Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Making Disciples of Jesus

After some delay, below is the plan that we're currently using as we re-launch Bow Down, a community in the inner-city of West Palm Beach, looking to become and make disciples of Jesus. Each item is in order of priority, more on that, and on each element, later:
  1. Workout Plan with Workout Partners. Our first and foremost shared activity will be some sort of spiritual "workout" plan with two or three other people. A workout can be virtually any plan--a set of spiritual and not-so-spiritual disciplines--chosen by the workout group. It's not rocket science, but neither is it too common, for a group of professing Christians to look honestly at Jesus and ponder, "What practices would lead me toward becoming like him?" A group of 2-4 folks just have to prayerfully ask that question and see what seems good to the Holy Spirit and to them, and then do it. A few points on this practice: ~ There is no official workout of the church; there are virtually an unlimited number of good options (some are already using a modified version of the 12 steps, or the Daily Office, for example). ~ Each group can determine the appropriate length of the workout plan ("until we've all finished the 12th step", or "for six months", etc.). ~ As each group comes to a close, we encourage each person to begin again the process of finding workout partners and a workout. ~ We recommend that each workout group plan on meeting or talking together at least once a week to give each person a couple of partners in their process of being Jesus' disciple. ~ Everyone should take time, before beginning a workout with a group, to think and pray about whether they are really ready to give the time required for a workout and to be in relationship with the partners, and what, in a broader sense, they think being Christ's disciple will require; ~ Finally, we encourage that every other weekly meeting of the workout partners be at one of the small groups:
  2. Small Groups. A few venues, meeting every other week, will be created where a few workout groups can all get together for a more typical small group meeting, where everyone can eat together with communion, sing together, pray for each other, and talk about what's going on. In this way, people can get exposure to some of the workouts that others are doing and get some meaningful connection with people within and outside of their workout group. One of the elders will facilitate each small group.
  3. Worship service. Our final shared practice is our worship service. This will be a service not significantly different from many evangelical/charismatic congregations, though we may be more urban in our music, give more time for testimonials, talk more about the process of discipleship, and be more plural in our teachers. On the teaching front, it is the express goal of those currently involved in teaching to bring others into the work as gifting and character allow.

As I mentioned, we're going to attempt to make the above practices a priority in the order listed. The main reason being that we think our chief job is make mature disciples of Jesus (and become such ourselves). We need more Christ-like people and families downtown. We have had many converts, but see few "little Christs." Like many of the monastic orders or even like many educational theorists, we don't think that a typical worship service, as the express or implied chief communal practice, is going to result in significant progress toward this end, though it can be helpful toward that end as a lower-tier activity. Each person must respond to the call of discipleship and take intentional, if not aggressive steps if they intend to actually be a disciple of Jesus who makes progress in the effort. At the weekly service and elsewhere, we will routinely announce Christ's invitation to be his apprentice and how we at Bow Down are structuring our response with workouts in micro-communities with the Holy Spirit. Responsibility must be taken by each disciple for what they are becoming, and the process must be undertaken together and with God's direct help.

In a nutshell, after asking what practices would lead us toward "Christ fully formed within", we have come up with the above plan of action. Your comments and feedback (even the "You're crazy and a heretic!" variety) are welcome.