But What About...?
Writing a book on discipleship is a daunting challenge due to the fact that all people are different. It is not like taking raw material and fashioning it into a predetermined, final product such as a shoe or a dining table. People are complex. They have unique life histories, passions, gifts, and needs. This leads disciple-makers to ask a number questions that go something like this “But what about...?”
Once you begin to walk through Aspire: Developing and Deploying Disciples in the Church and for the Church with someone else you are likely to have these questions yourself. Last week I shared that the desired outcome for Aspire would be for a maturing Christian to commit to walking with a younger believer over the course of one year. This plan will have to be catered to the unique needs of the discipleship pair, however. In this week’s blog post, I want to answer a number of “but what about?” questions that you are likely to face.
We Can’t Meet Each Week
Aspire is written in three, 12-week sections. The thought behind this is that it would allow the discipleship pairs to work through section 1, a week at a time, between Labor Day and Thanksgiving and then take the month of December off. They could then tackle section 2 starting at the first of the year and ending around Easter and then finish up with section 3 over the summer.
This plan may work for some but it is not likely to be feasible for everyone. Stay at home moms, traveling business professionals, or busy students may find it difficult to commit to a weekly meeting on top of other church-related commitments. So what do you do?
I suggest one of three options. First, you could meet every other week and do a single lab each time you are together. On your first meeting you could discuss week 1, take a week off, and then meet again to discuss week 2. Sure, you would not finish in a year, but it is better to take your time and have quality meetings than to rush through it half-heartedly. Second, you could meet every other week and discuss two weeks worth of Aspire each time you are together. On your first meeting you could discuss weeks 1 and 2 and then two weeks later you could discuss the reading for weeks 3 and 4. Finally, you could work through one week of study per month, meaning that you would do the first section over the course of an entire year rather than trying to do it in one season.
We Can’t Keep Up with the Reading
Reading levels vary widely. Some people are going to be accustomed to reading weighty theology on a regular basis while most are not. Some people may not be able to read at all. Thankfully this is not a deal-breaker. The history of the church attests to the fact that disciples can be made without someone being able to read well or at all. If you are working with someone that seems outmatched by the reading then I would encourage you to change your approach. Rather than meeting with a person after they have read and reflected on the questions in the study, you could meet with them before they begin. You could go into the meeting having already familiarized yourself with the content for the week and talk them through it during your meeting together. Notice that I did not say “you could read it to them.” This is not necessary. If you know the content well then you can discuss the theme and main points with someone else without heightening their insecurity by reading the book to them. You could point out some of the main questions that are asked in each week’s study and ask them to consider them following your discipleship time together.
We Don’t Know All the Answers
I wrote Aspire in workbook fashion in order to force the discipleship relationship to engage with the material throughout. Some questions are fairly straight-forward, some require you to assess your heart, and others may quite complex. This is intentional. Rather than seeking to come to the meetings with all of the right answers, seek to allow the questions to propel you forward on a journey towards discovering truth together. If you get stumped on a question, use the resources at your disposal in gospel-centered books, your church family, and your pastors.
We Already Know All the Answers
Some people will approach books like Aspire with the questions already answered in their minds. Surprisingly even many young believers tend to have already formulated answers to many foundational issues regarding following Christ. Others will have prepackaged answers that they have heard from family, friends, previous church leaders, college friends, or para-church ministry groups. Be prepared to challenge these assumptions early and often. Even if the person presents an answer that you agree with try to dissect the answer by wrestling with the Scriptures together. Ask them why they think their answer is correct, what their Biblical rationale is, and even play devil’s advocate by presenting alternative conclusions. The point of discipleship is not to regurgitate theological facts but to develop biblically sound conclusions as you live in community with other believers.
“But what about” questions are sure to come. Next week I will continue to provide some answers to practical questions related to using Aspire in one-on-one discipleship relationships. Should you have questions, feel free to email me directly.