Reverse engineering disciples

What’s involved in the shaping process of a disciple? Perhaps it’s a sign of aging but I really enjoy watching the show “How it’s made (HIM)” a simple and yet informative reverse engineering show. The half-hour show usually provides the historical background of at least one of the 3-4 everyday items covered. The background provides insights into where the item originated, how it’s been used, and how it used to be made. Then the show takes the viewers through the steps in the contemporary production process of the item. By filming it without a narrator or host onscreen, the show can easily be translated into all kinds of different languages. In fact, I watched an episode on a WestJet flight recently and was able to follow the process even without audio. So while the production process doesn’t change, people from various language contexts can easily understand the steps involved to get to a specific outcome.

What would it look like if we were to film an episode of HIM that focused on reverse engineering disciples? A while back I heard a quote by Thomas Groome that went something like, “one’s vision of the learner’s future is what most determines how one educates.” In a sense, we have to start with the outcome in mind and what people will encounter in the future. Based on Groome’s insights, we need to ask ourselves three questions. First, what kind of maturing disciple needs to be formed and deployed in our part of the world? We ask this question with the awareness that God alone can “make disciples” but we are invited to participate in his shaping process. This question gets at conversation about God’s desired outcome of maturing us in Christ-likeness. What would they value and pursue? What would they communicate? How would they live? How would they interact with people in our part of the world?

Second, what kind of community nurtures that kind of maturing disciple? This question gets at the role of community in the shaping process. What kind of life together creates a type of incubator that promotes God’s shaping process in our lives?

Third, what kind of community/congregational leadership nurtures that kind of community/congregational life that nurtures the kind of disciple needed at this time? For me this question looks at the kind of DNA or culture we are intentionally building.

As leaders and churches we can sometimes lose sight of the various parts involved in the formation process or what the desired outcome really is. How would you answer the three questions above in your context?  Do you have some insights that you would be willing to share with fellow leaders? Is there any way we can come alongside you as you wrestle with these questions in your setting?

Daniel.pngDaniel Beutler grew up in Switzerland. He came to Canada to learn English some 25 years ago. Daniel says “As a slow learner, I’m still here!” He and his wife Maureen have two children and live in Calgary. Daniel has a DMin in leadership and spiritual formation from MBBS in Langley.

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