The second chapter in “Discipleship that Fits: The Five Kinds of Relationships God Uses to Help Us Grow” is the chapter that starts to dip its toes in the concept of the five relationships…different size spaces and groups of people with different purposes. It is not a full on treatment of this idea, that comes later but the seeds are being planted in this chapter.
Discipleship is going to require us to utilize relationships in different size groups with different purposes for people to be fully formed disciples. We know this because this is exactly what Jesus did. Again, more on this later.
We see this first in the story of Jim Putman who realized that you have to reach the few if you are going to reach the many. Jim’s church is one of the lead churches in growing through discipleship in the United States (p.37)
Jim and others came to the fundamental and basic realization that discipleship is relational (on a side note, Jim and Bobby Harrington co-founded the Relational Discipleship Network).
When we think relational we don’t think mega church service with thousands of people. Bobby and Alex are quick to point out that discipleship being relational doesn’t mean we scrap large gatherings. Jesus had those too. This was one of my hangups with Chan’s book, “Letters to the Church.” From what I have seen the house church movement without some sort of larger gathering is extremely hard to keep going and people have a hard time buying in because it lacks of sense of permanence. Are you investing yourself in something that might just roll up and go away next month? Facilities and larger gatherings check that box but they do have the challenge of forming deeper ties. That is why you can’t just go big, you also have to go small/relational. Both have their purposes.
This is one of the things that I most appreciate about this book. It was a missing piece for me. There is an appeal of scrapping the overhead of the building but can it be done house to house in North America at this point in time? This book helps us see how to utilize every environment and size of group available to us for the greater good of making disciples. That is wise and practical. Not quite the punch in the gut that Chan gave me! I had no idea what to do with Chan’s approach for the reason I stated above on success rates of house churches and permanence. This approach allows us to re-purpose what existing churches already have!
Second, this chapter explains a common misconception – that we evangelize to conversion and we have made a disciple. Discipleship includes evangelism and conversion. It also includes maturation. Maturation is the part most of us fall off at – we get them to the water but then don’t walk alongside afterward. We dealt with their sin problem but didn’t plan to help them mature! That is so obvious but somehow not at all on many people’s radar.
Last, the chapter deals with a sociological principle of sets that focus on “how groups of people connect over a period of time” (p.41). There are three types of sets: bounded set (there is a line you have to cross to get “in”), fuzzy set (the boundaries are blurry and inclusive), and centered set (there is a principle in the center we are all trying to get close to that brings us together). Most churches operate from the paradigm of a bounded set – there are requirements that it takes to get “in” – that certain can be biblical but it is often stretched to include things the Bible itself doesn’t include.
Bobby and Alex believe we should be seeking the centered set with Jesus being the center. This means that we can all help each other get closer to Jesus through discipleship and disciple making.
This chapter is a bridge to chapter three where the core of the book will be discussed with more specificity – the different kinds of relationships that are essential for us to become mature disciples.
Let me know what you thought about chapter 2. One thing I left out above that is very important, early in this chapter, is the Holy Spirit’s role in discipling us. I talked about that a few months ago in a big “aha” for me – that in Jesus’ absence the Spirit takes up the role of discipler in our lives. You can check that out below.