by Mike Breen
How do you make missional disciples?
Yes. The term â€œmissional discipleâ€ is redundant, isnâ€™t?! I wish we were in a world where when I say the word â€œdiscipleâ€, everyone understands that clearly means the word â€œmissionary.â€ But we donâ€™t. So to be clearâ€¦itâ€™s about makingÂ missional disciples.
So maybe youâ€™ve read the last two posts I did on â€œWhy the missional movement will failâ€ (Part 1Â andÂ Part 2). And perhaps you think Iâ€™ve made some good points and youâ€™d like to know THE HOW.Â How do we make missional disciples?Â Â I think if weâ€™re going to be serious about making missional disciples, it starts with us (clearly). We have to be discipling leaders. We need to invest in a small group of people (Iâ€™d suggest 4-10) who weâ€™ve made an invitation to for that kind of relationship. If weâ€™ve done thatâ€¦what will this discipling relationship need to produce the kind of fruit we see in scripture?
Why donâ€™t we start at the 10,000 foot level for this post.
In the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about the continuum of the ORGANIZED and the ORGANIC. Much of this has revolved around the book my friend Neil Cole wrote calledÂ Organic Church. From my viewpoint, as Iâ€™ve studied the scriptures and the great discipling movements (which, not coincidentally, would also be great missional movements) of the past 2000 years, Iâ€™ve noticed this continuum at work.
Rather than having aÂ commitmentÂ to either/or, I see a pattern of both/and. I saw that there was a formal, intentional, organized time that was committed to investment into the life of someone. It tends to happen at the same time, the same place, with the same people. There was a kind of discipleship formality to it. There was aÂ VEHICLEÂ that this happened with (for instance, John Wesley developed â€œclass meetingsâ€ as his vehicle of intentional discipleship).
However, this wasnâ€™t it. There is also aÂ commitmentÂ to the ORGANIC component as it relates to the discipling relationship. You donâ€™t just relate to the people youâ€™re discipling in the more formal time focused on discipleship and reflection. Itâ€™s not as if you arenâ€™t discipling people and showing them the ways of Jesus when itâ€™s â€œfocused discipleship time.â€ Itâ€™s always happening. You are asking them to be part of your life, a part of the life of your family. So your lives become intermingled together. Dinners. Parties. Work days. Grocery store trips. Mission. Worship services. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Funerals. (Imagine how the discipleship participated in the life of Jesusâ€¦thatâ€™s what weâ€™re talking about).
What we are really talking about is allowing the small number of people you are discipling to haveÂ ACCESS to your life that very few people getâ€¦the kind of access only the 12 had to the life of Jesus. You need a VEHICLE and you need people to have ACCESS to the life of the discipling leader. It must be both the organized and the organic.
This is whatâ€™s important to understand about the ORGANIZED and the ORGANIC: The invitation to someone youâ€™re discipling isnâ€™t to the vehicle. Itâ€™s not â€œHey, do you want to be part of my Small Group? Triad? Class meeting? Huddle?â€ (or whatever youâ€™re doing)Â The invitation is to your life. You are giving your life as something to be imitated, to do as Paul said, â€œImitate me as I imitate Christ.â€ That wordimitationÂ is used over and over again in the New Testament and itâ€™s not one we as Western Christians are terribly comfortable with.
But this invitation to discipleship, to our life, is essentially this: â€œI feel like the Lord is asking me to invest in you. And in the places you see in me that look like Jesus, copy those things. That things that donâ€™tâ€¦scrap them! Donâ€™t copy them.â€ Eventually theyâ€™ll be able to innovate the things in their own life they are imitating, but people need a starting point!
This begs an all-important question:Â If people imitated your life, would that be a good thing?
Do you have a life worth imitating? Would it be beneficial to have another 10 people like you running around? And thereâ€™s the rub, yes?
BUTâ€¦there is one other crucial component that is needed. Itâ€™s actually fascinating to see how this last piece plays out in the life of Jesus, the New Testament and every missional movement that has swept the known world in the past 2000 years. Each had anÂ agreed on discipling languageÂ that everyone used to shape their lives and the life of the community that embodied the teachings in scripture about life in the Kingdom of God. A few quick examples:
â€¢ Â Jesus and the early church: Short parables about life in the Kingdom of God
â€¢ Â Monastic missional movements: Rule of Life (think about the Benedictines with their 13 rules)
â€¢ Â John Wesley: Twenty-one questions for his class meetings (my favorite is the last question: â€œHave I lied in any of the answers in the previous questions?â€)
Having an agreed upon discipling language is one of those small, subtle things that makes all the difference in the world because almost every cultural anthropologist will tell you thatÂ language creates culture. The fact of the matter is that you have a culture in your church which means you have a shared language. But chances are itâ€™s by accident and that means thereâ€™s a high probability it isnâ€™t producing the culture youâ€™re hoping for so it will produce missional disciples.
What language does is allow a fluid and easy way of traversing between the ORGANIZED (vehicle) and the ORGANIC (access). Eventually, over time, this scriptural discipleship language shapes the way you think, behave, live. It transforms you and the community that is also shaping you because itâ€™s creating a culture. For me, Iâ€™ve spent the last 30 years of my life developing a language that would work in a post-Christian context, developing a vehicle calledÂ HuddleÂ that would deliver those more organized, formal discipling times. So how about you?
â€¢ Â Have you seen these things at work?
â€¢ Â What does your organized time look like?
â€¢ Â Are you being attentive to the organic times?
â€¢ Â Do people have access to your life?
â€¢ Â Do you have a dynamic discipling language, or is it happening by accident?
This blog post is part of a 6 week series related to the release of my new, re-written edition ofÂ Building a Discipling Culture: How to release a missional movement by discipling people like Jesus did,Â which shows how we made disciples in a truly post-Christian context. If youâ€™re interested in picking it up, clickÂ here.