Thursday, May 08, 2008

discipling today

Email from a pastor: I have been thinking quite a bit about discipleship in the church. The question that is in my mind is this. How do we do discipleship in the 21st century and in a missional context. I grew up as a Christian where discipleship was done in a formal group setring and it is all about how I should live a life that is opposite to the world. But I realise that if we are to resource people to be salt and light in the community, I would need to rethink discipleship and to look at how we can disciple people in the context of missions. I was interested in hearing about the preaching series you did at Opawa where you focused on behaviour and you gave out little information cards for people to reflect on and apply.

Can you help me in the following areas:

1. How should I do discipleship in the 21st century? (Do you know where I can get my hands on resources that helps me understand missional discipleship)

2. Could you tell me more about the preaching series you did? What were the
topics and could you send me the outlines of what you did and a set of those
information cards you gave out?

I thought there might be other’s interested, so have decided to post my email response, as follows …….

Excellent question. It’s a process/environment issue not a program issue, but that is not always helpful, so here are some concrete ways that we express our discipling:

1 – individuate with growth coaching – we have developed 1-1 whole of life coaching that allows us to start where people are at and walk alongside them relationally. It was joy to sit with our Growth coaches last nite and hear stories of lives changed. Lots of work has gone into this and a good place to start is here and follow the links.

2 – offer frameworks in regular weekly, evening block courses during term time eg Work/life balance, How to read Bible. These allow us to add concrete input into our seekers. So at the moment, we have quite a number of people new to the church, seeking God and bringing very little Bible knowledge. So short term courses allow foundations to be laid.

3 – shift from talk to walk, in our 7 practices of faith For more on this go here, for what is a mix of input, takeaway practices and return storytelling. It started life as a Lent series and we are now seeking to use them as a sort of introduction to discipling and membership, to give us a common vocab around a life lived Christianly.

4 – create accountable community in our God at work group – this might be a bit out there, but it is a process designed to focus people as salt and light in workplaces. It took a lot of foundation laying but the result is here . The group has been meeting now for over 18 months, quietly running themselves. They took our service on Sunday and it was magic to here them talk about God in their workplaces and the salt/light benefits gained by them meeting monthly around simple practices.

All this is the results of lots of trial and error. No formulaes or programmes, simply having a go.

Posted by steve at 03:17 PM


  1. Talking with a TSCF guy yesterday about this exact issue – the secret (if there is one) i think is breaking down the artificial split between what i do at church and what i do during the week – having an undivided life. I think for me one of the keys to is recognising that discipleship and evangelism are on the same continum – i try to discourage people about talking about evangelsing non christians but instead approach it in terms of discipleship – process rather than point of conversion.

    Comment by Michael — May 9, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  2. thanks steve – this is very helpful – nice to have some really practical examples – it is easy to think about this stuff and not actually do anything – actually i think that is what a lot of ‘oldstyle’ discipleship stuff was about – thinking and knowledge and headstuff and teaching and ‘training’ – rather than coaching and mentoring and walking and moving and actually really doing it in the context of our normal ordinary everyday lives

    Comment by julie — May 9, 2008 @ 10:57 am

  3. thanks for the comments.

    Michael – we work at the dualism between church and world with the God@work group, with the practices which are designed to be takeaway and storytell back ie they get grounded outside Sunday.

    Julie – ta for appreciative feedback. the danger of offering practical suggestions is that people turn them into a program. 40 days of ….. whatever. Yet equally, books that just have theory do, as you say, leave people in their heads and repeat the patterns of modernity – i think therefore i am.

    i was reading John 16 this morning and struck again about how Christian truth is for communities ie it is our communal hermeneutic that makes us people of the truth, not our books. too much emerging stuff is simply books and speaking tours. sorry, if that sounds harsh,- i’m a tad grumpy this week.


    Comment by steve — May 9, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  4. doesn’t sound grumpy at all – and what’s wrong with being grumpy occasionally anyway !?! – actually you have really hit the nail on the head with one of my absolute pet peeves – i am so sick of the big boy books and speaking tour brigade (especially those that are not really practitioners able to talk from their direct experience of struggling along together towards truth in community) – we have a wee gathering here in our neighbourhood (actually just brunch with our neighbours every saturday) – a real baby church, not even a ‘group’ yet in the sense of having a clearer Christian identity – but we are truly an emerging missional group – we have a story that we share with other wee groups like us – the number of groups is growing in surrounding neighbourhoods – what is happening is good and we have a small network of leaders that we are trying to gather together for support and encouragement – we are very organic and fluid and not too organised just yet – BUT, we suffer exclusion all the time because we are not the ‘real deal’ (ie we didn’t write a book or get asked to speak at an emerging church tour/seminar and are probably never likely to !) – i get pretty hacked off actually at how formal, big church marginalises what i think is us being, as you say, people of the truth – there are so many ways that we don’t count, because we are unpublished, disorganised, active, transformative and able to dialogue with others in a way that academic emergeheads just don’t seem to be able to give any credence to or appreciate as valid – now i am sounding grumpy eh?! but i am getting so tired of being treated like i an insignificant airhead because i think the actuality of doing is much more important – peace, j

    Comment by julie — May 10, 2008 @ 6:13 am

  5. Thanks steve its was good to be reminded about the God at work group which is similar to our preschool missional action group. It hghlighted to me the importance of narratives – if I can just think of something appropriate for the meeting I have this week 🙂

    Comment by jo wall — May 12, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  6. I meant to ask – does one of the group members have responsibility to choose the scripture passage for each month? I’d be interested in passages they had found useful

    Comment by jo wall — May 12, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  7. Jo, I dont’ go to the group (i’m a pastor and pastors know nothing about work). but in setting it up it was on a rotating basis ie 1 person brings a work situation; another a bible passage; another a workplace spirituality practice. after each there is a minute to be still and then a time to share what struck them,

    sort of like dwelling in word …. you know!!


    Comment by steve — May 22, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

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