I just found another program
One of the things I’ve come to struggle with in the American church is the way I perceive we put shackles on the discipleship process by over-defining it (and often severely truncating it in the process). Discipleship comes to be associated with a list of programs that vary some from church to church or denomination to denomination. Usually the programs themselves are not the problem but the fact that they inaudibly communicate a powerful message that discipleship can be contained, boxed in.
This is one of the things that has drawn me to the “missional” and “organic” writers and thinkers of the last ten years (and as I’ve continued in the process, those who go back much further than that). Because there is usually not quite as much structure or control in the forms of church promoted in these ways of thinking I believed the discipleship process was fuller and deeper. I still think that is true to some extent, but I am also seeing the ways these movements box in discipleship just like the others–in function if not in form.
The practical outworkings of these movements have been things like Life Transformation Groups, villages, and greenhouses. (If you’re not familiar with all of these or think I’m talking about a place to grow plants, never fear, I think the point still comes through.) These are wonderful ideas that have advanced and are advancing the kingdom of God, but I have also seen people grab on to them and hold them as tightly as the four-year discipleship class, sermon-based small group, and Sunday school class.
As I’ve continued to struggle with how to make disciples, I’ve begun to think that we should be slow to think that we will produce one tool or structure that will be universally applicable. The tools and variety of structures are good to keep in mind, and to use, but which we use, how we use them, and when needs to be guided by the Holy Spirit. If I am intent on getting everyone in a Life Transformation Group I may miss the blowing of the Spirit’s wind in a group of four or five (too big for an LTG). If I’m set on getting everyone through a six-week course on the OT, I am likely to stifle the movement of the Spirit through his people to impact the community. I’m not saying these things are mutually exlusive, but that when we start with a form or program (however focused on God it might be) we start in the wrong place. The right place is to exhort everyone to approach the Holy Spirit, discipleship tools in hand, and ask him to move as he will in us.