Its been a busy few days and I’ve not really had the headspace to reflect on things I have been involved in.
I am feeling pretty caged up at the moment as I’m conscious I am holding so much ‘stuff’ in my head … and that’s not a good place for a reflective practitioner to find themselves in. I need to pause and reflect which is pretty much what I use this blog for, and of course I love the comments from others who have great insights that both challenge and bless.
So; to start emptying the head …. Last week I was at Breakout. This was a highlight as it was space with other pioneers, some I know and trust who have become good friends, and others that I got to know over the three days and hope will become good friends. The conference was good for many reasons.
Having others from the gathering there was a first for me, and its hard to put into the words the mix of joy and excitement I felt being there with others from our community. It sounds soppy, but it made the time way even more valuable than I could have envisaged. Seeing members of the gathering naturally linking with others was such a cool experience. It feels as though something has changed for the better, but more on that will come from another post.
Some of the stuff delivered in the sessions at Breakout was really good as well. The topic was ‘discipleship’ which I believe is very key to pioneers … although I do find myself personally questioning whether the set sessions were AS valuable as the natural conversations that were had outside set session times. (Is it just me that thinks we should have a conference of like minded people with a ‘topic’ who then just chat and join various conversations happening in different rooms, or preferably bars!?)
I was particularly challenged by an observation from Stuart Murray Williams. I can’t remember his exact words but he said something like; ‘Jesus said go and make disciples and I will build my church …. but I wonder whether we have reversed that, so that we try to build church and kind of hope disciples grow through some form of osmosis.’ I was challenged by that and the statement has been buzzing around my mind for a good few days now.
As an OPM I am tasked with creating new ways of being church with others. That task can sometimes become clouded with a focus shifting away from disciples to models and styles of church. I think it is going to be an ongoing query and question that I chat with others in the gathering about. If we make disciples, whatever that means, does church, whatever that may be, just simply follow?
I was also challenged to think about the ‘how’ of discipleship. I have always sat uncomfortably with published materials in this area, but I guess I am not sure why. I think it is the language of power that has put me off. It’s the language that kind of says a variety of things like: ‘I know what I’m doing so you listen to me.’, ‘We are the experts and so we will impart knowledge of how to be a good disciple to you.’ ‘You just do as we say and you will be fine.’ That has never seemed quite right to me. I wonder from what Stuart was saying if this needs to be more of a joint journey type thing, where the language is more of learning and travelling together, where there is a vulnerability as we also share the stuff we struggle with. I am thinking aloud, but this seem to make more sense to me.
Another great thing about Breakout for me is that it reminds me I am not alone in my situation. When you work in a diocese where most people you work with are on a stipend you can easily start to think you are alone in the reality of your calling. AtBreakout there were plenty of pioneers who have opted out of paid ministry to developing their fresh expressions or communities. I found that to be both exciting and encouraging, and also useful as we shared the make up of out various income streams!
But … most of all the overwhelming best thing of Breakout was catchin
g up with friends …. thanks all of you …. till we meet again (which for those in the gathering will be pretty soon!)
Meant to comment on this days ago, but just getting round to it!…took me a while to find again actually. Anyway, agree with you about the language of power used in some published discipleship courses – have done a few which were definitely a bit ‘do it this way and you will be better off’ and then, it you don’t/can’t carry it out, its just more guilt about things that you havn’t managed to achieve. Even if its helpful stuff, the enthusiasm really only lasts until the end of the course..so relational discipleship, of walking the journey together, has got to be where its at. (Having said that..maybe there are courses out there that are helpful?? ..perhaps I’ve just come across the bad ones! Coincidentally, I was sent a link about on online discipleship course by Frank Viola – the writer of Pagan Christianity and Re-imagining Church? It sounded quite interesting..not that that necessarily means anything! But… would be def good to discuss discipleship with everyone in the gathering)
Thinking about the walking the journey together type discipleship, we basically just mean real friends really don’t we?! If we are talking about encouraging one another, watching each others backs, being jointly vulnerable? Trouble is, I think in our churches maybe we have encouraged a dependency model – where perhaps trained leaders, or older, more ‘mature in God’ individuals are somehow asked to detach themselves from the people they are ‘discipling’ or have ‘pastoral care’ over, and create boundaries – not sharing their own weaknesses, struggles with those they are discipling (of course, they are allowed to tell them the good stuff! the spiritual breakthroughs, the answers to prayer)…I don’t quite know why this has happened..maybe churches believe it will somehow discourage others to know the negative stuff (but of course, the opposite is true)…I remember Andrew being ticked off by one well meaning minister for daring to share some of his own struggles in a sermon he preached, saying he should keep his own life hidden, that it wasn’t helpful. I also think, from a ‘trained church leaders’ point of view, that some of them maybe have had drummed into them the danger of forming ‘unhelpful relationships’ if they get too close to others, especially perhaps, in evangelical circles – all very well meaning, but I think this detachment actually ecacerbates it, – people are more likely to put others on pedestals if they never let their darker or vulnerable side show…certainly when they are young….and when you get older, they just do not seem authentic, and you stop being able to relate to them. I think its much better to realise that you have to be jointly accountable to one another – rather than have this responsibility taken away from one person
yes – i think you are correct … we are talking real friends. And by that I think i mean those that we trust and give permission to speak and challenge us even if it might be painful to hear. There is a time commimtnet there … and although it is about friendship the actual discipleship part …. i dunno (I’m thinking as I write – never good) …. i was going to say that the discipleship part needs to be timetabled or it never happens …. but i’m not sure now as I write – what do you think?
While training I had a similar experience to Andrew. I preached and shared how I was struggling. Lots of people after told me how helpful that was as I was being real … but in a review with a church leader I was told i must never do that as ‘if we say we struggle what hope its there for the congregation?’ …. I actually thought, and still think, the reverse is true.
Without vulnerability …. can real friendship develop? Answers on a postcard please ….
Oh … yeah … thanks for commenting by the way …. its great to pull these things apart