Over the past six years, in apprenticeship and then church planting, my overarching passion has been learning how to make disciples of Jesus.
As a result, I’ve experimented with a number of different approaches to making disciples: Greg Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship triads; Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Groups; David Watson’s Discovery Bible Study; Luke 10 Community’s Church of Two; and most recently 3DM’s Huddle.
Here’s what I’m learning: none of these structures is adequate to make disciples.
Don’t get me wrong: these structures have many strengths. Though distinct from each other they each focus on spiritual formation that happens in intimate relationships, with high transparency and accountability.
Each of them, however, are structures, and as structures they are inherently limited in their capacity to facilitate discipleship.
Disciples simply cannot be made with a weekly one-hour meeting (or even daily check-ins) alone.
Structure is certainly needed. But something else is needed as well: spontaneity and shared life.
Eric Pfeiffer makes this point in relation to the discipleship vehicle he uses in 3DM, and I think it applies no matter what structure is being used: “Huddle is not discipleship. Huddle is a component of discipleship.”
Here’s why: a fundamental way disciples are made is through imitation. A person sees the life of Jesus embodied in the life of another and imitates it. The only way to capture that fully is through shared life and spiritual community.
Eric and 3DM offer a helpful continuum of discipleship:
A Huddle (or any discipleship vehicle) is the organized component (though I would probably add all formal church gatherings, too). Shared life in spiritual family is the organic component. 3DM calls shared life “oikos” (Greek word meaning “household”).
I have to admit that I have been, for the most part, terrible at the organic component of discipleship in my life with Storyline for at least three reasons:
- My seminary education trained me to have boundaries in ministry so that the church did not become my mistress (and rightly so). For me that devolved into hanging out with the Storyline Community, in large part, only when there was a formal meeting occurring.
- I simply did not make space in my life or calendar that allowed for spontaneous interaction with my spiritual family. I have been over-committed and stretched too thin, so much so that when I have down time I don’t want to hang with anybody, I want to crash on the couch. (And I’m an extrovert!)
- I failed to realize that I don’t have to create another thing on my calendar in order to do the organic / shared life thing. I simply need to wrap people I’m huddling into my life rhythms – whether it’s watching a Cowboys game, or running an errand, or grilling out with my family.
Here’s how God helped me figure out I was missing the mark in discipleship: I started to see some of the people in my Huddle become frustrated and even resist the process of listening and responding to God’s voice. But not all of them. Only those with whom I was not regularly sharing life. Because I wasn’t sharing life with them outside the Huddle, the atmosphere of high challenge + high encouragement turned into an atmosphere of high challenge + low encouragement, which became stressful and discouraging for them.
Yet as I’ve started focusing more on sharing life with my spiritual family and those I’m investing in, it has felt less like work and more like fun! It’s been wonderfully life-giving – more like how church (spiritual family) is supposed to be.
What factors make organic, shared life experiences difficult in church?
What are ways that you practice the organic, shared life existence in your spiritual family?