I wanted to look at three more writer/practitioners on the subject of discipleship. This is a continuation of my last post. I am not suggesting that anyone has "the definitive way to do it" (as if there is such an animal), but I am stimulated by reflecting on the different perspectives.
Garrison, author of Church Planting Movements, has seen simple discipleship chains provide the key to the rapid multiplication of disciples and churches. (Simple churches themselves are also generally present in rapid church planting movements).
Garrison suggests that six basic lessons provide a discipleship foundation for new believers. One of the six lessons is on how to be the church and start simple churches. In this way, new believers also immediately become new church starters.
The key, however, is the way that this basic teaching is passed on. Person A teaches Person B a basic lesson. He then asks Person B to teach the lesson back to Person A so that Person A knows that he has grasped it. Then, Person B takes the lesson and teaches it, in the same manner to Person C, Person D, Person E, Person F, and Person G. Yep. Five more people are taught the lesson and they are taught how to pass the lesson along to five more people each. So, everything a person receives he must pass along before a next lesson is given.
Of course, discipleship in this model does not have to be limited to just six basic lessons, but you can see the focus: every person learns to become an immediate discipler as well as a disciple.
Much of Garrison’s material is available online here.
Curtis, former missionary to China, is also a student of Church Planting Movements. He encourages us to consider that discipleship is not a knowledge-based process, rather it is about modeling a lifestyle of surrender and obedience. He asserts that the reason Paul was able to leave behind growing disciples in a short amount of time is because they were in contact with a man who was “thoroughly in love with Jesus Christ, filled by the Spirit, and completely surrendered to the Lord’s control.” Curtis contends that Paul’s lifestyle “painted an indelible picture in the minds and hearts of the new believer-leaders…”
Curtis also suggests that a simple church, with the above characteristics, will have a dynamic transformational impact just by being the church:
“A simple group in love with Christ and with each other, sharing freely with each other and with a lost world and constantly in his Word and in prayer. ‘Together,’ discovering more each week about him and his will. If they continue to abide (John 15) in a relationship with Christ and the Body (church), they will have everything they need. The Holy Spirit will be their resident teacher…”
Hirsch, in his book “Forgotten Ways,” uses the term “action-learning discipleship.” He suggests that we should look at the way Jesus discipled:
“As soon as they are called he takes the disciples on an adventurous journey of mission, ministry, and learning. Straightway they are involved in proclaiming the kingdom of God, serving the poor, healing, and casting out demons. It is active and direct disciple making in the context of mission. And all great people movements are the same. Even the newest convert is engaged in mission from the start; even he or she can become a spiritual hero.”
Hirsch describes his own missional training network:
“[We] host an internship, where the intern is placed in an environment where he or she is somewhat out of his or her depth. We do this because when people are placed in a situation requiring something beyond their current repertoire of skills and gifts, they will be much more open to real learning. It’s called jumping in at the deep end. The vast majority of the interns’ learning is by ‘having a go’ and actually doing things.”
A good summary of Hirsh’s grasp of discipleship is his statement that “mission is the catalyzing principle of discipleship.”
The introduction to “Forgotten Ways” is available online here.
Much here to chew on!