Can whole-life disciplemaking work in a church like mine?
Can whole-life disciplemaking work in a church like ours? Some church leaders like the thought of growing their churches to be whole-life disciplemaking communi...
This blog will help you see how a simple map can help people connect what they’re learning at church with the places they find themselves the rest of the time.
The Friday before I wrote this, I was at the Newcastle University Christian Union’s last event of the academic year. It was a moment of transition. Some students were heading off into a totally new landscape as they graduate, go on summer adventures, or start a placement year. For others, summer marked a return to the familiar: a family home, an old job, or staying put in Newcastle.
I shared with them the idea that we all have a ‘frontline’ – an ordinary place where we’re called to live as disciples among those who don’t know Jesus – and I could see ‘aha!’ moments happening all over the room. People’s eyes lit up as they realised that their town planning degree and their Ultimate Frisbee teams were places God called them to be and activities that he delighted in. Coming back to them after summer would hold a new excitement, and those going on to new places were catching a vision of what God might do in those places.
But there’s always a risk that no matter how good the talk is on a Friday night or a Sunday morning, the ‘aha’ moment fades away. By the time the rubber hits the road on Monday it’s barely a distant memory. So in classic ‘last day of term’ style, I gave them all a colouring exercise: a map of Newcastle to fill in as a reminder of their frontlines.
Each of them marked on it the places where they spend time throughout the week: halls, lecture theatres, clubs, pubs, and cafeterias where they interact with people who don’t know Jesus. Just a simple task, but a task intended to help them embed and engage with their learning. To make it personal to them.
Simple exercise; big change
Embedding whole-life discipleship culture is sometimes hard. The ‘aha’ moments can be followed by what feels like little real transformation. That’s why practical exercises like this are important in embedding learning. Sometimes we have moments of revelation when our whole life shifts on learning a new a piece of information. But more often than not, it’s the small, sustainable reminders, building on each other over time, that lead to radical change. That’s what we were tying to do with the map exercise.
It wasn’t perfect. Some people lived outside the boundary of the map and travelled further in and had lots of arrows in the margins. Some wrote around the edges where they go to play sport or see family. They all had friends further afield, in other cities or around the world. But even in its imperfection as a task, I was struck that everyone had more on their maps than they had expected. Black and white lines were filled with the colour of their everyday movements. It helped us build a picture of a deep, rich call to follow Jesus as a scattered community.
What would it look like for you to do this exercise in your church? For some, you might need more than one map, as people invest in relationships with friends, family and colleagues remotely or travel big distances during the week. Would your map be the whole UK? Or perhaps the world? Or would it be small, limited to a home to which carers come every week?
The exercise doesn’t need to stop at drawing the map. You can set a specific task at the end to help people keep moving forwards. Maybe asking, what one area of your frontline are you praying for this week? Getting people to put the map up at home, or use it as a lock screen to keep in their mind that God has called them to particular places and people.
Or to involve everyone, you might want to work on one map as a whole church, putting up a big one somewhere visible in your building and marking it with pins or stickers as a visible reminder of how God is working through your church family.
This simple action is a great way to make Sunday learnings personal, embedded in the reality of life – helping keep your church family’s frontlines right at the heart of their discipleship. Because the places we go through the week can be places of fruitfulness with God – as well as the places we do our work and buy our groceries.
Church Advocate, LICC