Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Pattern of Discipleship: Continued

Foreword, of sorts:

For this rambling, I will use two terms that are in need of a bit of definition, for clarity's sake. The first is "Bordenian," in honor of author Paul Borden. A Bordenian approach to discipleship assumes there is a bull's eye, we are supposed to do nothing except hit it, and eschew everything else that detracts from doing so. I neither love nor hate Bordenian discipleship, it is what it is. But the reality is, a Bordenian approach is very, very popular right now, and so the question is not "Do you like it" but rather "What are you going to do with it."

The second term is "organic," which is terribly cliche, but I couldn't think of another word. I will use it to describe an approach to discipleship that emerges from within the community, and includes as much as possible the messiness, subtlety, and nuance of real life. This kind of discipleship sees inherent value in each moment without needing it to lead to anything, resists oversimplification in favor of true simplicity (which may be too subtle of a distinction, perhaps), and tends to value identity over activity.

OK? Those two terms may not be crystal clear at this point, but I'm moving on, so if you are still with me, here we go:

I hope to use Bordenian energy to orbit with an organic discipleship pattern.

See, I don't really think in terms of aiming at a bull's eye when it comes to discipleship. I think in terms of being conformed to the image of God. I think in terms of clothing ourselves in Christ. I think in terms of desiring to be perfect, by the grace of God, as the heavenly Father is perfect. These are the scriptural images that inform my perspective on discipleship.

Translated, in means being imprinted with a Divine pattern. Poetically, it means we clay vessels are shaped by the hands of the Potter. Pragmatically, it means living an intentional life-pattern that allows ourselves to be shaped by God. That's why there are holy orders - that's why there are divine offices - that's why there are monastic rules - to engage a pattern of living that might open up a way into the pattern of the Divine. The pattern itself is not the point; like an icon the pattern serves to orient us toward God.

And so I would like for the discipleship plan we are creating to articulate the pattern clearly, in Bordenian terms even, but avoid the linear thinking that narrows the possibilities to "first A, then B, then C.." etc.

Said another way, I would like for the path itself to BE the bull's eye. The journey IS the destination. The discipleship plan itself is a life-pattern, and engaging the pattern is what facilitates the imprint of the Divine pattern on each of us, and on the community.

"How do you measure growth?" I hear someone ask. "If there's no bull's eye, how will you know when you hit the target?" or "If there's no destination, how will you know if you are making progress on the journey?"

I answer, Spiritual growth is imprinting the pattern more and more deeply. Rather than a linear path toward a destination in which one leaves behind one moment in order to get to the next, this pattern utilizes the naturally occuring cycles of life - days, weeks, seasons, years, lifetimes - to grow organically. Every morning we wake up, but it is not the same day as yesterday. Every Sunday we worship together, but it is not the same week as it was lat week. Every summer we feel the heat of the sun, but we are different than we were the year before. Every year there is an Advent, but our anticipation each year is shaped by what has happened to us the year before.

Here are some things I know:

There are people who come to church exhausted, dragging themselves out of bed to attend worship, carrying the heavy burdens of their lives with them and hoping to unload them.

There are people who are quite comfortable in life, successful even, who come to worship when it doesn't interfere with their overflowing schedules.

There are people who come to worship only when they have some specific job to do (usher, greet, sing, etc.), but rarely otherwise.

There are people who come to worship because it's just what you do every week.

There are people who come to worship because it is the primary gathering of the community of faith, intended to renew our relationships with God and one another, and designed to facilitate a genuine encounter with the Divine.

There are people who participate in some kind of ministry (service, mission, community), but do not see any need to attend worship of any kind.

There are some people who neither worship nor serve, but exist on their own, without any church involvement whatsoever.

And so forth ...

I hope that the LIVE - GROW - SHARE pattern, or whatever it eventually ends up being, might be helpful for any and all of these people, as we all seek God and try to live the best lives we can. As we all try, as my mom used to pray at my bedside every night when I was a kid, to "be the kind of people God wants us to be."

(If you have put up with this rambling so far, I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions. Thanks!)


Shawn F. said...

Andy thank you for faithfully working through your emerging thoughts on discipleship. I resonate with your desire to suggest a non-linear pattern for becoming more like Christ.

As for bull's seems to me you retain an end point of sorts (a bull's eye, if you will) in that there is a "goal" to the discipleship you suggest here. "Conforming to the image of God" or being shaped by the Potter, may not feel like a "Direct Hit", but I would suggest they are ever bit as much bull's eyes as any other goal of discipleship we might state.

What I'd like for you to say more about is resisting "oversimplification in favor of true simplicity". Are you pushing against step-by-step approaches to discipleship in general (if so, how does Live-Grow-Share address this concern) or is their something bigger here you hope to move away from? Perhaps to be more clear, what do you mean by true simplicity?

Andy B. said...

Yes, I'm all about the telos of Christian Perfection, however it is expressed. But even that is not a fixed endpoint, as Hal Knight taught me. :) I think the bull's eye metaphor does not work in that sense, since it presents a finite goal, rather than an infinite one.
I am going to write more about the simplicity idea. Thanks for that question!

Patrick Moore said...

As far as Borden goes...I am reminded of my momma who said, "Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you should."