I have over the past number of months been exposed on a number of occassions to a spiritual development tool created by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches called a Description of a Growing Disciple. I won’t inlude the entire thing here (see link below), but I will highlights the characteristics and some of the things that stuck out to me about some of them.
The 12 characteristics of a growing disciple are presented in pairs. They are:
(1) Captivated and Committed
(2) Thriving and Thirsting
(3) Bonded and Building
(4) Inviting and Influencing
(5) Discerning and Disarming
(6) Purposeful and Perserving
It seems to me that the first half of each pair describes a condition or characteristic of one’s current state, and the second half describes an attitude, action, or hope that comes out of that first characeristic. A person who is captivated by God’s grace and love desires to become increasingly committed to Jesus; once a person has tasted the thriving life that God has to offer, he or she will constantly be thirsting for more of it; a person who is engaged among the people of God will seek to build more and stronger relationships; the person who cultivates an inviting and winsome demeanour will draw people to himself or herself and to God; the person who has tutored his or her mind and spirit to decide between the good that God has for us and everything else, allows others to let their guard down and be wooed by the message of Jesus; and the person who knows what he or she is about cannot help but be determined to run the race hard and finish it well.
These pairs also seem to be in somewhat of a logical order. First, we need to be captivated by Christ ourselves — our spirits need to have said yes to him; then it is a matter of finding life and fulfillment in that relationship; next we share that life with other Christ-followers; then we share that message with others who do not know Jesus, on a one-on-one basis; fifth, we feel confident to see the bigger picture and start contributing to the world in a way that glorifies Jesus and attempts to bring to fruition on this earth some piece of the kingdom of God; and finally, we come to a place where we are concscious much of the time that we live with a purpose, and that this is a committment for our entire lives and beyond. Now, this is not to say that we cannot begin to grow in a certain area before we have completed all the appropriate precursors — all of these can be worked on simultaneously at some level — but there is a logical sequences and flow to these characteristics that helps us to measure where we are on the journey.
To be honest, there are aspects of each of these things that I have yet to really sink my teeth into. For captivated and committed, one of the evidences is “keen to talk about life in Christ.” I will say for sure that around some people more than others, keenness is not a disposition I would use to describe my witness. For thriving and thirsting, one of the evidences is “prioritizes time to nurture a deepening realtionship with God.” I will say that I have seasons where I do that well, and seasons where I waste all kinds of time (if I am honest) and nurturing a relationship with God is not the activity around which I tend to organize my life. For bonded and building, one of the evidences is “learns to live the Christian life in community with other believers’ …. accountability.” I do seek out accountability on a fairly regular basis, but it seems as if it is often just a step away from slipping off the radar screen if I don’t steward that with intentionality. For inviting and influencing, one of the evidences is “learns to pray for and relate to non-Christian peers.” Having moved to a new city, my circle of influence and association does not yet extend beyond my faith community, and as for prayer for those who do not yet know Jesus, often it is “out of sight, out of mind.” For discerning and disarming, one of the evidences is looks for ways to break down systems of “conflict, oppression, injustice, [and seeks to] serve the needs of the poor.” This is a hard one that I think a great number of beleivers struggle with. The immensity of the task is astounding, and the need so overwhelming that we are often paralyzed by it. Finally, for purposeful and perserving, one of the evidences is “regularly assesses growth in being transformed into the image of Christ.” There have been times in my life where I have done assessments, but I cannot say that it is a regular practice. This is the line that got me the most, because I know that I could be able to do it, and am aware of the benefits that such an evaluation would offer.
So those are some of my thoughts on the discipleship rubric. It is very helpful. Take some time to browse the link below and see where you are showing evidence of spiritual maturation and where God is challening you to grow.
To read the complete DGD document, visit: http://www.mbconf.ca/home/products_and_services/resources/tools_for_the_local_church/description_of_a_growing_disciple/