Thinking 1 then 2 then 3 then 4 can get in the way of what God is doing.

Felicity Dale recently wrote an excellent post in her blog Simply Church: A House Church Perspective in which she responded to an important question, “should we increase community at the expense of being missional?” You can see her post by clicking on the picture to the left.

One of the issues she dealt with was the idea of sequentialism; that is, doing things in a specific planned order. This is not a particularly good ministry practice (though very common). In fact, it can retard the spiritual growth of disciples. I’m not going to rewrite Felicity’s blog for her; she did a better job than I can. You should read it yourself and don’t miss the interaction in the comments. What I would like to do is give a fresh example of non-sequential discipleship from my own ministry. When I say fresh, I’m talking about this happening less than two hours ago as I write.

Discipling Vitorio in the Harvest

My buddy Toño and I led a guy name Vitorio to the Lord awhile back. You can read that story in Burgers and Jesus. You can read about how Vitorio and Toño´s stories fit in a bigger story in: Best 5 Story Posts of 2010. Toño is a guy I helped lead to the Lord a couple of years ago. I did that with my buddy Ryan and some teachers in our language class. Vitorio has become a part of a church that meets at Cesar’s apartment (again part of the bigger story in Best 5 Story Posts of 2010 particularly in Another Story from the Harvest). Vitorio has been accompanying me as I pass out lunches every Friday morning to Hispanic day workers waiting for work. This is an extension of the work Ryan and I originally started over a year ago and how Ryan and I met Cesar in the post Cesar, Man of Peace.

In essence, Vitorio has taken Ryan’s place in the ministry. Ryan is still a vital part of the ministry, but he is doing other things. However, part of Ryan’s ministry has been reproduced in Vitorio. The Kingdom is growing organically.

Non-Sequential Discipleship

Typically we would think about this sequentially. Toño and I have led Vitorio to Jesus. Now we disciple him until he is “mature enough” to be taught to take a mature person like Ryan’s place. We train him in evangelism and then he starts to do evangelism and ministry. Yeah right! It doesn’t look anything like that. To give you an example, let me tell you what this morning was like.

At 7:15 AM I went to Cesar’s house. Brenda, Cesar’s wife, makes over 70 sack lunches per week to pass out to day workers. Then I picked up Vitorio at his apartment. We went to a local restaurant to have breakfast together. While at the restaurant, I asked a simple question, “What is Jesus doing in your life?” An hour long conversation ensued; partly over breakfast and partly while passing out lunches and flyers for our language class.

Here are just a few of the topics we discussed: what is prayer, how do we pray, being a temple of the Holy Spirit, the new covenant, listening to God, responding to God in obedience, reading the Bible as a conversation with Jesus, what is the role of a spiritual community, discernment of other voices (world, flesh, the devil), the Kingdom, Jesus’ lordship, how we spread the Kingdom…I could go on. In the process we prayed together, spread the Kingdom through lunches and comments, started to discern God’s design for Vitorio’s life, gave sacrificially (Vitorio spontaneously gave his lunch to someone else), and listened to God. Those are just some of the things I can remember talking about and doing together. Who knows what else Jesus was doing that I wasn’t even aware of?

Let’s put all of this another way. Jesus, Vitorio and I shared life together. In the process Jesus was glorified, the Kingdom was announced and both Vitorio and I grew in our faiths. None of it was planned beyond passing out lunches together. Vitorio is just now learning the basics of prayer and reading the Bible, yet he is already involved in intentional Kingdom extention. He doesn’t need to reach a certain maturity level to do such a thing. He doesn’t need an evangelism class. He needs to be and do with Jesus…and a more experienced friend. Jesus can lead the discipleship process. It will come out of Vitorio and my friendship together.

Am I being intentional? Absolutely. But my intentionality doesn’t look like a sequential curriculum; it looks like a few foundational spiritual skills that I train all new disciples in. You can read more about that in Organic Discipleship. My job, as a more experienced brother, is to make disciples of Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20). I point people to Jesus; that’s making his disciples. Jesus himself can use Vitorio and my friendship to weave together the curriculum he wants for Vitorio’s life. I just need to pay attention to what Jesus is up to and keep pointing Vitorio back to Jesus.

  • Did you notice that Vitorio came to Christ partially through Toño´s ministry while I was discipling Toño? Did you note that Toño came to Christ because of Jesus using Ryan and me? Did you note that Ryan and I met Cesar (whose wife makes sandwiches to help us meet more people) and that a church meets at their house? Toño, Vidal and others are a part of that church. How could we plan such a thing sequentially?
  • Did you note that a ministry of helping people in need (language, donuts, lunches) is woven together seamlessly with evangelism, discipleship and church planting?
  • Can you see how human sequential planning could get in the way of what Jesus is up to?
  • What part does human planning take in this kind of ministry? Where does our role leave off and Jesus’ role begin? Is that even a good way to ask the question?
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