Wednesday, December 28, 2011

183. Discipleship and the Fivefold Ministry of APEST in Ephesians 4

In our book on APEST and the apostolic vocation entitled The Permanent Revolution, we discuss the different impulses that run through the various five fold ministries of APEST in Ephesians 4. An additional slant on the five fold that we did not include in the book is how the various APEST ministries tend to approach discipleship. Because the different APEST ministries embody and express the various components of Christ's ministry while here on earth, then we should expect to see the various five fold ministries emphasizing certain aspects of discipleship contained within Christ's discipling ministry.  They each value and demonstrate a particular facet of Jesus' work on earth, so it is only natural that their interest in discipleship will be shaped by their inherent values. In other words, discipleship is attractive to the various APEST ministries for different reasons. So here are my thoughts on how each of the five view and value discpleship.


Apostles, because they have an impulse for missional extension, see discipleship primarily as a mechanism for multiplication and leadership development. When you hear apostolic people talk about discipleship, it is typically from he angle of multiplying disciples and ensuring quality leadership to shoulder the movement. This particular feature of multiplication is undoubtedly front and center in the practice of making disciples. If discipleship is done well, then it will always lead to multiplication and leadership development.  This view of discipleship springs from the apostles values of reaching people in the most efficient and effective way. Multiplication from a movemental standpoint is far more effective than addition.


Prophets are looking to close the gap between how things are and how things should be. As such, discipleship is typically attractive to prophets if it is utilized to bring about tangible, concrete changes in the people and the status quo. Discipleship, then, for prophetic people is often a way to bring reformation and restoration to the people, places and power systems. Prophets value integrity and congruence between God's values and our values, between God's reality and our reality. If discipleship is cast in terms of bringing alignment between us and God, and therefore leading to a shaping and reforming of the present reality, then typically prophets are all in. However, the prophetic impulse is not necessarily concerned with the quantity of disciples so much as with the quality of disciples.


Evangelists, because they value conversion, see discipleship as a way to retain people who have been converted to Jesus. The evangelist is always looking to bring more people in, but if the quantity of people exceeds the quality of people in the community, then efforts to integrate people into the community will be undermined by issues related to maturity and selfishness. Most evangelistic leaders see discipleship as a way to get the community up to par in order to maximize retention and mobilize for outreach. Like the apostolic, they are looking typically focused on quantity, but they are typically not thinking in terms of multiplication, but rather addition.


Shepherds value nurturing and protecting.  As such, shepherds tend to view discipleship as a means for personal transformation and spiritual development. They find great joy in walking with people through a maturing process. Discipleship is attractive to shepherds because it provides a vehicle to stay close to the sheep and be in touch with their needs. This is why shepherds are often content with small group ministry functioning as a vehicle for discipleship.


Discipleship is attractive to teachers because it poses an opportunity for them to provide instruction and explanation to scriptural truths. Teachers are obsessed with learning and explaining things. Discipleship for a teacher is about rooting people in a biblical worldview and developing biblical literacy. There is typically not much emphasis on quantity either from a multiplication or an addition view point with teachers. They are concerned with quality understanding. If quantity comes into view, it is the quantity of people they get to "teach," which in their mind, is often equated with the act of discipleship. Jesus however, would beg to differ on this point I think.

So here is a summary table:

So which one is right? Well, as Alan talks about in his book The Forgotten Ways, the apostolic provides the optimal environment in which the other ministries can function. If we apply this to our discussion of discipleship, it is the concept of multiplication and the development of leaders that provides discipleship with the over arching field of meaning in which to organize and integrate the other features of discipleship. So mission once again comes to the fore as to how we understand the various aspects and features of Jesus' ministry expressed through the APEST ministries.

The emphasis of the teacher on biblical literacy and worldview finds its most fertile application when in the context of discipling people for multiplication. The emphasis of the shepherd on personal transformation finds its most optimal application when functioning within a broader, over arching mission to in turn allow that transformed life to influence other peoples lives. The prophetic emphasis on reformation and restoration finds its most potent force of change when wedded to the apostolic function of missional extension. Reformation without multiplication only amounts to revolution. Revolutions are short and die out when the leaders are removed. If discipleship can facilitate restoration, and restoration can be framed around the larger, more systemic function of multiplication, then the revolution could possibly become a permanent revolution, but not without the integration of the apostolic vocation and person, who, out of their own giftings, bring the issue of multiplication and leadership development front and center.

This is why the apostolic is said to be first, and foundational, in the church. Without the missional, extending focus on multiplication then discipleship will devolve into moralistic, informational, monastical, hermetical and local dimensions. That being said, if the apostolic impulse for multiplication functions autonomously and does not allow itself to be influenced and honed by the other giftings, it will take on a thoroughly mechanistic, utilitarian approach to discipleship that seeks to exploit human capital for the sake of achieving the mission. So while mission and multiplication should take priority among the other features of discipleship, it should not become the exclusive feature. Without the other five shaping the practice of discipleship, then it is hard to imagine how we can say that we are discipling people to look like Jesus. We need all five in order to demonstrate the fullness of Christ in the world. This is, after all, why the five gifts were given to the church, to re-present the full range of Christ's ministry in and through the body of Christ to the world.

Monday, December 19, 2011

182. Discipleship and the Person of Peace Part 5

As I reflect more and more on discipleship and the person of peace strategy (Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4), I keep coming back to the topic of chemistry. In previous posts, I have developed the importance of chemistry being a fundamental component of the discipling relationship. It is not only the permission structure that allows challenge to take place, it is also the magnetic structure that draws two people into a discipling relationship.

When we talk about chemistry, we are basically referring to a certain kind of reaction that takes place between people when they connect or interact. Just like certain chemicals set off certain reactions when mixed with certain other chemicals, there is a certain kind of "chemical" reaction that can take place when two people encounter each other and interact over a period of time. The nature of that reaction can be either good, bad or neutral depending on a combination of factors, like say personality, season in life, maturity, circumstances of meeting etc. Good chemistry means at least one of the persons experienced a good reaction from the encounter. There was a certain level of congruity and positive energy that reciprocated between them. A certain something that often times can not be explained, but you know it when you experience it. In short, there is a certain attraction between two people, and I am not talking physical.

So what is the nature of this attraction? If good chemistry is a positive reaction to another person, how does this work itself out in a discipling relationship? What is it that attracts us to someones life and makes us possibly want to be discipled by them? What is the nature of chemistry in a discipling relationship?

I would like to suggest two fundamental elements of a persons life that can attract us to want to imitate someone elses life: Character and Competence.

Character: being attracted to someones character means you want to "be who they are." That is, the quality of their walk with God, the depth of their spirituality, the consistency and integrity of their life makes you say to yourself, "I would love to be the kind of person they are." Imitating someones character essentially means imitating the pattern and disciplines of their life that have led them to be the person that they are.

Competence: being attracted to someones competence means you want to "do what they do." If they are a good speaker, you want to be a good speaker. If they are a good evangelist, you want to be a good evangelist. If they are a good discipler, you want to be a good discipler. Competence could also be in the areas of parenting and raising your kids. It could be centered around someone ability to remain sexually pure while being single, or something associated with life skills.

With these two fundamental elements of character and competence, I want to offer this "elemental table" in order to distill the nature of chemistry in a discipling relationship.

High Character/Low Competence: When someone is attracted to someone else primarily because of their character, I call this Personal chemistry. It is centered around who the person is. Their personal attributes, personality, or way of being. Discipleship, in this sense, starts from a really solid foundation. Character is the most difficult thing to develop. So when this is the primary attractor, you have got first things first. Developing competence will find its proper place in this kind of relationship. 

Low Character/Low Competence: I label this kind of chemistry as Casual. Although this is not the most desirable scenario, a productive discipling relationship can still take place if the person being discpled has a significant level of maturity.

Low Character/High Competence: I use the term "vocational" for this kind of chemistry because the attraction is based on the competence of the potential discipl-er in relation to a certain kind of task or field of practice. When we observe a level of competence or mastery in an area of someone life that we also want to develop competence in, if I do not allow jealousy or envy to get in the way, then I am naturally drawn to want to be around that person. 

A word of caution: If vocational chemistry is the initial foundation of the relationship, then the relationship can potentially turn consumeristic where one person seeks to extract all the goodies from the other person in order to achieve their own goals. Acquiring the skills and competency of discipl-er becomes the primary goal of the disciple, leaving the essential element of character out of the equation. Aristotle would call this a utilitarian relationship, which in the world of discipleship and imitation, means the relationship devoid of any character development. 

A word of curiosity: Is it possible that this is exactly what took place in the relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot ? Could Judas have primarily been attracted to the the competency of Jesus as a leader and miracle worker? Could this explain the seeming lack of character development in Judas over the 3 1/2 years he spent with Jesus? What if Jesus' ministry did not produce the kind of political results Judas was looking for? What if this disappointment led Judas to enter into another utilitarian relationship with the religous leaders? What if he, through what he thought was a clever plan, decided to somehow manipulate the accrued social capital from Jesus' ministry towards accomplishing his own political goals? Either way we understand Judas, it is quite obvious that his competence exceeded his character. Increasing competence without increasing character is a recipe for trouble for all involved. So we should proceed with caution when this kind of chemistry is a starting point for a discipling relationship. 

High Character/High Competence:  I call this "radical" chemistry because it is the most desirable form of chemistry and allows the most optimal level of imitation to take root between a disciple and a discipl-er. This kind of chemistry between people is rare indeed, but when it is present, the potential for kingdom breakthrough is really high. 

A word of curiosity: When we think about Jesus and the twelve apostles, it is interesting to note that they are all listed in pretty much the same way each time in the four gospels. There are three groups of four, and the first person in each group is always the same. 

Could it be that the first group consisting of Peter Andrew James and John had a "radical" chemistry with Jesus? What if the second group led by Phillip primarily had "personal" chemistry with Jesus. That is, they were primarily attracted to the Character of Jesus. What if the third group led by James son of Alpheus had high levels of "vocational" chemistry with Jesus? What if they were primarily attracted to Jesus' competence as a teacher, leader or prophet? Think about it, both Simon the zealot and Judas Iscariot potentially had competing agendas that would potentially draw them into a utilitarian posture with Jesus. In other words, out of all the twelve, these two guys are most known for being vulnerable to a utilitarian posture towards their relationship with Jesus. It is all conjecture, I know, but it is worth reflecting on. 

The challenge from thinking about the nature of chemistry is to look at the people who are attracted to you and are open to being discipled by you and ask yourself: is this person attracted to my character, competency, or both? If both, I would say they should take priority when you decide who to invite into your inner circle and invest most of your time with.  

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!