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.

10 comments:

Kyle said...

T,

A few comments:

1. "Your crazy and a heretic!" j/k

2. These sound great! I'm particularly intrigued by the "Workout Plan and Partners." It will be interesting to (a) see what the groups decide on and how the exercises move them toward a rhythmic way of life and (b) how the Spirit transforms these exercises and gathering times into even more fruitful interactions and expressions.

3. Andrea and I will be coming to the Sunshine state in September to visit Andrea's mom who now lives in Jupiter. I'll most definitely have to hang out with you and the Bish.

Peace.

T said...

Kyle,

Thanks. It will be interesting. I hope this gives some more insight to what I was getting at in the last couple posts. Hopefully by entering and offering these practices and priorities (in word and deed), our community will actually become a community of disciples of Jesus, more like brothers within an order, rather than so focused on Sunday morning and its players.

The other "elders" and I have talked frankly that we'd feel better about how someone's doing and where they're headed if they were involved in a workout group and NOT attending the service than the other way around. This priority is important, I think.

I hope the church comes to have a little more of a mature Christian brotherhood feel and reality.

That's great that Andrea's mom is in Jupiter! Definitely give us the heads up on dates and we'll reserve some space on the calendar!

Jim said...

T,

Great stuff. I love the intentionality aspect and the simplicity of it. I have been working with a similar "workout" metaphor and process.

1. As far as the "what" they do in the workout groups, do you have something that gives a list of possibilities, or is it more wide open?

2. How do you connect a new person coming in, assuming they don't already have a relationship with someone?

3. I have gathered that you are a Dallas Willard fan, do you see the weekend services as playing a big part in the "V" (Vision) of the VIM method?

4. Is this an ongoing process, a big push a few times/year, both?

Great stuff. Thanks, Jim

T said...

Jim,

We're cut from the same cloth, I think.

As for your good questions:

1) We will have some examples to offer with some explanation of their strengths, but it is not an exhaustive list. From Benedict to Willard, there are many good choices and ideas, and groups are free to modify or combine them. After a while, people who have done various workouts can offer more insight about them to people considering a particular one.

2) We encourage folks to look within and without the church community for partners, but, also, we will be doing some version of the following during every worship service: (i) invite people to follow/trust Jesus, become his student & give some explanation of that; (ii) talk about how and why we pursue that through workouts & workout partners; (iii) point to some folks who can answer questions about both (maybe also make a pamphlet, we'll see); and (iii) either through lists or shows of hands, keep track of some folks looking for a workout partner or two. I'm sure we'll also encourage people to hang out, attend a small group, and ask questions. We'll likely make some references to AA about working the steps with others vs. alone, and frequently draw an analogy to making physical "workout" commitments alone vs. doing them with others. Big difference.

3) I am very grateful to God for Willard, and, yes, we will do that at the service, but I hope and imagine it will happen at all meetings to a degree and in various ways. I'm meeting with one of the elders tomorrow to plan out what and how we're going to teach for the next several weeks. Likely a great deal on discipleship and the kingdom of God.

4) Definitely an ongoing process, but likely both.

Jim said...

Thanks T. Yes, this stuff really resonates with me.

Here's a resource or two that may help you along or to at least dialogue with: 1) Three is Enough Groups http://www.3isenough.org/ is Todd Hunter's dreamchild (he was the National Director for the Vineyard once Wimber died).

2. The Church of the Savior's (Gordon Cosby) mission groups. These groups were something like what we Protestants might liken to an “order” in the Catholic Church. They were ALWAYS led by “lay” people and supported, empowered, equipped and applauded by Gordon who was never threatened by another persons gifts or calling; they were focused on the what COS calls “journey inward” (spiritual transformation), “journey outward” (taking on the agenda of the Kingdom as it’s ambassador) and journey into community (where one could find a loving, safe, supportive place to discover calling, mission, gifts, roles, etc.).

Here is the idea in summary:

1. Non-pastors start groups—call them anything, be creative—that are focused on:

a. Forming a safe, supportive community with a focus: B & C below

b. Giving a vision for and resources for spiritual transformation

c. Going on a journey to discover what God wants done in their sphere of influence (calling or mission or purpose, etc.) and then using one’s gifts, talents or skills to be the cooperative friends of Jesus with reference to what has been discovered as agenda of the Kingdom.

Thanks T, look forward to more dialogue.

T said...

Jim,

More shared influences! I'm a Vineyard man myself at heart, and have spoken to Todd on a couple of occasions--though I had no idea he had gotten back online, AND that he was doing something so similar to the workout groups! Thanks so much for the link! It'll be a big help for us I'm sure.

I'm also a fan of COS. What a church and what a story. I went to their SLS "Come & See" a couple years back with some friends, two of which are "elders" at Bow Down with me, at the heart of leading what I've posted. The exposure continues to shape us, as you can tell.

I'm really glad to see this kind of thing resonate with other folks, just as we're getting going with it here.

mark b. said...

T - It's been a long time! Too long.

Wonderful ideas and this all sounds really good. Just stumbled by tonight and its quite cool to see where you all are headed. This is the stuff that really matters.

Are you doing this in the context of a diverse group of folks? i.e. cultures/economics/ages? Just curious.

We're finally coming down your way in October and hope to see you.

T said...

Mark,

Very cool; it'll be great to see you! I hear you all are doing well.

Yes, there is substantial diversity of race, & economics, and at least some age, though there is more brotherhood to be developed accross those diversities.

Jim said...

T,

A Vineyard man? Very cool. John Wimber's teaching and example helped get me out of a state of intellectual pride after seminary.

If you haven't already, I would beg you to get your hands on anything by Bill Johnson and the church he leads in Redding, CA (www.ibethel.org). Many say of him that he carries the same DNA as Wimber. His message is the Kingdom of God, the members of his congregation are seeing so many miracles in their community that they have a full time staff member who is their "church historian" who does nothing but document the miracles (medical reports, etc.) taking place.

We've been listening and reading him for about a year and my wife and I personally are seeing more healings in the last year than all those combined in previous years--and I was raised in a Pentecostal church. We are seeing healings weekly now in the grocery store, parking lots, at a pool, in weekend services, etc.

I'd start with his book "When Heaven Invades Earth." I'm on about my fourth time through it.

Pat said...

T,

Your comment today at Jesuscreed on what spiritual formation is was AWESOME! Love it, and I'll be republishing that from my blog. I'm really interested in spiritual formation as it happens in community,a nd working on a doctoral program where that's a portion of my focus. i notice that you're linked to Winn's blog, and Winn's one of my professors.

I'd love to hear more about how you and your crew are practicing this!

email me - patloughery at gmail.com, or stop by my blog and let's keep talking!