Review of “Discipleship that Fits” Chapter 3 – The Big Idea to Change Your View of Church

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If you only read one of the chapter reviews, read this one all the way through and consider its ramifications on your ministry. I do hope what is covered in this article will encourage you to read not just these reviews but the book itself. It is worth your time or else I wouldn’t talk about it here.

This chapter is the heart and soul of the book. The concepts in this chapter and how they play out in the rest of the book are based off of Joseph Myers’ book “The Search to Belong” which is all about social connection as it relates to group size. In a nutshell – different size groups can accomplish different purposes in creating disciples. Bobby and Alex take Myers’ principles and adeptly apply them to making disciples.

I don’t want to give away too much of their material but I will give you the five contexts:

Public context – Large group gathering. You won’t build relationships solely in this space but you can encourage and motivate the masses in this arena. Let me step aside for a moment to also say, with each of the five contexts they give a distance proximity appropriate to each size group. So this one would be 12 feet – the people in the audience are roughly no closer than 12 feet from the action (preacher, worship leader, etc)

Social context – This is the 20-70 person gathering. We had this in St. Pete where we grew a young adult ministry from a handful of people to around 70+ and this is key for a group to understand that again, deep friendships won’t spring out of this size group but one can now identify those “with whom [they’d] like to become closer friends.” (p.52).

Personal context – This is the 4-12 person group. Another aside – we see each size group mirrored in the ministry of Jesus. We are finally moving into closer connection with fewer people.

Transparent context – 1 or 2 other people who you let into the most private areas of your life. The proximity here grows closer with each context. Here it is 0-18 inches apart. You are quite comfortable with each other and safe.

Divine context – God and us. “In this context we come face-to-face with our true selves, as reflected i the loving eyes of our heavenly Father.” (p.53).

These concepts were very helpful for me in helping me see why different groups worked so well at various times in my ministry history. They worked well because the purposes we set aligned with the size of the group. I cannot begin to tell you how important this is.

Chapter three is worth the price of the book.

The other thing that is worth the price of the book is found on pages 56-57. This is how misalignment of the contexts can lead to disappointment.

Let me give you a glaring example of this – do you offer an invitation after the sermon on Sunday? How effective is it? Have you ever considered why? Maybe we assign its failure to poor technique – if the preacher was just more compelling people might respond. But what if it came down to what this chapter is all about? We are asking people present in a public context to do what is typically appropriate in at most a Personal context but more likely the Transparent context. No wonder it doesn’t work! The venue doesn’t suit the purpose in that moment.

2 Responses

  1. The comment about the Sunday invitation is one that always bothered me. I can remember the last 5 minutes of the sermon when the invitation would start and you would get the song book ready to start the first of 3-6 verses of “Just As I Am” knowing that the odds of a response were slim to none. However, when someone would walk down the aisle the people would start smirking and whispering questions about what juicy gossip or sin was going to be revealed. It was pitiful if you were sitting in the back watching the poor person and knowing what was being said about them not 20 feet away and then that long silent pause while the index card was written which the preacher would read to the congregation before praying for the person and that was it. Pre-internet, by 15 minutes after the closing prayer, 2 counties knew who went up the aisle and what juicy info was revealed. In rural areas, this beat eavesdropping on a party line. I saw it done a few times and cringed.

    Contrast that to the cofC which says while we stand and sing this hymn, if you want to talk to someone, go to the foyer and there are people available. Meanwhile, the Episcopal church has either trained lay people or clergy in the side chapels during the communion which hear responses to their unspoken invitation or prayer requests and whatever is said to them is not publicized.

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