Wednesday, October 10, 2012

206. The Role of Chemistry in a Discipling Relationship

In science, when two different chemicals come into contact, certain reactions occur based on the elements within those chemicals. The reaction can be good or bad depending on what you are trying to achieve. When we talk about chemistry in relationships, we are talking about a certain kind of reaction between people. We all know good chemistry when we experience it. You have a certain connection with someone that you do not have with other people. It could be personality, season of life, or some other factor. When good chemistry is there, you find yourself saying to yourself “I would enjoy spending more time around that person.”

So what does chemistry have to do with discipling relationships? Well, chemistry is actually one of the most critical ingredients to a successful discipling relationship. Discipleship is fundamentally about imitation. If this is true, then we are given our first clue as to what holds a discipling relationship together. Without a significant level of attraction between leader and follower, then a discipling relationship is not even likely to start. There has to be a positive reaction between leader and follower that makes them want to spend time around each other. They have to like each other and be open to each other.
You may be saying something like this to yourself right now: “That sounds right, but shouldn’t we be open to discipling everyone? It sounds like you are saying we should only disciple people we personally like. Doesn’t Jesus tell us to disciple everyone? Isn’t this chemistry thing a bit…well….selfish? Should this really be a part of the equation, or is this whole chemistry thing just an excuse not to engage people who are different from us?”
Well, this is a typical response, so let’s go a little deeper to substantiate the necessity of chemistry. Discipling relationships require frequent interactions. If the follower is going to imitate the life of the leader, then the follower has to have access to the leaders life. This means they will spend time with each other outside of the classroom, small groups, or bible studies. If there is not a significant amount of chemistry in the relationship, both people will experience relational fatigue. After fatigue sets in, then hanging out together in organic and spontaneous ways is not likely to happen.
Also, a discipling relationship is characterized by what we call invitation and challenge. If you already rub someone the wrong way (or if they rub you the wrong way), then imagine what introducing and ever increasing levels of challenge will do to that “rub” in the relationship. There will be some serious friction…otherwise known as conflict! Good chemistry is the permission structure that allows challenge to take place in a discipling relationship.
Jesus, as a wise leader and discipler, knew the critical role chemistry played in the discipling relationship. Notice what Mark says in his gospel about the criteria Jesus used when inviting the 12 to become apostles: ”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…” There are two things here worth noting.
1. Jesus had a preference for who he wanted to invite closer and invest his life into. We do not know what these preferences were, but those preferences were a determining factor in his method of choosing the 12. This runs counter to our notion of equality and treating everyone the same. The truth of the matter is, Jesus modeled for us the best possible way to choose people we will invest our life in.
2. 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 attractional force that holds voluntary relationships together.
Good chemistry is not always experienced the same way or at the same level between people. This can make the process of inviting people into a discipling relationship a bit tricky. A leader may not have a lot of chemistry with a potential follower, while that same potential follower may actually experience, on their end, a higher (sometimes unusually higher) level of chemistry with the potential leader. Chalk it up to charisma, gravitas, or whatever, but I think we have all had the experience of someone revealing to us that they really like us and we in turn think to ourselves “Really, because I thought you didn’t really like me at all.”
This can also happen from the leader’s perspective. They may think there is a high level of chemistry between them and another potential follower, when in actuality it is only the leader who is experiencing a positive reaction. Recognizing the various levels of chemistry that can exist between people helps us discern the potential for success in a discipling relationship. Consider the matrix below.

Flop happens when the leader over estimates the level of chemistry in the relationship and invites someone into a discipling 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 for the relationship to stay together. This kind of relationship typically happens when we take an overly mechanistic approach to discipling people. Discipling relationships do not form like signing up for a small group. It is an entirely different kind of relationship characterized by high commitment and high accountability. Without significant levels of chemistry the follower and the leader, in the long run, the relationship will be a flop. In most cases, it either does not last the course, or becomes a significant drag for both the leader, the follower and the rest of the group.  The only exception to this scenario is if the follower has a significant level of maturity in their life.
When neither the leader or the potential follower have significant levels of good chemistry, then a discipling relationship rarely forms. When neither person says to themselves “I think I might like to spend some more time around that person” then cause and effect typically keep this kind of discipling relationship from happening. However, there are times when people try to force this kind of relationship into a discipling format and it can be a disaster. Steer clear when chemistry is hovering close to nill.

Drop happens when someone experiences chemistry with you as a leader and is open to being discipled by you, but you do not share the same level of chemistry with them, or you simply do not recognize their openness to you. A good way to limit the number of opportunities that you 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 Thomas instead of …..Mathias? Jesus was sensitive to what the Father wanted to happen, and when it came to inviting people into discipling relationships, he spent a significant time observing the crowds, reflecting on his impressions, and discussing it with the Father.
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 reflection and discussion with the Father.
P.O.P. stands for Person of Peace and is taken from Jesus’ teaching in Luke 10. The basic definition of a Person of Peace is this: “You like them and they like You.” Stated positively,  peace is about harmony and synergy. Stated negatively, it can mean hostility or opposition. Jesus told the 72 in Luke 10 when he sent them out that when they came to a house they should say “Peace to you.” If a “person of peace” was there, they should stay at that house. What Jesus was essentially saying was this: A person of peace is someone who wants to hang out with you and invite you into their personal space. When you have a moderate to high level of chemistry with someone, this elevates the potential for relational capital to emerge and creates an environment in which a discipling relationship can flourish. If discipleship is about imitation, then the person of peace is somehow drawn to want to be around you. They demonstrate openness to you and may want to serve you and even follow you. This kind of relationship is teeming with potential for imitation, fruitfulness, and a lot of fun!.
I have experienced a FLOP and a DROP before, and each time, hind sight being 20/20, a good amount of observation, reflection, and discussion with the Father would have probably steered me into another course of action. As I mature in becoming a disciple maker, 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/follower.

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