Vast numbers of young adults in our postmodern society are unchurched. And unlike past generations, many of them have never set foot in a church and lack even the most basic understanding of the Bible.
Traditional ways churches have reached out simply don't work with today's emerging generations. But this visually oriented group of people does respond to images. Media like the Internet, movies, and television successfully use images to tell stories to young adults. As Christians, we have the greatest story of all to tell. If we can use images to convey concepts of the faith, we can ignite passion in emerging generations.
Here's how you can use the images of familiar shapes to disciple people:
The circle helps you identify the significant events of your life in a way that enables you to move deeper in the direction of God's will. "Kairos" moments occur when God breaks into your circumstances when an event that transforms you. Those moments are God-given opportunities to enter into the ongoing process of learning more about how to live for Him. God hopes you will respond to kairos moments by repenting and believing. The first half of the circle represents the steps involved in repenting (honestly observe your thoughts and feelings about what happened, reflect on why you reacted to the event as you did, and discuss your observations with trustworthy friends who will pray with you). The second half of the circle represents the steps involved in believing that inner change is possible for you (make a plan to lead to change, have someone hold you accountable to that plan, and put the plan into action). Just like a circle, your life is a series of loops held together by time. Each time you go around a loop, you can seek to grow more in spiritual maturity.
You can rediscover the rhythm of life your Creator, God, intended for you in the principles of the semi-circle. The semi-circle illustrates how there is an important balance between work and rest. Remember that you're a human being, not a human doing. Realize that in order to be productive in your work, you must make enough time to rest. Understand that, just like a pendulum swinging back and forth, you should abide (rest) in Christ, go forth to bear fruit, then allow yourself to be pruned back and enter another time of abiding. Realize that, just as in nature, growth must happen in your life you can produce fruit - and growth comes only from abiding.
Three dimensions are necessary for you to live a balanced life. You find these dimensions clearly explained in the triangle. Model the way Jesus lived His life: Up (in relationship with His Father in heaven), In (in friendship with His chosen followers), and Out (reaching out to the hurting world around Him). Your church can live upwardly by proclaiming the Word in prayer and worship. Your congregation can live inwardly by building community, listening, and responding to the needs of those committed to your church. Your church can live outwardly by taking the Gospel to the world outside your church building. You can also implement the concepts of the triangle in your own life by thinking of them in terms of the verse, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly [out] and to love mercy [in] and to walk humbly with your God [up]" (Micah 6:8). Strive for a balance between all three dimensions, because when one is missing or suppressed, the other two don't work as they should.
The square lays out the stages every disciple experiences and gives you the corresponding styles of leadership. In the discipleship process, you should be both leading and following - leading when you are mentoring someone, and following when someone else is mentoring you. Like a square, the process is constantly moving up, down, and sideways. You can delegate responsibility to a new disciple in four stages that correspond to the four sides of a square: Stage one is "I do, you watch," stage two is "I do, you help," stage three is "You do, I help," and stage four is "You do, I watch."
The pentagon is a tool for enabling every believer to recognize his or her worth and how to contribute to building up the body of Christ. Just as a pentagon has five sides, God has given each person the grace necessary to fulfill a ministry role as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher. As you identify who is gifted in certain ways and how they can use those gifts in ministry through your church, you can help all your church's members learn to work effectively and productively together in ministry. Apostles are visionary and pioneering people who like to come up with new, innovative means to do kingdom work. Prophets hear from God and help people understand how He wants them to live. They often can come up with a vision for progress and creative solutions that others can't. Evangelists bring God's good news to non-Christians and know how to make His Word relevant to them. Pastors (those who have the pastoral gift, including laypeople) care for other people with compassion. They comfort and encourage people patiently and seek to meet their needs. Teachers look for ways to explain, enlighten, and apply truth. They enjoy reading and studying the Bible and helping others understand it.
Learning to pray according to the model Jesus gave us in the Lord's Prayer will renew your church's prayer life. Use this six-sided prayer (just like the six sides of a hexagon) from Matthew 6:9-13 as a model for all your prayers: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one." Take whatever is burning in your heart at a given moment and pray it through according to the framework Jesus laid out in this example of effective prayer.
God's people are a living organism subject to the same principles of growth that apply to all living things. The seven-sided acrostic "MRS GREN" can help you grow a healthy church. Just like a seven-sided heptagon, there are seven characteristics that identify all living organisms: movement, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion, and nutrition. Use biological life as a metaphor for what God wants your church to look like. Is your congregation on the move, reaching out to a dying world? Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to breathe energy into your church's people and empower them to live according to God's will? Are your church's members sensitive to the needs of others and willing to rejoice and mourn along with them in every situation? Are individuals in your church growing in their faith? Are your church's small groups growing? Is your church reproducing itself by creating a healthy next generation of believers? Are people in your congregation excreting their sins through repentance and discipline? Are they feeding their souls nutritiously by obeying God faithfully?
Evangelism will take on a new perspective as you learn to discover the "person of peace" in various situations and how the process works from God's perspective. The eight-sided octagon illustrates how to seek out people who will be receptive to hearing and responding to the Gospel. You can discover these "people of peace" through presence (simply modeling the way Jesus would act and speak in a given situation), passing relationships (talking about spiritual things with people you happen to meet once or twice, such as a person sitting next to you on an airplane), permanent relationships (praying for your family and close friends to come to Christ and watching for the right opportunities to discuss faith with them), proclamation (proclaiming the Gospel at special events like weddings or funerals), preparation (planting seeds of faith by helping people think about their spiritual journeys, even though they may not yet be ready to harvest a decision for Christ yet), power (praying for God to display His power by intervening in a person's life, such as by healing a sick person), and perception (asking the Holy Spirit to help you discern people He wants you to reach in various circumstances).
Adapted from The Passionate Church: The Art of Life-Changing Discipleship, copyright 2005 by Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad. Published by NexGen, an imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, Colorado Springs, Co., www.CookMinistries.com/NexGen.
When Mike Breen was rector and team leader of St. Thomas' Church in Sheffield, England, he used LifeShapes to grow the church into the largest one in northern England, with 80 percent of the members under age 40. Now on staff at Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona, and as a teacher for Fuller Seminary in California, Mike helps church leaders in transition and coaches church planters on how to be effective in our contemporary culture.
Walt Kallestad is senior pastor of Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona, a church with more than 12,000 members. Walt has authored several books, including Turn Your Church Inside Out and The Entrepreneurial Faith. A popular speaker/teacher on church leadership and church growth, Walt is passionate about helping today's churches transition from program-driven to relationship-driven, mission-minded communities.