"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disciple and Organize

By Micky Wolf

It can be easy to confuse the concept of discipling people—some might speak of mentoring—with the process of organizing and categorizing for the purpose of establishing order. If we are involved in Christian ministry and hope to effectively pass on Christ-centered wisdom, knowledge and insight, it is important to understand how these terms and functions are similar and how they are different.
Disciple
One who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another;
a convinced adherent of a school or individual
[Merriam Webster Dictionary]

Organize

To form into a coherent unity or functioning whole; 
to set up an administrative structure
 [Merriam Webster Dictionary]

We immediately recognize by the definitions that discipling is concerned with people and organizing is focused on things. Is this to say they are mutually exclusive? Yes—and no.
Key to accepting and assisting in the spreading of doctrine and being a convinced adherent in an effective manner is having a clear understanding of what it is you hope to disseminate. Therefore, it only follows that the effectiveness of the disciple to share is hugely dependent upon his or her knowledge, wisdom, and even passionate connection with a particular doctrine or set of doctrines.
Which leads us to the second point—a disciple is a convinced adherent of a school or individual. We do not have look far to see both good and bad examples—from the darker side, people like Jim Jones and Bernard Madoff illustrate the worst kinds of human behavior with regard to developing adherents.
On a much more positive note, Jesus provides an incredible example of what it means to guide and companion people into becoming mature and loving disciples. While he may not have appeared to be too effective in his day, the tenets of his doctrines and the way he helped form the convinced remains viable and valuable two thousand plus years later. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Martin Luther King, Jr. are also among the more well-known of those who led others and whose influence is still impacting people in spreading Christ-centered doctrine.
4 important characteristics of individuals who disciple others…
  1. Those who most effectively disciple others are acutely aware they must know their ‘doctrine’—inside out and upside down. Knowing a few of the principles or being misinformed in certain areas can cause more harm than good.
  2. Those who most effectively disciple understand the value of identifying their personal area of expertise and of passing along the associated knowledge and insight to those of similar giftedness. Trying to be and do outside your area of strength and experience can dilute or delay the process.
  3. Those who most effectively disciple others appreciate that empowering an individual to grow and mature using the gifts and talents God has given you not only encourages and affirms that person in their personal journey, but potentially prepares and equips them to be of greater service to the community at large.
  4. Those who most effectively disciple others realize ‘nothing is forever’. They embrace the heart and intent inherent in ‘to everything there is a time and a season’. [Eccl. 3:1] Regardless of chronological age, daily life is about ongoing change and transformation. Ignoring or overlooking the importance of modeling maturity through resilience and perseverance for those we disciple, will keep them infants in their desire and willingness to accept and assist.
4 important characteristics of the disciple…
  1. The person who desires to be an effective disciple is acutely aware of the need to listen more than speak, observe more than do, and to study ‘to show thyself approved’. [2 Timothy 2:15] While it is important to continue learning throughout our life, it is especially vital when we are choosing to be convinced adherents of a particular doctrine.
  2. The person who desires to be an effective disciple understands the value of concentrating on the particular gifts and talents they have been given by God, while developing and using them in ways unique to who they are as individuals created in the image and likeness of God.
  3. The person who desires to be an effective disciple appreciates that personal growth and maturity is their own responsibility. Only you can make the choice to use the whole of what you have been given, learned, and experienced over time, in service of others.
  4. The person who desires to be an effective disciple appreciates any opportunity to be companioned by those whose knowledge and insight—and doctrinal integrity—has stood the test of time. Again, chronological age is not necessarily a mitigating factor, however, we are wise to honor and respect the elders in our midst.
Quality and Continuing Formation—Knowing When to Organize
Helping people become good disciples as lived and modeled by Jesus Christ acknowledges the need for meaningful formation of each person—intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually—as an absolute. If we hope to create more loving and compassionate families, communities and our nation, those with whom we are sharing the journey must be given authentic and meaningful preparation and good tools.
Developing ways to help form people in their life calling will involve detailed and specific plans and action steps. Effective formation, however, will never see people as things to be organized, but rather living, breathing, human beings who, when prepared and equipped, will by the very nature of the process itself, “be formed into a coherent unity or functioning whole”.
Am I well-equipped to assist in spreading a doctrine of another? Why? Why not?
Am I a convinced adherent of a school or individual?
How do I feel about being a disciple? Discipling others?
What would help me be a more effective disciple?
What would help me be more effective as one who disciples others?

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