Monday, December 10, 2007

Growing Up Christian

We looked yesterday at Mark 6-9 to discover any pattern in the way Jesus helps his followers grow in their relationship with him. These chapters in Mark focus on Jesus' disciples and their progress in coming to understand: 1) Who Jesus was, 2) What he was up to, and 3) How they were a part of it all. The word that, to me, best describes Jesus' method (if we can even call what he does with his disciples a "method)," is IMPROVISATION.

The word, improvise, comes from the word, improve. So it makes sense that improvisation is the means for improvement. That's one reason I like the idea of improv discipleship.

To review what we talked about Sunday, and hopefully to simplify it all, here is a quick definition of improv discipleship:

  • On-the-fly, talk-&-walk process. Learning to follow Jesus is not a lecture class, or university degree program, but an apprenticeship.

  • Individualized. The process of Christian growth is tied to progress, and the content for study is derived from the real needs of the growing disciple.

  • Just-in-time. Jesus did not dump the whole load of truth and expectation on his disciples all at once--they'd have never survived the weight! But he helped them, step by step, come to understand who he was, what he'd come to do, and how they would be a part of it all.

  • Repetition and flexibility. For the disciples, there were lessons that needed to be repeated several times, and even then they were not able to put it all together. The two mass meals of loaves and fish show that learning the lessons of following Jesus must often be repeated, and behavior must accompany knowledge.

Willow Creek Community Church, known for its seeker-driven methodology, has recently admitted that some of the programs they've used for spiritual growth have not worked. Bill Hybels, their founding pastor, said the following:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

(For more info about Willow Creek's study, see this blog post, Out of Ur. Before drawing conclusions about Willow Creek's seeker-driven ministry style, you may want to read their entire study and findings in the new book, Reveal. Also, the authors of Reveal have a website with the same name which prompts discussion of the issue of spiritual growth, discipleship, and church "programs." It's a very interesting site, with lots of info and material GCF may use in the future. Here's the site: REVEAL)

What do you think of the idea of improvisational discipleship? Let me know.

Next Sunday at GCF: Christmas Contagion--The Problem with Good News.

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