Sunday, December 04, 2011

181. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 4

This week I am headed down to Montgomery Alabama to spend some time with a former church I used to work at. I keep in touch with their senior leader on a regular basis and have been sharing with them the breakthroughs we have had in the area of discipleship using the 3DM tools of Huddles and LifeShapes. The leaders of the church there have asked me to come down and do a presentation for them about those tools and the process of discipling people.

In previous posts on this topic of discipleship and the person of peace (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I have stressed the importance of chemistry in the discipling relationship. But what about getting the ball rolling at an existing church? What if not all the staff at a church have good chemistry? What if they like each other but don't necessarily say to themselves "I would really like to imitate the life of my co-worker?" Can discipleship take place if there is no attraction or chemistry between the staff and leaders of a church?

I would say yes, but there is only one thing that can buffer the lack of chemistry in a discipling relationship: MATURITY. When I say maturity, I mean the willingness to listen, learn and be challenged by another person even if you do not aspire to be like them in some way. Since a discipling relationship is based off of invitation and challenge, then without a significant level of maturity in the one being discipled, it will be really difficult for that person to receive challenge from someone they do not have a significant amount of chemistry with. However, if there is maturity in both the discipler and the one being discipled, then a discipling relationship can be sustained long enough for one person to model and transmit value to the other person.

Having said that, if discipleship is fundamentally about imitation, then we have to be realistic about what will actually be imitated as a result of this kind of relationship characterized by low chemistry and high maturity. If one of the leaders on a church staff invites other staff members into a discipling relationship with low levels of chemistry, we should be clear about what it is that is actually going to be imitated so as not to have any kind of false expectations on the other staff members or the one leading it.

In order to asses this properly, we first have to ask ourselves a question: What is it that we imitate when we are in a discipling relationship? I want to suggest four facets of a persons life that can potentially be imitated in a discipling relationship.

1. Their Pathway: This has to do with the trajectory of their life. It can encompass past and present, or just the present. In other words, imitating someones pathway means you want to have the same formative experiences as them, you want to walk the same path in life as they are, or have walked. The basic desire here is to become what they have become and do what they do. It has a sort of vocational quality to it. If they are a teacher, you want to be a teacher. If they are a counselor, you want to be a counselor. If they are an entrepreneur, you want to be an entrepreneur. If they are a basketball coach, you want to be a basketball coach. If they are an effective evangelist, you want to become an effective evangelist. If they are an effective speaker, you want to become an effective speaker. Think of kids who go to college to become youth ministers because their youth minister impacted them in a powerful way. Sometimes, those same kids get to college and figure out they do not want to be youth ministers, they just want to impact kids. Sometimes this is the first thing that attracts someone to imitating another person. It is the most observable from a distance, before you actually interact with them and get to know the kind of person they are. We are often attracted to imitate people who show competence in an area that we ourselves would like to develop competence.

2. Their Personhood: This has to do with the character of a person, but can also include the particular style and even mannerisms (including language) of a person. I not only want to be good at what someone else is good at, I want to be like them as a person. Something about their persona and way of being human is attractive to me. Think of a kid who wants to be like a famous skateboarder. They will sometimes dress, talk, and even speak like them. They will skate the same boards, trucks and wheels as them. They will buy the same shoes and listen to the same music as them. This is at the heart of being attracted to someones life and wanting to imitate it. Wanting to imitate someones competence leads us to imitate their character, or personhood as well.

However, notice I did not use the word "personality." We are all uniquely designed by God and should seek to develop that design in community without seeking shelter in someone elses personality or temperament as the point of reference for how I should be or interact with other people. Our identity is found in Christ and the unique way he has formed us, not in someone elses unique wiring or personality. Personhood has more to do with character than charisma, but will include charisma to a certain degree.

3. Their Pattern of Life: This refers to the way in which they live their life, their habits, their rhythm of life, their ways of living. Being open to imitating someones pattern of life is heightened if you do not already have a pattern or rhythm of life that is fruitful. The order and pace of life someone else lives becomes appealing when you begin to make the connection that the character and competencies the person you want to be like are somehow connected to the patterns and rhythms of life that they have adopted. Patterns of life produce certain outcomes, and if I want the same outcomes as someone else, I typically have to adopt a similar pattern in my own life. This is the beauty of discipleship! Built within it are the motivational elements that facilitate transformation. However, if those patterns are unhealthy, then some pretty toxic things can be transmitted.

4. Their Process for Being and Making Disciples: The process someone uses to disciple us is actually supposed to be a part of what is imitated. This is why the process we use to disciple people should be simple and reproducible. When it comes time for me to disciple someone else, I will typically look back on the ways I was discipled and use that as a point of reference for how I will disciple other people. (This is why some of us have such a difficult time discipling other people. We were never discipled can finish the thought.) Inherent within a process are the tools and methods used within that process that give it form, substance and utility. This means the format, the stories, the level of interaction, vulnerability, use of scripture...the essential process will be replicated and reproduced by those we disciple, and those that they disciple.

In a discipling relationship characterized by low chemistry and high maturity, not every facet of a persons life will be imitated. So what exactly gets imitated in a discipling relationship where there is not much chemistry, but a significant level of maturity? Well, true to my visual, analytically minded self, I came up with a diagram!!!! Yes, the diagram is here to save the day!!!!

Here is a brief explanation of this matrix.

Low Maturity/High Chemistry: If I am immature, but have high chemistry with the one discipling me, then I will most likely be open to imitating the entire spectrum of their life. The twelve apostles were most likely in this category when he first chose them to be with him. They were immature, but in the fashion of their modern day culture, following a rabbi meant you wanted to not only know what they knew, or even do what they did, you wanted to BE them. You too wanted to be a rabbi, but not just any rabbi, you wanted to be like YOUR rabbi. There was a vocational, as well as a personal aspiration going on there. So the Pathway component can definitely be a factor in this kind of relationship.

High Maturity/High Chemistry: The Pathway dimension is dropped at this phase because one of the definitions of maturity is living into your own calling and vocation. It may overlap with the one who is discipling you, but it may not. Even if you are an evangelist and you are discipled by another evangelist, you will still have a different trajectory to your life, a different calling within a calling per se. And because vocation carries with it a sense of identity, as we mature we move away from wanting to imitate someone else's vocation and live into our own unique calling from God. But if there is a good level of chemistry in the relationship, we will still be open to imitating their Personhood, Pattern of Life, and Process of Discipleship.

High Maturity/Low Chemistry: If things are lacking in the chemistry department, but their is a strong level of maturity, then a discipling relationship can still take place, but imitation will most likely center around the disciplers Pattern of Life and Process of Discipleship. In other words, they will learn to imitate the mechanics and methods of being and making disciples, but they will likely not draw much energy form the disciplers Personhood or Pathway. In one sense, this is more like a coaching relationship. Skills and competencies in using particular tools and processes are transferred, but it is a more formal relationship. Also, the patterns of life that the discipler is living out in their own life as a result of their understanding and obedience to the pattern of Jesus' life will also likely be integrated into the disciplee's life via invitation and challenge.

Low Maturity/Low Chemistry: As alluded to in a previous post, this is a recipe for PROBLEMS! I learned the hard way on this one, so take it from one who knows from experience.

So, when looking at introducing and integrating tools and processes for discipleship among a church staff, its possible to begin a discipling culture. However, it will not become a full blown culture until the nature of the discipling relationships experience an upgrade in the chemistry department. to supplement this deficit on the front end, I would suggest some intentional, explicit teaching on the role of chemistry in discipling so the discipling relationships and process will not devolve into another glorified small group centered around the transfer of information. Tools and processes need to be utilized properly, and in an optimal environment in order to be effective and efficient. Proper utilization is characterized by calibrating invitation and challenge, whereas the optimal environment is in a relationship where chemistry present.

So, in the end, it still comes back to chemistry, but maturity can get you through the first initial phase of implementation to get the ball rolling. As I like to say, sometimes you have to be a bricoleur and work with what you got!

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