Coming to a new church setting, there has been a lot of “stressors” and added “weight” to my job. More things need answers than ever before, and it seems that everyone has their two cents to how it should be resolved. It isn’t a bad thing, rather a good thing that people feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts with me… it just can seem like a lot to take in. Ironically, the second I feel that I’ve got a handle on what all is going on in our church, it seems the list explodes in my face like a BlackCat on July 4th. More questions, more attempts at answers, and more need for Jesus.
As with any new Pastorate, one of my concerns has been the process by which we will disciple or are discipling people. While working with College Students, we were able to disciple in a particular way because college students tend to have similar needs and time schedules, making it “easier” to disciple them. We could take a sniper rifle approach with them. But in a multigenerational church, it just isn’t that simple.
In thinking about discipleship, there are some who ascribe to the idea that there is a “silver bullet” to how we accomplish this organic thing we call “discipleship.” For instance, some say “Sunday School” or “Large Group Teaching” or “Small Group Teaching” or “Community/Home/Life Groups” or “One on One” or “One on Three” or have even gone so far as saying that evangelism is discipleship (I believe you cannot separate the two and you look really silly in doing so, but that is not what this post is about).
My point is that different age groups and in fact, different people, need to be discipled well, differently. When I think about how Jesus discipled the disciples – he was a little harder verbally with Peter in his instruction than he was with John, the Beloved. Why? It could be because Peter often put his foot in his mouth quicker than a missed call by a replacement ref, or it could be simply because Peter was a little more thick-headed than the other disciples and actually needed someone to point that out. Why was Jesus more gentle with John? Was it because John was a little more sensitive to various situations while also being more receptive to the leadership of Jesus? Again, I don’t know – but I know that even Jesus dealt with his disciples in similar, yet different ways.
And that probably is the biggest hurdle in being a Pastor of a multigenerational church. How are we going to disciple all these people so that they can multiply what they know to others? It gives me nightmares to think that we might miss how we’re supposed to do this. But it also drives me to really consider how we’re going to make disciples who make disciples, but to also remember that there isn’t just one way to do it.
As David Kinnaman says this in his book You Lost Me:
“Disciples cannot be mass-produced. Disciples are handmade, one relationship at a time.”
So, at First Bellville, we’re trying to understand our context and our people to hand-make a discipleship process that fits that disciple. We want be strategic of course, but we also want to be faithful to understand who they are, their needs, and take the time to disciple them well. This would be the discomfort of discipleship – wishing for the “silver bullet” but knowing one does not exist… and that is a good thing.