Introduction:In chapter 1, we will start by looking at discipleship from a systems perspective.Then, in chapter 2, we’ll zoom into discipleship at the individual level.In chapter 3, we’ll unpack these issues and explore what it looks like to move from being a sage on the stage to a guide on the side when it comes to discipleship and leadership development.In chapter 4, we’ll survey four environments where discipleship and development occur.In chapter 5, we’ll look at the marks of a church and compare what happens when the end goal for discipleship is maturity, and what happens when the end goal for discipleship is mission.
In his new book, No Silver Bullets, author Daniel IM describes approaches that churches typically take in their discipleship process and challenges the reader to think through small changes that produce lasting results. IM defines a silver bullet as follows: “one-decision solutions that will solve all your woes and unleash your church into a new season of faithfulness” Im suggests “micro-shifts” in how we do ministry. The micro-shifts Im suggests are focused around what we understand discipleship to be and how we do it. They involve small shifts that will take you:
- From destination to direction
- From output to input
- From sage to guide
- From form to function
- From maturity to missionary
The first shift deals with how we understand discipleship. A destination approach thinks of discipleship in terms of the general direction the “disciple” is moving instead of an end destination to be reached.
“First of all, disciples are not widgets. They cannot be mass- produced on an assembly line. Disciples are not made when they get to a destination…Disciples are formed while moving toward Christ. Discipleship is about direction, not destination. A direction approach, views “maturity as an ongoing process without an endpoint this side of eternity.” This entails that we are always being discipled, and requires that we always are discipling others. The Intentional Church intentionally creates multiple environments to move people toward Christ, instead of assuming that people will move in that direction if given the opportunity to.”
The second shift pertains to what an individual needs to do to move in the direction of following Jesus. Churches often want disciples to demonstrate knowledge of the bible, fruit of the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, etc. These are output goals or results. Input goals are those practices that make output goals achievable. Based on Lifeway Research, Im argues that reading the Bible, attending Sunday worship, and participating in smaller groups are three inputs that greatly influence output results.
“the research revealed that doing certain actions (input goals) would actually predict a higher score in each of the discipleship attributes (output goals). For example, when individuals studied the Bible, which is different from just reading it, they scored higher on both the Serving God and Others attribute and the Sharing Christ attribute. In other words, the input goal of studying the Bible does more than just make you knowledgeable about Scripture. Furthermore, the input goal of making a decision to obey or follow God— knowing that this decision might be costly to you in some way— had an interesting effect on an individual’s Bible Engagement output goal. The research revealed that this decision actually led individuals to a greater engagement with the Scriptures!
The third shift addresses the role of the leader in this process. Pastors often feel that they need to be the “sage on the stage,” the person with answers to all discipleship questions. Drawing on adult learning studies, Im advises pastors and church leaders to adopt an approach referred to as being a “guide on the side.” In this approach, the teacher puts the learner in the driving seat, helping them when they get stuck.
“Instead of spending the majority of the training event with a sage on the stage teaching the lesson, in the flipped classroom, you would spend the majority of the time in work groups. So instead of a 30 to 45- minute talking head, you would spend 5 to 10 minutes casting vision, encouraging the volunteers and leaders, and reminding them of “the why” and “the what” from the video that they watched. The majority of the time would then be spent in groups where the volunteers and leaders would be able to better focus on how to implement the concepts that they learned in the video. They would do this by working on case studies, revisiting concepts that might be difficult, and sharing best practices with one another via group brainstorming.”
In the fourth shift, Im talks about moving from form to function. This is an especially good chapter for churches that are still debating whether Sunday school ,small groups or missional communities are a better discipleship methodology. Im argues that the function of discipling is more important than the form in which it takes places. Having said that, he proposes mid-size communities in the church as a particularly fruitful venue for discipleship.
God used the megachurch to reach Korea and the house church to reach China. The lesson here is to hold models loosely and the gospel firmly.” Hold Your Forms Loosely and Your Functions Firmly Shifting from form to function allows you to develop the right forms of community that work for your context today.
Finally, Im focuses on the purpose of discipleship. Most churches understand discipleship in terms of spiritual maturity, but Im thinks they ought to understand it in terms of being a missionary.
These micro- shifts, when put together, are intended to help you develop missionary disciples rather than merely mature disciples…When you focus on developing mature disciples, you do not necessarily find yourself with an army of missionaries. However, when you focus on developing missionary disciples, you will always get mature disciples.Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating against maturity— just take a look through chapter 2! What I am advocating against is maturity as an end in and of itself.In other words, every plumber, poet, and police officer in your church has the same vocation— to go and make disciples. This is our missionary mandate as the church! We are all sent and on mission with God wherever we are and in whatever we do for a living (John 20: 21). And this precisely is our primary vocation.Our witness is powerless without John 20: 22! This is because “mission is not just something that the church does; it is something that is done by the Spirit, who is himself the witness, who changes both the world and the church, who always goes before the church in its missionary journey.”
Throughout No Silver Bullets, Daniel Im brings biblical theology, personal experience, and social science research together on the urgent question of how churches can better make disciples. He has done well to present a balanced view of discipleship that can be contextualized to many settings by implementing these micro-shifts. He ends the book by suggesting ways that change should happen within a church setting as well for those churches that intend to put some of these micro-shifts into practice.
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