Saturday, November 16, 2013

Don Detrick: Growing Disciples Organically: The Jesus Method of Spiritual Formation Growing

We are in the midst of an organic whole foods revolution, and these believers seem to be gaining traction as evidenced by the rise of organic grocery chains like Whole Foods Markets. Anything organic captures attention, with the promise of organically produced commodities leveraging an ever-larger market and ever-increasing cohort of enthusiasts. Menus in some of the most high-end restaurants feature organically grown, locally resourced foods. Anything labeled organic, locally raised, and sustainable is in high demand and commands a premium price.

Organic agriculture symbolizes more of an ethos, or a cultural shift, than simply a preference or appetite for different foods on the menu. In this case, the palate is not the tongue, but the heart and mind, reflecting the soul of individuals who feel the need to shift to organically produced foodstuffs. It is easy to see the prominent place organic concepts play in today’s version of culture wars. But, you may ask, “What does all this have to do with discipleship or spiritual formation?”

It is possible to see many parallels with organics and the current tensions between traditional and emerging streams in the church. Younger generations are discovering that bigger churches do not guarantee spiritual formation in the life of attendees, nor do they equate greater numbers with greater levels of spiritual passion or vibrancy. Seeking what they have been missing, many are opting for simpler structures that are more focused on community and interpersonal relationships. And a growing number are leaving the established church behind altogether.

Might the passing from the scene of evangelical icons like Billy Graham signal the end of successful mass evangelism crusades, at least in North America, and a return to simpler, “viral” relationships as a means of bringing people to Jesus and promoting spiritual formation? Might our growing observation that program-driven megachurches seem to have a lifespan directly correlating with the lifespan of the founding pastor be changing our focus away from that particular model of church growth or spirituality? Do we really believe that discipleship should have a shelf life?

In You Lost Me, author David Kinnaman describes why young Christians are leaving church and rethinking faith. He states, “Many are searching for new ways to be effective in their work with this new generation, and many are waiting for the next generation of leaders to emerge. Among these groups, there is a growing sense that we need new ways of discipleship, a new way of teaching, instructing, engaging, and developing the lives of young people. We need a new mind to focus on apprenticeship in the way of Jesus.”1

Apprenticeship precisely describes my experience growing up on a farm. I was present. I participated by working alongside my father, and thus I learned. It seems that the basic components of spiritual formation, or what we often call discipleship, are fairly simple to understand and readily available to those willing to be apprenticed. We best accomplish organic discipleship as a participator, not a spectator.

Using Jesus and His disciples as a model, I notice that the process did not require any of the staples of modern notions about discipleship: curriculum, buildings, schedules, or programs. The entire 3-year process was far more organic and fluid than programmatic and structured. And from what we see in Acts and beyond, it certainly seems sustainable with the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

In the Gospels, growing disciples appears as natural a process as watching a child grow into maturity. Didn’t Jesus specifically instruct us to consider the qualities of children as a model for His kingdom? Based on that model, organic spiritual formation describes a vision for discipleship, or growing disciples organically. Simply put, it involves the components of faith, life, and community. Below is a working definition.

Organic spiritual formation: the natural growth that occurs when we merge authentic faith in Jesus Christ with intentional alignment to the principles of Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit, while living with and serving others. Keep reading

No comments: