Thursday, October 26, 2006

Holy Ground Cafe

I took a seat in our local cafe the other day across from these gentlemen, one black, one white. I snapped a picture while they were deep in conversation. And just for a moment I thought, this is holy ground, the kind of place Jesus would hang out...nuetral ground at the cross roads of culture and although there is a kind of informal protocol, it's without pretense or agenda. How many places like this exist in our communities, do we know whre they are?

Ray Oldenburg, in his book Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the "Great Good Places" at the Heart of Our Communities, explores the contribution of cafes like this. I found one comment on the book interesting:

"Dr. Oldenburg helped me to understand that when good citizens of a community find places to spend pleasurable hours with one another for no specific or obvious purpose, there is purpose to such association. One of these places is, of course, our cafe environment. We provide an informal public gathering place which is not and can not be supplied by any other agency in the society."

Oldenburg positions "third places" beside home and work. I wonder... Knowing that the church is people (we have to keep reminding ourselves), what would have to change to make the church qualify as a third place? How could we create these wonderful, highly-engaging 'front porches' in our community?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Do we do discipleship the way Jesus did?

I'm currently working on a long-term development plan for a discipleship ministry. In the process of thinking through key directions, I feel God challenging me to examine our whole approach to discipleship, generally asking... why we don't disciple people the way Jesus did. I have been in ministry for over 30 years, but I have been stopped in my tracks over this, and I'm having a difficult time identifying any present day examples of discipling as Jesus did. Most church-based discipleship is classroom oriented. Even those more relational, one-on-one approaches are still quite formal, didactic, cognitive, or curriculum-based. Some mission-based approaches add experiential components, but could they be proposed across the board and effectively applied to all Christians in all walks of life?

I have four questions:

1) What were the essential qualities in the way Jesus discipled others?

2) Do you know of good, present-day examples/models in use?

3) Could we suggest a truly biblical model for today based on the clear example of Jesus in the four Gospels?

4) Is there any justification for our wholesale abandonment of Christ's own example?

For me this is not simply an academic exercise, since I am working on a plan that could impact the direction of a ministry. So I do hope there are some good answers to be found.

Here's one way to get at it... What if we first took what might be seen as the basics of good mentoring: 1) provide essentials and key principles, 2) dramatize and demonstrate in real life, 3) commission them to do it on their own, 4) provide evaluation, support, affirmation, and guidance to perfect, internalize, and integrate with personal life and calling.

And if we would say that the core ingredient of the enduring disciple was loving God (with a whole heart), then what could the discipleship process look like? Would the process look like anything we presently see? And how would you provide experiences that impart an authentic, enduring love of God?