Monday, December 13, 2010

A Question of Commitment

Matthew 21:28-32

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."

Mark 4:1-20

Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

A couple of years into the Pathway to Discipleship, I am observing more and more patterns emerge. In terms of new people entering into the membership of the church, I am seeing five distinct categories. First, let me note that these are only categories. Categories relate to models. Models are not reality. Models are a way for us to understand reality, though only partially. Whenever I speak of people in categories, someone will point out someone who doesn't fit. And they are correct. That doesn't necessarily devalue the model or the categories as tools to better understand what is going on. So, with that said, here are my five working categories:

1. People who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ and follow guidance and direction to further their journey.

2. People who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ and desire to follow guidance and direction to further their journey but because of lack of time, energy, commitment or discipline are unable to follow through.

3. People who do not have a desire to be disciples of Jesus Christ. I can't find a way to write this that doesn't sound negative, but I don't mean it that way. These are folks who have a desire to be part of the church but have not made a commitment to fully engage in following Jesus. The default assumption is that they do not follow guidance to further their journey. But, that is not always the case.

4. People who do not have a desire to be disciples of Jesus Christ BUT do follow the direction and guidance to continue their journey. This is an interesting group because they commit to follow the process even though they have not yet committed to the destination. Again, I hope this doesn't sound negative. I have met some people in this category who eventually make the commitment to be disciples but I have met others who have not.

5. People who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ but do not desire to follow the guidance or direction offered. This is a distinct group who hear and understand the direction offered, still desire to grow in discipleship but choose another way to engage in the journey. They may reject the Pathway to Discipleship but be involved on other Bible studies or spiritual formation opportunities. In my experience, this is the smallest group.

So why do these categories matter? They matter because of our commitment to shepherd people and hold them accountable to their commitments. The way we reach out to people and the amount of energy we spend on people might depend on their real level of commitment. If I had to prioritize the amount of time I spend encouraging people to stick to their commitment to grow as disciples, I believe I would spend the most time on people in category 2. These are people who have made the commitment to walk the journey but need some help sticking to it. Needing help doing what we know is good for us is not unique to Christianity. Lots of folks have personal trainers and life coaches to hold us to their goals. We know and are committed to doing what is good but we can't do it by ourselves.

So where are you in my new categories? Maybe more importantly, where are the people around you and how are you helping them in their journey?


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