What should we be aiming for?
If a person asked you what she should be aiming for as a disciple, what would you tell her? If a guy came up to you and wanted to know what is expected of him as a follower of Jesus, what would you say? Do you have a grid or template for your discipleship process?
I was thinking recently of an email sent to me by a woman who started attending the church. She wanted to grow as a follower and commit herself to the church community. She asked how she could get more involved. The church was in the first year of getting established, so there were not a lot of programs to direct her to. I basically told her to pray about what Jesus wants her to do and let me know. It was a tad more involved than that, but not much. At the time, I thought I was giving her sage, pastoral advise. I realize now that I failed her.
A lot of Christians simply want to know what is expected of them. Discipleship is confusing to them. When they hear the phrase “follow Jesus” it is pretty nebulous. I am not saying they want to know what is the bare minimum. I am submitting they aren’t clear what they are to aim for in general.
We started a series a couple of weeks ago on what I think is one of the most simple, yet comprehensive discipleship models. It is about balancing three relationships: up, in, and out. You can watch the first message by David Riemenschneider here (http://bloomingdalechurch.org/up-in-out/). It is represented by the triangle below.
As followers of Jesus we can look to his life as a model for our life. The most obvious thing about Jesus’ life was the prominence of relationships. Jesus’ relationships can be condensed to these three areas: up, in, and out.
- UP – Jesus had an intimate relationship with God. It was evidenced by supernatural power from God and by intimacy with God. This relationship was so prominent and palpable to those around him, the only thing recorded his disciples asked him to teach them, was how to pray to God like he prayed, so they could have that same intimacy.
- IN – Jesus developed friends. He had a close community of people who relied on him. His friends counted on him for spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. He also relied on these friends for those same needs. He wanted to be with people. He allowed people to provide for him. Jesus had a group of friends he knew well and that he allowed to know him well.
- OUT – Jesus connected well with outsiders. He had a heart for those far from God. He didn’t spend all his time serving and teaching his friends. Jesus welcomed others, even if his friends were against them. His inclusivity made many uncomfortable and was often misunderstood, but he modeled that everyone mattered.
This becomes a valuable grid to communicate discipleship to others. There are two things I believe need constant emphasis. First, discipleship is about relationship. The “up” relationship with God is about a close, abiding relationship. The “in” relationship with other disciples is about friendship with other Christ followers. The “out” relationship with those outside the community of faith is about our mission in the world. It is possible to emphasize each of these directions, without relationship.
The second thing I believe needs constant emphasis is discipleship is about balance. Jesus modeled a perfect balance between each of these. It is common to be strong in or over-emphasize one or two of these relationships at the expense of the other or others. Jesus did not prioritize one over the other. In fact, if he would have done that, he would not have perfectly modeled the other two. He understood the necessity of engaging all three equally.
Much more could be said about ways this grid could be used. I have come across many ministries that have developed tools using this idea. Below are links to resources for further exploration.
- Upward, Outward, Inward by Mitsuo Fukuda
- Building a Discipleship Culture by Mike Breen
- Resonate Huddle Material Week #3: Triangle