There has been a connecting factor in my travels so far. From San Francisco to Sacramento to Washington DC to Countryside Ireland to Liverpool to Edinburgh. From an ex-Pastor to the Pastor of a successful church plant to a Pastor dealing with major change to a Pastor who quietly counsels in a small rural area to the Pastor of a church in suburbia at a crossroads to a Pastor who lectures... all Pastors in all situations, the conversations have been the same. It can be summed up in two words, missional discipleship. What does that mean? Mike Breen explains what a disciple is:
"Disciples are people who LEARN to be like Jesus and learn to do what Jesus could do... A disciple is someone who, with increased intentionality and passing time, has a life and ministry that looks more and more like the life and ministry of Jesus. They increasingly have his heart and character and are able to do the types of things we see Jesus doing."
So what is missional discipleship?
It is intentional discipleship. It embraces the posture, the thinking, behaviours and practices of discipleship. It is the mission of the Church. It's outward focused. It's redemptive and it's engaging. It's not about bringing people to Church, it's about going to where people are.
Alan Hirsch says this:
"After 2000 years practice of all kinds of things in the church, of all the traditions we do, all the rituals and all the stuff, the stuff we remember is often reasonably insignificant stuff, of all that stuff we forget the most fundamental of things: the thing called discipleship, which means formation in Christ. I find that really weird and probably somewhat unfaithful."
So, everyone is talking about it, but no one I know is sure about how to implement it. It's easy to talk about it, harder to put it into practice. I don't know anyone who has a vibrant, intentional discipleship program in place, but I have gotten practical snippets that I am piecing together.
- The ex-Pastor challenged me on the authenticity of the Church, something he has every right to question.
- The Pastor with the successful church plant challenged me to not allow the pitfalls to determine the course.
- The Pastor going through major change questioned the mission. If the mission is core, then nothing else matters, everything needs to revolve around it.
- The counseling Pastor in the quiet rural area saw the need for caring to be real. Simpe, but real.
- The Pastor whose church is at a crossroads questioned the sacrifices the church needed to make to bring about the mission. Sacrifices that, for him, included leading by example.
- The Pastor who lectures asked me who is listening. Church is full of doers and very few are stopping to listen... (and he shared that over a selection of some very good Scotch Whiskey. Everything he said sounded good!)
Over the course of the next few days I will expand more on each point, as there is a wealth of input that I'm still chewing on. My travels have not yet finished as I still have just under 3 weeks left, but I feel I'm getting a grasp on things.