Saturday, September 20, 2008

How do we build disciples? (Part 2)

This is the 2nd in a series of posts looking at the question 'How do we build disciples?'  In Part 1 we looked at a view that Jesus' approach of making disciples differs from what is seen after his resurrection among the early church. In this post, we'll look at the view that the best approach is multiplication: heavily investing in the lives of a few others who will in turn disciple others.

Greg Ogden is the author of several outstanding books on discipleship, including "Discipleship Essentials" which has a great definition of discipling: "Discipling is an intentional relationship in which we walk alongside other disciples in order to encourage, equp and challenge one another in love to grow toward maturity in Christ. This includes equipping the disciple to teach others as well". Ogden has a summary PDF on his web site entitled: "Making Disciples Jesus Way: A Few at a Time." The thesis of this approach is given as: "The church urgently needs to recapture its original mission of making disciples of Jesus by creating intimate, relational environments of multiplication and transformation." Ogden goes on to say:
Jesus made it crystal clear that there is to be a singular product which He equates with the mission of the church—“Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Every church’s mission is the same. There is only one mission: making disciples of Jesus. We may prefer to express it in a fresh, contemporary way, such as “to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ”, but it will still just be a restatement of the Great Commission.
He describes an approach that is similar to what some would see in the advice Paul gives to Timothy, to invest in the live of another person who will be faithful and able to teach others. The twist is that Ogden specifically recommends groups of 3-4 rather than pairs.  "Disciples are made in small, reproducible groups of 3 or 4 (triads or quads) that cultivate an environment of transformation and multiplication." The advantages he sites for the use of triads or quads compared to a strictly 1:1 relationship are:

1. Shift of unnatural burden on the discipler, to a group process
2. Shift from hierarchy to peer relationship, a come-alongside mutual journey
3. Shift from dialogue to dynamic interchange
4. Shift from limited input to wisdom in numbers
5. Shift from addition to multiplication

For more thoughts on this approach, you can read some lecture notes on 'Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time." (I'm currently reading his book "Unfinished Business: Returning the Ministry to the People of God") I would be interested in feedback from anyone with experience with the triad/quad approach to discipleship, either positive or negative.

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