- Wednesday, May 04, 2011
I don't mean musical style, visual software or any number of programmatic tweaks that evolve every few years. Rather, how we do church does not mirror the methods Jesus used to disciple the Twelve. While there are similarities, for the most part we never experience the synergy of the combined strategies Jesus employed. In fact, we rarely even take the time to unpack His approach to growing people.
We're quite fond of expounding upon Jesus' teachings, miracles and journeys, but we typically overlook how He did ministry. In contrast to today's church, Jesus implemented significantly different methods in the way He grew souls. Because Jesus was God and knew His time was limited, certainly He would have employed methods most apt to produce results. It was a conscious stewardship decision. We would be wise to analyze and replicate His means.
So what did Jesus do? If you study His methods, you'll find something quite different than what is scheduled during any given week in the typical local church and certainly not what most of us do as pastors. Yet it has everything to do with growing spiritually intelligent people who become authentically mature, not just putting in time storing one more Bible study or sermon. I'll leave it up to you to compare and contrast what you do with Jesus' means, but spiritual intelligence methodology is key to seeing greater results from our preaching.
Four methods stand out as you analyze the way Jesus developed His followers' souls. They are not necessarily sequential or effective when standing alone. Therefore, if you emphasize any one of the four aspects of Jesus' SI methodology, you lose the impact. They work synergistically. After a mere three years, 11 of the 12 changed the world dramatically.
Travel Team: The first method involved handpicking a group of 12. We'll call them His Travel Team because they went with Him from village to village, setting up camp, assisting in events, interacting with Him along with observing how He dealt with others. Two things stand in stark contrast to the way we typically do ministry in the American church. We avoid hand choosing our Travel Team, preferring to take anyone interested; and we do not really travel with them. We set up shop, if at all possible a physical location with chairs, offices and sound system, then invite everyone to come visit us. Jesus strategically selected a decentralized approach to ministry. In essence, He did life with them. Most of us pull people out of their lives for training and spiritual interaction.
While we can't know for sure what was going on in Jesus' mind when He chose this method, we can see that building a facility in a single location and inviting people to come hear Him preach was not a priority to Him. Ironically, we see Him leaving people, dismissing crowds and operating incognito at various times. Why did He select these 12 men? We don't know that either, but perhaps it had to do with knowing who was wired to lead, who would make the commitment, and even in Judas' case, who might serve the bigger objective as a betrayer.
Jesus invested a majority of His time with a few who eventually would multiply His work. By going shallow with many, people never escape velocity. They must be in a covenantal relationship with a few who will look them in the eyes and hold them accountable; otherwise the challenge of moving out of one's spiritual status quo will not happen. In spite of wonderful preaching, most biblical truths roll off our backs by the time we reach the parking lot. Unless we intentionally create a culture in which people are connected for intentional spiritual growth, maturity rarely happens.
The typical small group is inept at this, primarily because it is non-covenantal. I'm a big fan of small groups, but most are not suitably structured to create the level of accountability needed to implement spiritual truths in our lives. There are five basic levels of accountability:
Level 1: Politely friendly: Ultra light accountability, such as people who know each other at the coffee shop: "Hey, didn't see you last couple of weeks." "Yeah, been out on vacation."
Level 2: Socially affirming: Light accountability where people intentionally pursue friendships, but not at the level of significantly changing their lives; voluntary commitment that lapses with pressure; typical of small groups and Sunday Schools.
Level 3: Mutually earned: Strong but generally positive accountability; people in the group commit to grow together, experiencing life together so they get to know each other in various settings beyond pretense and know when people are and are not being authentic and can confront them lovingly because they also affirm them sufficiently and have earned the right to raise issues if and when they arise.
Level 4: Voluntarily surrendered: One person becomes the subject of more intense scrutiny and higher accountability, similar to a therapist and client, personal trainer or a recovery group "sponsorship." Accountability tends to be one-way.
Level 5: Involuntarily coerced: Behavior is changed because of a highly controlled environment or direct threat of punishment; very high accountability; one-way. Incarceration, garnishing of wages, forced hospitalization; physical and/or legal restraints.
The Travel Team typically incorporates Level 3 accountability that is mutually earned. Chances are slim that Jesus could have gotten away with a follower "Satan" in a typical church or small group and have him or her stick around. Because the Twelve made a commitment to each other and experienced love, affirmation and life, they stuck together through the difficult times. People fail to mature because they've not intentionally developed a formal or informal covenantal relationship with others who have earned the right to confront them or hold them accountable to grow through the difficult phases. They inevitably bump up against issues in their lives that need changing, whether it's a personal addiction, attitude, decision or behavior.
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