, or you simply do not detect the chemistry on their end. A good way to limit the number of opportunities that we drop is to develop a routine of praying about people who are within your social reach. More often than not, we drop opportunities when we are not being sensitive to who the Lord is putting in our pathway. Sometimes someone may be open to you, but they may communicate it in ways that you don't recognize. Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before he selected the 12. There are obvious spiritual implications to this, but I can't help but wonder what kind of revelation he received during the night from the Father that maybe caused him to change course and select Andrew instead of .....Mathias? 

A word of caution: It typically requires a certain degree of maturity in the leader to effectively disciple people he does not have chemistry with. This has to be discerned, just like Jesus, in prayer and reflection. It also really helps if you have been able to observe them over time and they have demonstrated an openness to you as a leader.


The basic definition of a Person of Peace is this "You like them and they like You." When you have a moderate to high level of chemistry with someone, this elevates relational capital and creates an expansive domain in which a discipling relationship can flourish. If discipleship is about imitation, this person needs to be drawn to you as a leader, demonstrate an openness to you, and somehow signify they would like to spend more time with you. 

I have experienced a FLOP and a DROP before, and each time, hind sight 20/20, a good amount of observation (and revelation in prayer) would have probably steered me into another course of action. As I mature in becoming a disciple, I find that I am more keenly aware of where I am in relation to other people, and where they are in relation to me as a leader. 

So, has anyone else experienced a stop, drop or flop in your discipling relationships?


Jeff said...


This is a fantastic post! As I am thinking about it. I'm wondering if ignoring the potential flops and drops would be smart. Or if I should create a sort of inner three? Could this have been what Jesus did with Peter, James and John?

I will continue to think on this. Great stuff bro!


Planter said...

Hey Jeff,

Thanks for the feedback. Working through relationships and discerning who to invest in is definitely a challenge. I think you are right on with finding two to three people, make a formal invitation, and invest in them. You don't ignore the flop and drop. When you prioritize some, it will always, by default, peripheralize others. But we can not improve on how Jesus did it. He clearly had a select group he spent more time with. The flop and drop are still in the family, and are still invited to be on mission. Eventually, the 2-3 you disciple may be able to have chemistry with those on your periphery, and will be drawn into a discipling relationship with those you have disciples. So, if we disciple well, it is only a matter of time before everyone has the opportunity to be discipled. It starts with a few, but reaches the many.