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Discipleship

Half-Built Towers

April 5, 2013 | By | No Comments

While reading through Luke 14, I read verses 28-30 where Jesus is talking about discipleship and says:

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

How substantially different Jesus operates from how we opperate in Church today. I have so often looked forward to someone going from a nonbeliever to a believer, and as soon as they are ready, we ask questions like “Do you know you are a sinner in need of grace?” “Yes!” “Do you know Jesus died on the cross for sin?” “Yes!” The problem is, as David Platt points out, even the Devil could say yes to those questions. Jesus is challenging people away from making any sort of quick or emotional decision about following Jesus. Yet, we make the doorway in our culture to follow Jesus so wide and so shallow that I think so many have ‘made a decision’ to follow Jesus, yet lie in ruins. The great preacher John Stott has a great indictment about this:

John_StottThe Christian landscape is strewn with the wreckage of derelict half-built towers. The ruins of those who began to build and were unable to finish. For thousands of people still ignore Christ’s warning and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so called nominal Christianity. In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent but thin veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved, enough to be respectable. Their religion is a great soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism. – John Stott

Incarnational Over Missional

November 9, 2011 | By | No Comments

Let’s so how many trendy Christian buzzwords we can use at one time, right? But seriously, I think there needs to be an important distinction. Look, I am all for ‘missional’ as a movement, thought, priority, but there needs to be some caution. Missional is what we ‘do.’ We are a sent people, but if our identity and checkmark is the ‘do,’ then I think we missed the point. Discipleship is about who we ARE, which in turn births what we DO.

In our discipleship at Resonate we focus a lot on who we ARE and what Scripture will tell us about our identity in light of the Gospel. Through resources like The Gospel Centered Life, we focus on identity, which in turn leads to action. For example, who we are in Christ is a people who have been blessed, not because we earned blessing but that it was given to us while we were still sinners. But that blessing was never meant to end on us… we were blessed to be a blessing, so therefore our identity as ‘blessed’ people in Christ is meant for action. The struggle is for people to see themselves often as truly blessed, but our identity in Christ is people who have been LAVISHLY blessed.

If we start basing our discipleship on what we DO, instead of a growing understanding of who we ARE, then we’ve missed the point. Trust me, I am heavily about the doing, but I think its a marker and fruit of a further understand of who we are. So, how do we make the move from focusing so much on missional to incarnational (that spurs the mission). Out at Soma Communities in Washington, they have come up with the concept of Rhythms which I think is incredibly helpful. Instead of looking at doing in terms of tasks, they look at doing in terms of lifestyle and living. Over the next few weeks, we’ll unpack some of these, but here’s a brief overview of the six Rhythms:

Story-formed

We understand, experience and intersect with God’s Story and Other’s.

God has been unfolding his Story since before time began. We believe we are participants in the Story and need to understand it and see how our lives intersect with it. Therefore, we regularly reacquaint ourselves with the Story by interacting with God’s Word. We look for ways and times to tell the Story often. We also take time to listen to others stories and help them find their lives within God’s Story. (Genesis 1:1-2; John 1:1; Psalm 1; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Listen

We set aside regular times to listen to God both backward and forward.

Jesus listened to God in prayer to know his Father’s will. We are also called to listen to God. We listen ‘backward’ by regularly interacting with God’s Word-the Story and the Son. We also believe he speaks today through his Spirit in us and through creation. We spend time actively listening ‘forward’ to hear what God is saying to us today. (Mark 1:35-37; John 16:7-15; Hebrews 1:1-3; Romans 1:20)

Celebrate

We gather together to celebrate God’s extravagant blessings.

God calls people to regularly celebrate his goodness and grace. We gather weekly in missional communities and regularly as a larger family, to share stories and celebrate all that God is doing in and amongst us. We invite everyone to these celebrations as a way of displaying God’s glory. (Leviticus 23; Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-25)

Bless

We intentionally bless others through words, gifts or actions.

God desires that all nations—all people—would be blessed through Jesus. And now, as his Body (soma), we believe we live out this mission as we bless others. We intentionally seek God’s direction for who he would have us tangibly bless each week. (Genesis 12:1-3; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:8-10; 1 Peter 2:12)

Eat

We regularly eat meals with others to invite them into the community of God.

Meals are a daily reminder of our common need for God and his faithfulness to provide both physically and spiritually. Jesus called us to remember him and his sacrifice for us through a meal. When we eat together, we commune around this truth. We regularly eat meals with those not in our immediate family or circle of close friends, discipling them toward a life of dependence on God. (Leviticus 23; Matthew 6:11; 26:17-30; Acts 2:46-47; Romans 12:13)

ReCreate

We take time to rest, play, create and restore beauty in ways that reflect God to others.

After powerfully and joyfully creating the universe, God rested. We were created in his image and therefore were made to joyfully create and rest as well. We regularly take time to rest, play, create and restore beauty in ways that reflect what God is like to our community. (Genesis 1:1-2:3; Deuteronomy 5:12; Mark 2:23-28; Hebrews 4)

Why We Won’t Have Small Groups (pt 2)

September 12, 2011 | By | No Comments

Hopefully you got the chance to read Part 1 of this series.

After much discussion with others about what community can and should look like within the context of going and making disciples of all nations, we are aiming towards a four level way of looking at relationships and community at Resonate. This is largely based upon Jesus’ model of relationships, from a 2-4 person model of intimate relationship (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; John 21:20; John 21:15; Matthew 26:37), the 12 person model as with the Disciples, the 12 plus witnesses larger context (Luke 20:45; Mark 3:7; Matthew 5:1; John 13:35; Acts 2:47) as well as larger church-wide gathering (Acts 19:39; Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:46; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2)

It will be HIGHLY important to remind you of two things before you read through all this:

1. Relationship and Community is HIGHLY organic. That is to say that its not easy to program relationships, growth, dynamics, and people’s spiritual journey. Sometimes relationships form very naturally, sometimes they need to be developed very intentionally. Some people have a knack for community, some people are more closed off and it requires more work to learn to trust. Either way, the constant preaching of the Gospel addresses all our deficiencies as broken, relational beings, and helps remind us of our sin and need for God to be center in relationship. All that being said, we can provide a trellis for which the relationship vine can grow, allowing structure for something that will grow organically.

2. This requires intense leadership and discipleship of a few key individuals. Community that continually grows and focuses on discipleship does not form just by putting people in a room together. At Resonate, we train, admonish, teach, develop, grow, disciple, encourage, and equip a few leaders to provide structure, vision, and leadership to our larger communities. This HAS to happen, otherwise you end up with small groups that gather, sometimes talk about Jesus, and really do not show any signs of disciple making disciples.

Four Levels of Community at Resonate 

Relational – LifeTogether

As I have found in my experience, even within the traditional ‘small group’ model, there are often just 2-4 people that I may TRULY do life with. They were the people that I spent any considerable time outside of ‘small group’ with, who knew me well, consistently had dinners with, etc. They are almost always same sex relationships, often groups of about 2-4 men or 2-4 women who develop a framework for confession, accountability, encouragement, prayer, and support. An even small community that allows very high levels of vulnerability. LifeTogether RARELY has to be “programmed,” because most people often develop or connect with 2-3 close friends. It is simply looking at these relationship with the lens of discipleship and the Gospel.

Communal – LifeGroups

The traditional small group model was birthed out of a good place, that is… Jesus’ model of intimate relationships. Jesus chose twelve men to follow him around, to go deep in spiritual development, and to be His disciples. In relationships of about twelve we develop dynamics including conflict, refinement, and bearing with one another in love that may not happen among the the smaller LifeTogether relationships. In these groups, there is an ability to walk together through spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, study of Scripture, fasting, and accountability. This also provides a context to plan, develop, and implement the larger LifeGatherings below, as well as pray, equip, and remind each other of the mission to make disciples. Most LifeGroups will meet 3-4 times a month.

Missional – LifeGatherings

Taking the definition from the previous post, this is truly the “Missional Community.” This is often groups of 30-50 and provides the ideal environment for building new relationships. Often these groups are formed geographically, but can also be focused on specific segments of society. Say a LifeGroup starts as a group of artists who really have a heart for the artist community within Atlanta. That same LifeGroup may start having LifeGatherings with other artists in the area with the intention of making disciples and proclaiming the Gospel to an artist community. Often these will occur over meals, just as the early church did (1 Corinthians 11: 20; Acts 20: 7) and Jesus did, so much so, he was even called a glutton (Luke 7: 34). Within these larger groups is where we socialize, serve, and celebrate, alongside nonbelievers or young Christians, as well as allowing them to see our joy, celebration, and love for each other. Most LifeGatherings will occur 1-2 times a month.

Incarnational – Resonate Gatherings

Eventually, as the pattern of meetings gets established, Resonate will begin to meet every week for the purpose of gathering all the LifeTogether groups which are part of LifeGroups which are part of LifeGatherings together to celebrate together. We will be ‘incarnational,’ representing the very body of Christ as we worship together. At these larger meetings, we will tell stories of how God is working in each missional context, pray for the larger needs of the city, mobilize and leverage the larger influence for larger mercy projects, celebrate the diversity of God’s people, and to continue to rally around the message of the Gospel of Jesus through teaching, songs, liturgy, and more. As people who have ‘Good News,’ this will often be a celebratory environment, but also recognizing the awe and wonder of the God who created all things.

Going Forward

We are novices at this, and don’t have all the answers, and some of this could change, but at this point, this is where our biblical convictions, cultural discernment, and vision has lead us. We look forward to seeing how best this plays out in our communities. If you are interested in getting involved in one of our LifeGroups, drop me a line at chriscase@resonateatlanta.org.

Why We Won’t Have Small Groups (pt 1)

September 1, 2011 | By | 2 Comments

Its true. We won’t have small groups at Resonate. And we’re okay with this. But how will people connect? How will they grow and study the Bible and have transparency with other believers? What about discipleship?

Let’s backtrack just a little bit. Traditional ‘Small Groups’ were birthed with the rise of the American mega-church. As churches moved to a slightly more seeker oriented model, they grew to be less personal, relational, and shepherding-based. The solution to this problem was ‘small group’, which would allow people to feel ‘connected’ as well as offer some form of ‘discipleship.’ Most of these were based around Acts 2:42.

Now, nothing was necessarily bad about focusing on Acts 2:42, and groups would study the Word together, pray together, and sometimes do meals together. Many people got involved in groups, had some level of openness and connection to people around them, and (hopefully) spent some time studying Scripture. The problem arises with whether or not this process helps create disciples. We see people often becoming nicer in small groups or perhaps knowing the Bible better, but you don’t often see people whose lives and spirits look more like Jesus, which is what discipleship should do.

People started connecting the Sunday morning preaching of the Word, and a small group of prayer and studying the Word, to being discipled. Even Willow Creek, who was one of the leaders in the modern small group based mega-church ministry model, recently admitted in their Reveal study that they struggle taking their “close-to-Christ” marginal Christians to being “Christ-centered” believers.

So why not challenge the whole weekday spiritual formation process? Why not base spiritual formation around Acts 2:42, but also Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:18-20, and the whole breadth of Jesus’ teaching? Maybe we should include the first AND second part of the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) in our community and weekday discipleship.

So here’s the deal, our LifeGroups will be missional communities. I think Austin Stone Church has a great description of this:

[hl]Missional communities are the vehicle by which we can live out what it means to be a missional church. This follows the pattern of the early church in Acts 5:42 “And every day, in the temple (weekend service/celebration) and from house to house (missional communities), they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” [NASB]. Missional communities meet in locations such as homes, restaurants, coffee shops and businesses. Any location that is convenient for the attendees works. They meet morning, noon or night throughout the week. At The Austin Stone, we ask missional communities to do more than Bible study. We ask them to pursue four elements as missional believers, which are also elements of a New Testament church: Worshiping Christ, Living in Community, Getting Trained for ministry, and Making Disciples. We believe that as we balance these pursuits we will grow a missional church, missional communities, and missional followers of Christ.[/hl]  
This isn’t to say there isn’t value within breaking down into smaller groups within the whole of the Missional Community regularly, but it’s done within the context of a larger missional impulse. It is the why, and I believe this will lead to disciple making disciples.

We’re just starting this out, so we’re not sure all the details on what it looks like, but I think its time we say “no” to small groups, and “yes” to discipleship within missional community.

So what will this look like at Resonate? Part 2 to come…

This is Discipling

June 8, 2011 | By | One Comment

We’ve been talking a lot amongst Resonate leadership about what it would really look like to actually GO and MAKE DISCIPLES. I thought this video sent to me today by Sarah Pascual does a good job portraying what we are thinking. Enjoy: