Alongsider Briefings: Reflections of a Life Lived with God

Houses don’t appear out of nowhere… and neither do disciples.

(Disciplemaking foundation #2)

Houses don’t appear out of nowhere. There’s no magic wand that makes them materialize.

Nearly a hundred years ago, you could order a home from a Sears catalogue, have it delivered to your site, and built in a few days. Today, you can buy modular homes that can be assembled within hours.

However, no matter how fast the home can be built, there’s always a plan, a foundation, and deliberate action to make the house happen. A house may go up fast but the process is not haphazard. Disciplemaking is the same way; it’s intentional not offhand.

My conversations with others about disciplemaking usually flows between two points of view. One view says that “I’m into organic disicplemaking. I fit into the flow of people’s lives.” The polar opposite is defining disciplemaking by completing a curriculum or course: “I’ve discipled people through (fill in the blank).” As is usually the case, the “truth” is somewhere in the middle.

I think of intentionality as being purposeful, practical, and personal. Intentional disciplemaking means that under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I’m proactive not only reactive, deliberate not haphazard, and thoughtful not thoughtless. God may appear randomly at work but He’s focused on my outcome — a maturity in Christ (Col. 1:28). God is intentional and the Apostle Paul modeled a purposeful approach.

Paul deliberately developed people. He called himself a “master builder” (1 Cor. 310) not a weekend carpenter. In 1 Corinthians 4:17, he reminds the Corinthians how he purposefully passed-on what believers should know, be, and do “everywhere in every church.” He worked and struggled with one goal in mind — to “present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28-29).

I think of the New Testament epistles as discipleship letters, instructing believers on what they need to know, believe, and do to be mature and live on mission for Jesus.

Why was intentionality so important to the Apostle? I don’t want to over-dramatic but for Paul, the future of the church was at stake. At the end of his life, with the church teetering on what theologian John Stott describes as “annihilation,” Paul is concerned that the “sound teaching” or “deposit” of the gospel must be preserved (1 Timothy 5:20). Faithful people were needed to pass-on this deposit of truth to the next generation (2 Timothy 1:14; 2:2). He could not leave this to chance; He must be faithful to God (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Today we face militant atheism, a population that’s becoming less spiritual, and believers “de-constructing” their faith. We cannot “hope” that people, and the church, somehow survive these pressures. Intentional disciplemaking is a partnership with God to enable the church to move into the next generation.

Secondly, the future of people depend on it. The ever-present specter of persecution hung over the early church. They faced hostility from Jewish leaders (Acts 8:1-3) and systematic persecution from the Roman Empire. To withstand persecution from all sides, early believers needed to be established (Col. 2:6-7), strengthened (Acts 15:32), and built-up (Acts 20:32). If they were not intentionally discipled, they would cave under the pressures of religious and systemic persecution.

Culture relentlessly chases us through social media, advertising, and the allure of a celebrity culture to mold us into its image. Our spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being are under attack. We cannot disciple haphazardly; we must partner with a very intentional Holy Spirit to invest in people.

Intentionality happens when we practice “groovy” disciplemaking.

Being groovy is more than a nostalgic look at the 1960s. Let’s picture groovy this way. Athletes find themselves “in the groove” as they shoot, hit, or run in ways that happen without thinking. Musicians have the same experience, effortlessly playing instruments without giving thought to what their fingers or hands are doing. They’re in a groove; patterns build through habitual practices.

In nature, grooves are narrow cuts built into the surface of rock by the steady drip of water over time. Eventually water cuts a channel in the stone and a stream begins flowing through this channel in an ordered direction. Steadiness over time creates grooves.

Author Tish Harrison Warren writes about this groove when she observes how God shapes an “alternative people . . . who are formed by taking up practices and habits that aim our love and desires towards God. . . . These habits and practices shape our loves, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship.” We form grooves in our lives — habits and practices — that naturally directs the flow of our hearts towards God.

Disciplemaking builds these grooves — these habits — into people’s lives. For example, we help people form a habitual prayer life so that when a life crisis happens, the prayer groove takes people to God. We help people regularly read and meditate on the Scriptures so that when a crisis happens, the Bible groove directs the flow of their lives to our Lord.

Building a groovy life needs more than a pulpit or class lecture. We relationally invest in people, reading the Bible together, asking questions, encouraging application, practicing accountability, and giving affirmation. We’re doing groovy disciplemaking — partnering with God by building grooves of habitual habits and practices that draw us to Him.

Intentionality’s darkside treats people like projects. Intentionality must be personal. It becomes personal when we consider where someone is on their spiritual journeys and adjust accordingly. What do they need to know, be, and do as a new believer, a growing Christian, or a mature disciple? It’s personal because we take into account their context. We consider such factors as season of life or employment and tailor our approach to these personal settings. We’re always looking, always loving, and always adapting as we practice intentional disciplemaking.

Peggy and I live in a1950s  ranch home. It’s called a “custom” home because it’s different from the homes next to us. There are no “cookie cutter” ranches on our street. Our house did not appear overnight nor was it constructed haphazardly. It was deliberately, lovingly, and carefully built. So it should be with disciplemaking. Just as homes don’t appear out of nowhere neither do disciples.

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