Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thoughts on Discipleship

Discipleship, what is it? Many are talking about it, but many do not have a workable definition that eventually leads to a desired result, even I don’t! Wait, maybe I do…I “believe that we exist to walk with people, guiding them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, nurturing them towards a Christ-like maturity and equipping them for ministry to release them into the world.”

So a while back I threw open the idea that I wanted to make myself available to “do life” with a number of men from our community. So, here I am trying to meet with a number of individuals and find it incredibly difficult to connect, other than the internet!!!!!

Here are some of my thoughts and I would love to read some of yours.
(For some of you read CAREFULLY [that may mean s-l-o-w-l-y as well] before your respond)

I, and many other believers are following Jesus and living life as broken, fractured people – and by that I don’t mean that we are bad people; we are redeemed and we have a position, a new identity in Christ, so I’m not talking about walking in shame and guilt when I say that - but what I am saying is that we are still broken. We are not fully reclaimed. We are, thank God, redeemed, and there is a difference. But the process, or this theological concept is what we call sanctification and it is ongoing and lifelong.

So, in a nutshell I wonder if being a disciple of Jesus is messy? I know in Christianity we want things nice and neat and churchy, PERFECT almost like 'Shiny happy People' but hear me out! While following Jesus is a passion, following Him is a daily struggle, a daily commitment (Just drive the streets of Winnipeg). Even as a pastor, I think about my own life and how much further “down the road” I should be and I’m not. So, before you start criticizing those of us who take discipleship very seriously because we refuse to make it a program or a religious process or a set of rules, or a book where you fill in the blanks remember, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is messy.

It is wonderful. It is worth it. It is fascinating. It is a blessing. It is life changing. But at times we gain and then lose ground, we step forward and then fall back, we attempt to step over it and then sometimes we end up stepping in it. I wonder if the key here is not the process, but progress.

So, if you’ve made progress in your walk with God as a spiritual being then you’re a disciple, and you’re in the process that the theologians call sanctification. One day we will be fully restored to a glorious state. But today you feel like a mess, and if you feel like a mess, that is OK. OH, I said it!!!!!! Yes, even if you feel like a mess, there is someone who is there to walk with you…carry you…be with you…pray for you…encourage you…help you…listen to you… and the list goes on…sometimes all we have to do is just ask.


Karen said...

Maybe sometimes we feel like a mess because God is leading us through the process of brokenness. Maybe our lives get messed up when God targets those areas in our life where we have been relying on our own strength and he wants to break our will so we can fully submit to his.

Manetheren said...

Well, I've made progress in my walk with God, so obviously I'm a disciple. It sure is messy, though. Some days I spend more time face down in the mud than walking upwards on that narrow path. I also find it hard to ask for help - I fall victim to the lie that others are doing far better than I and obviously are too spiritually mature to have these kind of problems. We always have to remember that we are not alone in this battle.

kmawesome said...

thank you for saying it's okay to be a mess.
thank you for saying that even as a pastor you don't feel like you're where you should be.
it makes me feel better about where i am or rather am not.

i like the fact that you called it progress.
Paul calls life a race which is all about your progress.
i would venture to guess more of a marathon where for some people the point is to come in first place but for the majority it is just to finish or to beat their best time.

i would agree that it is messy and even those hand picked by Jesus screwed up prety badly, but the key is redemption and grace.
The Bible is full of examples of very imperfect people who were used by God in major ways and are still known about today
that fact gives me comfort when i realize i've screwed up again.

i think another important aspect to discipleship is being real, telling others that "yes i screw up i am imperfect, but i am trying, and you will screw up and be imperfect too and that's okay"
i think it is actually easier to respect someone and call them a mentor if you realize that they are a broken person too. everyone has their faults the problem comes in when we see someone as greater than ourselves and then they do something that knocks them off of that pedistal we have placed them on it can do more harm in the long run.

i think the approach to discipleship needs to be individualized so i agree that there is really no fill in the blank, cookie cutter way to do it since each person will respond to certain things in different ways.

and i know it's true becasue i have experienced it in many different ways with many peole who i have met or been put in contact with. However many times the hardest part is the first part, and that's to ask because it's hard to giver up the facade and to admit that you are so much further from perfect than you'd hoped to be.

i am thankful that i have a pastor that will be so open and honest and let down his facade to be real.
Thank you.

Paul Seburn said...

Hey instead of "I'm OK, you're OK" maybe we should be saying. "I'm a mess you're a mess"...but God so loves the whole mess.

Misty B said...

Years ago I read a book called Kitchen Table Wisdom. The author talks about how our society has lost the art of sitting at the kitchen table and sharing our lives together. We have reduced the question 'How are you?' to a salutation.

That book awoke something in me. Although it was not a Christian book I realized the importance of sharing our day-to-day lives with people who are committed to be at our kitchen table. I believe that awoke a desire for a deeper connection with others. I wanted that, needed it, and it was that desire for connection that brought me to church.

Our lives are messy and often we only sort things out by sharing our story. Also in sharing our story others find refuge and courage in their experience.

Lately I have found myself discipling through my blog and also by connecting with some of my friends. One friend in particular has been through a profound loss. As we have both shared our stories with each other she has found her feelings are normalized. I have found a deep sense of peace by knowing that my pain (which is not as sharp with recent loss) has been able to help someone else.

When I read your post it brought tears to my eyes. I needed the reminder that even though I am still messed up I can always point to God's movement in my life. It had been a rough week but it got better when I surrendered.

Patrick said...

I'm going to apologize up front, just so I can try and be honest and transparent about this topic. If you hear anger or bitterness, please know it's more pain and hurt. So at the risk of being messy . . .

"I know in Christianity we want things nice and neat and churchy . . ." For me, and where I'm at in my life and my walk, these words you wrote hit me right in the forehead as I read them. The question is why? Why do we want things to be neat and tidy in the Church? Life isn't like that, at least mine isn't and never has been. I don't know anyone who has a life like that, not anyone who is honest about themselves and their lives.

Doing life together has been a great concept and buzzword the last 10 yrs or so - but from a practical perspective, how many Churches have really been successful in it? To be fair, it's really not an easy thing to do. If - no when - things get messy, are Pastors, Elders and Church Leadership really trained on how to deal with it? How do we walk that wonderful razor edge in Church - where we stand in the crap a person has made of their life with them - and try to navigate them through it all with them without condoning sin or unhealthy lifestyle?

Honestly, I have a pretty messy life right now. Frankly I'm not sure if I'm the issue, or if I just haven't found the right local body. But it seems like unless I'm willing to pretend, and live a version of my life that keeps everyone comfortable . . . well then so much for "doing life together".

Sorry, but I feel hurt and burned. Not sure how many others there are like me at Soul, but I love what you're saying . . . however taking that step of trust seems impossible. Any suggestions?

Misty B said...

Patrick, I am sorry I just saw your post now...

First of all I have come in contact with many people at Soul who have been hurt for whatever reason at another church. In fact as soon as people started to open up in a particular group I was in I heard a similar theme in many of the participants sharing. They had been hurt by the church they had previously attended and were now just beginning to be able to try and reconnect -- slowly and carefully.

I too had been hurt at one time and on some level I still struggle with being part of a church. Yet I have found that it is worth the struggle. Really for me I could stand back and stay in the back corner (which I did for a year) or I could try and get back what I lost. Little by little I re-engaged.

I can tell you that I know I have changed a lot through the experience. I have learned to claim my own faith and have a much deeper understanding of what I believe and why. I have also been able to face a lot of stuff in my personal life that I wasn't able to before.

I don't know you. I only know what worked for me and that was finding one first step that seemed relatively safe. It didn't mean that I had to dive head first back into church and be there every day. I chose an area to serve that worked for me. I found that to be the beginning of my healing.


kmawesome said...

my life has been messy too. i had to learn to let people in and realize that my fear of judgement from them, shouldn't be an issue. if they think less of me then that's on them.
i agree with misty that it's about finding that safe place and that safe person.
and i see and know he dilemms of how to help without judging or condoning or enabling the behaviour. i have no answers because i still struggle with it myself.
i still keep people at a distance to avoid the possibility of pain but i have also found some safe people and through my involvement i have begun to find a few more.
sometimes helping others through their spots actually helps you help yourself through your own.

i think that's a huge part of discileship walking along wiht imperfect people while we ourselves are far from perfect.

i hope this helps in some way even if it's just to let you know you're not on your own.

Patrick said...

Misty and Kmawesome,

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. It actually is a good thing to know there are others out there in a similar place in their lives. Truth be told I imagine most people are in this place to varying degrees if they're honest with themselves.

There's a part of me that wants to sit back and watch what happens at Soul, and then pick holes in it. That way I can rationalize my unhealthy thinking, and then have peace about not getting involved. The thing is, anywhere I end up I'll be able to do that - and honestly I think that's what I've been doing the last couple of yrs.

Getting over myself and making some scary decisions is over due. :) Frankly, Soul seems like the kind of place to do that. I attend with my daughter and she's an amazing young woman, and she knows most of the stuff I have dealt with. So modeling some healthy behaviour for her, in this context, is pretty critical for me as a good Dad.