Monday, October 22, 2012

Mentor Graphs

I have been pondering the nature of discipleship in an effort to do it well. Here are some of my thoughts of late.

When we talk about discipleship most of the time, we seem to communicate this basic idea of how it works. An older / more mature person meets with a younger / less mature person and calls them upward in their maturity. (See image below)

However, when I get in the nitty gritty every day life of this task I feel an uneasiness with this model and have heard it expressed by countless others. “what if I’m not really far enough ahead of the disciple to help them out?,” “What if I am too old and can’t reach far enough back to relate with the disciple?”

Then, when I look at Jesus and how he went about this task, something still feels wrong about the way we look at it. I can’t picture him standing above his disciples trying to reach down with his supernaturally long arms to pull them up to his level of maturity (perfection). Rather, I see him standing with them at every phase of their growth, looking ahead to see how they might grow from every experience. (See image below)

It was not the level of maturity that he was concerned about, but their potential for growth. Think about Jesus’ interaction with Peter at their last Passover meal. (Luke 22:31-34) Jesus knew Peter was about to fall and that both his growth and maturity would plummet in the next few hours, but he also could see past that to his bitter weeping (22:54-62) (an incredible growth point) and on to Pentecost where, having learned from the experience, Peter did not hesitate to risk his life for the cause of Christ (Acts 2:36).

I believe this was because Jesus was more concerned with Peter’s overall direction of growth than his level of maturity and it appears that he was certainly willing to stand with him in every phase for the sake of the next even if it meant losing ground for a while.

It also helps to look at this process as one in which we walk through life’s events together rather than the disciple maker seeing themselves as further ahead in time than the disciple.

The big advantage to this model in my mind is that it is transferable to us as humans. Each of us is walking in our own roller coaster of growth rates. One day it might be going well and the next we seem to plummet, but if we are in the same sort of roller coaster as those we are mentoring, then we aught to be able to relate with them well. And if we have been in it for a while, we can see how each experience can be an opportunity for growth, both for ourselves those with whom we are walking.

“So father, I pray that each experience in my life and the life of those I walk with would be seen as an opportunity to grow closer to you. Not because we are that much closer to the infinitely distant goal of perfection, but because we walked through it with you. Grant me the wisdom and insight to see the potential in every circumstance and the courage to see it through to the point of growth. Thank you for walking with us.

Fine print: For those of you who are critiquing the mathematical accuracy of my graphs, I apologize for their roughness. They are based on the visual estimation of someone who has not taken a math class in 7 years. For those of you who are just confused by the graphs, I’m afraid I can’t apologize because this really is how my brain works. I hope the explanation is sufficient for you to get the idea. I also lay no claim to having “the perfect model” for discipleship. I just find it more helpful than before.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When a surveyor teaches Bible survey

Anna, Melissa, Megan, Del, Me
After listening to Dell Tackett (from the Truth Project) speak here at Ministry Family Retreat last week, I was inspired on multiple levels. Dell spoke of how the Christian life and hope itself aught not to be defined by our story and what we might gain at the end, but by the Larger Story written in perfection by God himself. The extent that we have real hope is the extent that we consider ourselves a part of His story rather than our own. When I realized what he was saying, I immediately knew I had to communicate this idea to my students so they also could find true hope.

 The second challenge that Dell issued was concerning the glorious yet treacherous task of teaching. He suggested that the teacher’s highest calling is not merely to help information enter the minds of students, but to find some way to work with the Holy Spirit in helping the truth penetrate to the inner recesses of the mind known as the heart in which beliefs are held and therefore actions are born. It was then that I realized I had to find a way to communicate this idea of our story vs. God’s story to the heart. 

I needed something really big to compare to something really small. Well, it just so happens that I live next to a 3000 ft runway. So after hatching a plan, I took the students out there for our “intro to Bible” day. We walked up the runway a ways and I had them stand side by side in a line facing the far end. I told them that where they stand now represents the present, behind them is the past and in front is the future. Then using 1 inch = 1 year. We marked out on the ground their estimated lifespan, none of which exceeded 9 feet. Then I had them mark out the beginning of time, assuming it was approximately 6,000 years ago, by walking 178 paces (~500’) back toward the beginning of the runway. Then I had them guess at how long the world might last before Christ comes back and several guessed that it would be before their life was over while the longest was a mere 25’ in the future. Then we stepped back to consider which story they really wanted to be a part of, the little one that represented their lives, or the gigantic one we could barely see the marker for the beginning of and the end of which was alarmingly close. We then talked about how those aren’t really the beginning and the end, but God knew us before the foundation of the world (which in this case was somewhere out in the middle of the lake) and his story continued with us as a part of it far beyond the far end of the runway into eternity. From there it was an easy jump to show how the Word of God is his invitation to not only learn his story, but to join Him in it. 

 So next time you’re out on a walk and hit a straight stretch of road, count off a 178 paces, then look back and consider how your life is less than 9 feet of that. Whose story do you want to be a part of?