Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Do You Have a Mentoring/Discipling Culture

I remember it vividly. A 25 year old guy talking to me a number of years ago, distraught because he knew he needed to get a mentor, someone older who was living a life worth imitating when it came to following Jesus. He wasn't distraught because of this realization. He was distraught because he couldn't find anyone who fit the bill. He was disillusioned by his church because from his vantage point, they were swinging and missing at making disciples who make disciples.

Or even worse, they weren't swinging at all.

The heart cry of many millennials is to be mentored by people who have been through the fire and are still here. They may walk with a limp, but they are still here. Still going for it.

Discipleship and life coaching are needed more than anytime in recent memory and unfortunately, the one vehicle in the world designed and purposed to do this has largely been sitting on the side of the road out of gas. Jesus cast a vision (far more than issued a command) as he wrapped up his time on earth. He said, go everywhere. And as you go...make disciples.

And yet while 20 and 30 somethings need and want this investment, we have trouble finding it and if we do find it, we don't always have the resolve to stick with it when it gets tough.

Here's 3 Shifts I've Been Thinking on that have helped us cultivate a culture of discipleship. We are by no means experts, but we have seen considerable breakthrough in this area.


There are a few churches in town who do the hype mountaintop experience really well. The problem that many churches face is that they choose this model of church, but they are ill-equipped to pull it off week in and week out. What the people are left with in that church is a cheap imitation. And more and more, 20 and 30 somethings can smell inauthentic impostors from a mile away.

Even for the church that does the hype model well, it is so taxing on the leaders to "one-up" themselves week after week and to spend the resources to market your brand, that sustained relationship is impossible.

I think what draws me to Jesus more than the moments of shock and awe that revealed God's power in Him is that remarkable consistency he went after things with. He consistently gave time to his disciples. Unique access. Invitation. Challenge. He taught them, let them try things, talked through things when they failed. He pulled off all of this and there is no record of him ever using fog machines or strobing lights. He didn't send out mass mailers. He did it with 12 who then sought to do it with more.


I've had a number of exchanges with folks where they go on and on about how much this culture has impacted them and literally changed the trajectory of their lives. That they've never experienced as much growth and life change in their faith anywhere else. Then after saying that, they let me know they are leaving. Sometimes its for a job somewhere else. Sometimes its to be closer to their family. Sometimes its to go to a different church.

Here's what I've learned. Not everyone who wants to have spiritual parents (mentors/disciplers) wants to be spiritual kids (actually be family and reorient/sacrifice their life direction to be mentored.

I had a guy who discipled me when I became a Christian as an 18 year old. He purposefully held his group for teenagers at 7 a.m. on Sundays. It was super annoying at first...but now I appreciate it a ton. You cannot disciple people who want to remain fans and friends. Fans and friends operate out of convenience. Followers and Family operate out of cost. There's a reason Jesus talked seemingly redundantly about the cost of following him. It was because he knew that many would never get past convenience based discipleship. The Bible has immense clarity on this. If it's not costing you, it's likely not following Jesus.

Jesus redefined family. He redefined home. He redefined security. He redefined purpose. And he redefined us. One of the biggest challenges to a Discipleship Culture is when we try to follow him with old, outdated definitions.

This is why I love when people take risks like going from Ohio toward planting a church in Austin or leave what has been like family and home to come join the staff team here in Columbus. They are letting Jesus redefine things.


We live in a "polish the image" culture. Anything we can do to avoid blame or responsibility or mistakes or failure, we should do it. It leads to scapegoating and washing our hands of situations.

But us maintaining our image is not nearly as captivating a story as God redeeming our mistakes.

A delivery culture focuses on getting information systematically, procedurally to the masses. Clarity is essential. Polish and presentation are key.

A development culture says "Success isn't about winning, it's about having the courage to give it a go and then learn from it when it hits the fan."

I am way more teachable in areas where I am failing and taking risks that leave me vulnerable than when I am trying to put my best foot forward and show I'm an expert or that I'm strong or that I'm more capable than I really am. Development trumps delivery. "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."-GK Chesterton

Is it safe for people to give it a go and fail?

This is simply a jumping off point. I think if we lead with Consistency/Family/Development, we will end up with value and operating systems that can't help but make disciples who make disciples.


Matt said...

Hi Ben, Trying to re-envision disciple making 20 and 30 somethings that will likely be with us for only 4 years (I minister near a graduate school). We have a stable congregation with so much life experience to offer. Your bullet points were super helpful in stimulating my thinking. My older folks find it scary to just "jump in" with no structure. Have you found any disciple making curriculum helpful, not as a silver bullet, but to at least structure the conversations...at least at the beginning of the relationship?

Ben said...

Hey Matt! Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen is one of the more helpful things I've used to get people to hear what Jesus is saying and discern what one is supposed to do about it.

Matt said...

Thanks Ben, started reading it today. I hadn't heard of Breen. You're right. So Very helpful. Really appreciate the pointer. Peace to you brother as you serve.