Creating a Learning Network for Kingdom Builders!
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A Kingdom Tale. Chapter 3: Are They Crazy? This isn't the way real life works!
The facilitator had been talking for awhile. He went on to explain to those in the group that, over the next few weeks they'd be loving each other, trusting each other, sharing their lives together, speaking to one another about important things of life and so forth. Dick was struggling, again, he didn't like this concept of connecting. “I can't believe they've asked us to do this. REALLY? We don't even KNOW each other. To be expected to be transparent and trust without really knowing the other person, really?” What was worse, Dick knew a couple people from the Genesis Cluster. About them he though, “Self-serving. Period. Probably not even Christians.” Dick could give examples proving his point of view. He thought, “Trust those guys? Ha! The facilitators were obviously a couple fries short of a Happy Meal. Are they crazy? This isn't the way real life works!” This is where the meeting was at, but this is how the meeting started...
The facilitator had to struggle to get the attention of those in the Genesis Cluster. They met over lunch at Kingdom, Inc. Today the room literally buzzed as people chatted. “Hello?” he said. “Can anyone hear me?” Reluctant to disengage in conversation, but compliant, the group turned their attention to the facilitator, “Let's kick off with prayer and then talk about how we are doing in devoting ourselves to the key things we should focus on.” (NOTE to reader, find these key things here: THE SEVEN DEVOTIONS)
He continued, “In times past and in various places, the body of Christ has understood how to be disciplined Christ-followers and how to make them. Take a glance at the the world around us - we see those who live with Christ as the center of their lives. And we see many who do not.
“In other times and places, extending the kingdom has been like a bike cruising down the road, yet when we look right around us it appears that the bike has tipped over. Natural culture has more influence on society than the body of Christ has on it. Do we want to become Europe? Europe saw great revivals, but today godlessness is the 'norm'. Look around! Hey, godlessness is becoming the 'norm' in the United States, in our schools, at work, in government. Everywhere. We need to get the bike back up and running. That takes work. Hard work. Discipline. Maybe even training wheels.”
Dick lost a little of what the speaker was saying. He found himself mulling over the charter of the Genesis Cluster. The charter was to BE the body of Christ in the micro-community of Kingdom, Inc. They had started like any other group of Christian people who might find themselves working at the same place... generally divided from each other, certainly not part of a cohesive Christian community; last he had counted, people from 10 churches were represented, and the group was just getting started! They were going over simple things, that's right, the facilitator had called them training wheels, said we needed training wheels to help get the bike to stand upright and be pedaled down the road. The facilitator called these training wheels the DNA of the Kingdom. Dick was not convinced.
To Dick, it seemed like the facilitators were expecting the group to do a lot of work; previously, when the group had clustered over lunch, he'd even raised the objection, “Shouldn't we just let the Holy Spirit build his body, do we need to be so deliberate and intentional, like really?” The facilitator who was speaking at the time had been a woman. She had shot back, machine gun fashion, “What do you think it means to 'be' a disciple... you know, disciple, disciplined, deliberate, intentional. Jesus set his face like a flint to do the things God called him to – was that deliberate and intentional? Maybe it sounds spiritual to “let the Holy Spirit do the work” while we, what?, just coast? Let me ask this, what would give you the idea that deliberate and intentional would NOT be part of what we are called to do?” The whole room was silent and all eyes turned toward him. He was a bit embarassed. No one likes to be set straight in public, particularly by a woman. Ugh. Truth was, he couldn't come up with one thing that would say deliberate and intentional was not part of being a disciple! Dah.
Still, Dick wondered, "Could they 'pull off' being the body of Christ at work?" Doubt it. He liked to say he was from Missouri, he'd believe it when he saw it work.... He realized he was missing things and turned his attention back to the speaker.
“...four basic areas in our lives we cannot neglect: Disciple Building, Marriage Building, Family Building and Church, Ecclesia building. These are the building blocks of how we live together. Do you think...” Ooops Dick went off on another thought tangent, there's more to life than just these four! That is the problem with the church; it is just so unrelated to real life, like work and, like Dick's favorite hobby horse, politics, government starting to effect every part of our lives, interfere, really! He picked back up on the conversation, “Later we'll be looking 'outside'... where we have responsibilities in the world around us and how we do it in areas like the social – tangible needs of people and culture, the civic from governance and getting along to government and the market from working to ecomomics and commerce....” Dick warmed to the ideas a bit. “Interesting,” he mused. “This is starting to sound less like Sunday School. Maybe they'd actually connect the dots to the real world? Now, that would be interesting. There could be something to this DNA...” The speaker was continuing, “...starting with disciple building. Who knows this: We pass on not what we say, but what we are?”
A number in the group murmured agreement...
“That's right, we're going to start with disciple building, get that down before we go the next step.”
As it turned out, this particular cluster was a 'big deal' with not one but three facilitators speaking...
“As a group, we're going to step toward disciple building using the 5 'C's,” said another facilitator. “And, we didn't 'make them up', we didn't just make up the 5 'C's ... if you look at how things 'work', from Jesus with the 12 and then the 120 and the explosion of Christ-Followers – this pattern was repeated again and again.
“Let's illustrate the first C by asking a simple question.. how did you come to be here, part of this group?” She took a few minute to ask people how they heard about the group and how they happened to come. As people responded it became clear – people came because they were invited, no one had hung up a sign saying “Genesis Cluster!” The facilitator brought that point home, “The reason you are here is because you were invited. We call this first 'C' 'The Call.' It is not a little thing, people invited you because they thought enough of you to include you.” She was about to go on and then, as almost an afterthought she added, “Thanks for being a part. I almost forgot to thank you. Sorry, sometimes I am so bad about acknowledging and thanking people! This is one of those. Sorry.” A few close by made conciliatory noises.
“Now, for the second 'C' – Connect. Think of Jesus, he called people and connected. Think about Paul on his missionary journeys, he traveled to places and always found ways to connect. We've got things to do, in order to do them, we need to connect. Lets go over some of the things we need to do, be thinking of this – can we do these WITHOUT connecting?” She emphasized the word WITHOUT. “After we are done sharing this list of things, we are going to ask you this, 'In your fellowship with other believers, do you actually do these 'one anothers'?” She passed the lead role to another facilitator.
He ran down a list of 'one anothers' from scripture..
We need to
…love one another, this is how people know we are Christ followers, we need to work to increase our love for each other, as we do, God’s love in us grows.
..be devoted to one another, and as Christian people be like family; give honor to one another
…pursue peace and build up one another, try to be of the same mind, avoid dividing from one another, but seeking each other’s good
…accept one another as Christ has accepted us·
…admonish one another
…encourage one another to good deeds
…greet each other warmly; in the early church it was with a kiss, today we often greet warmly with a hug
…serve one another, bearing each other’s burdens, being hospitable
…tell each other the truth
…be kind, harmonious, sympathetic, gentle, tolerant, patient, bearing with one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other
…exhort, reprove, teach, admonish, encourage and build up one another
…speak to each other in psalms and spiritual songs
…submit one to another
…pray for each other, for our weakness and those things God needs to heal
We ought not
…have unpaid debts
….complain about each other, be judgmental or put obstacles or stumbling blocks in each other’s ways, or or practice ‘payback’
… be selfish, haughty/conceited toward one another, envying each other, speaking disrespectfully of each other
We have to be deliberate
...in teaching one another how to handle our family responsibilities
...helping meet each other’s needs
“That's a lot,” he said. “So... we should be living out these 'one anothers' with those in our community of believers, our church or fellowship groups. How is this living these things out working in your lives?” The response was varied with a couple feeling like they experienced many of these things. On the other hand, things like this were heard from most of the others: not in my church!, are you kidding – like in the 5 minutes we shake hands and say, 'Great seeing you! See you next week” ...we don't even get sermons on most of these, nope, NO!, would LOVE to experience a group that actually lived these out, etc.
“Ok, I think we can see that pretty much when it comes to experiencing the 'one anothers' with other believers, most of us don't.” Affirmative comments resounded around the group. “Do you think this is because we aren't connected with Christ in the center? Never mind, for now 'why' we are not connected, do you think that not being connected is the 'root'?” Most agreed, except one, “I think it is because people aren't rightly connected to God.” “Good point,” said the facilitator, “Very good point! Do you know for many people, they haven't really heard or understood what it means to be a disciple?” Again, nods of affirmation and words of agreement flitted across the room.
“However, let's start with those who ARE connected to God, who COULD be living out these 'one anothers'. We've just drilled down a bit – we know living out the 'one anothers' isn't going to happen unless people are more connected. Why aren't people closer?” The group 'filled in the blanks' on this one: fear of sharing oneself, the fact that people are flawed and don't live right, the feeling that others aren't walking the 'walk', etc. (NOTE to reader – can YOU fill in the blank... “Why don't people live with Christ in the center. Join the discussion HERE.)
The facilitator continued, “Well, things shouldn't be this way. We need to live out this second 'C', 'Connect'. This is what we are asking you to do. We're going to work on hitting two 'birds' with one stone so to speak. A good point was made earlier, some can't connect to others with God in the center because they are not properly connected to God, some don't really know what it means to be a disciple. We're going to go over the base concepts of disciple building. In doing so, we should build connections to one another.” He held up a document thick enough to choke a mule, explaining how they would go over the document, together but outside the regular meeting, in doing so build authentic connection.
Dick thought, “And how much time is this going to take? Come on!” He was going to raise some objections but several members of the group got there first. Andrew said, “Don't you think you are asking a lot of us since we don't really know one another?”
Sarah, generally pretty positive, had uncharacteristically reacted negatively, “It isn't like I have anything against people in the group, but I feel really uncomfortable with the thought that they will be looking at me and my life. I don't want to do that to someone else, either!” The response from the facilitator, “Listen, are we going to take the 'one anothers' seriously or are going to just play at being the body of Christ? You know, this isn't a smorgasbord where we pick and choose which 'one another' scriptures apply to us. We need to do them, sure when we start thinking about actually living them out, it can seem uncomfortable! But, Jesus didn't set things up for our comfort; he set things up so we'd be an effective body. Loving one another, exhorting one another, stirring each other up to better service and the other things are all part of it. Right?” Sarah seemed about to disagree. You could see the wheels turning...
Others spoke, there was quite a bit of lively discussion, some of the discussion actually got heated. This wasn't the first time there had been fireworks in the group. But, it might be the last. There were a lot of people who were unhappy with the 'directive', especially Dick. Dick mulled over the 'directive', “It sounds simple, but like, wow!” He had on the table in front of him the printout on disciple building. Dick picked up the papers and quietly moaned as he leafed through them. “Ugh, these questions are just too personal. Do I 'connect' to others in Christ? What do they think I am, a girl?”
Not only that, the document was five pages long! (NOTE to reader. The document is attached at the bottom of this discussion. Feel free to download it.)
Dick thought, “Pages of things to read. That is bad enough, but asking us to meet over lunch or at home with the others to read and go over the questions. That is just too much work! Don't we pay pastors to know this stuff?” Again, he was going to complain on the amount of work they were being asked to do, but some of the others got there first. “This is going to take a lot of time.” Some agreed. Then someone even said, “This will take my whole life!!!” “Well,” thought Dick, “that was a little over the top.”
The facilitator's response? “Well, yes, it does take our whole life to serve Christ. So?”
“Wow!” Dick thought, “Like 'no sympathy!'”
Then another facilitator continued- the facilitators were bouncing the conversation between them. They were intense, like they really intended the group to succeed in understanding and doing the assignment, “This exercise combines devoting ourselves to breaking of bread, koinonia, that's fellowship -partnering in the Good News- and the Apostle's teaching. It is doing them all together. Plus, don't forget to pray!” That last part was said with a big, fake wink to the group. “Now for the hard part.”
The facilitator waited, a dramatic pause.
“Look across the group – those people you feel uncomfortable with, those are the ones you need to break bread with, I especially want you to try to get together with them. You are uncomfortable... perhaps because you don't know them. Or, worse, you are uncomfortable because you DO know them and think their walk and their talk doesn't line up. These are the things we will eventually need to talk over with one another – lining up our walk and talk. But connecting comes first, that is fellowship/koinonia, connecting on the level of knowing one another and understanding what each other thinks about these important things. This is really knowing one another, all this has to come together to lay a foundation so that we can actually talk to each other... If we are going to talk to each other, we also need to be sure we have some agreement on the basics of what it means to live as a disciplined follower of Christ, after all, we may think we agree what it means to be a disciple, but maybe we don't really agree! That is why we're going to review disciple building together – so together we understand what it means.” Surprisingly, no one gave a verbal objection, but if a window could have been opened into the emotions of the people you would have seen everything from surprise to even deep irritation.
Then the facilitator asked some specific people from the group to help make sure everyone clustered and she also asked for some volunteers. Wouldn't you know, Andrew was front in line to volunteer. Sarah, she had earlier been the first to complain, imagine that, but she was one of the first who stepped up, plus a couple others.
Dick thought, “Will this work? Who knows. Doubt it. Its strange and different. That has got to mean that it should be a 'no-go', right? Well, maybe not. And – just think! This is only the second of the 5 -C's'! What will it be like when we get down the road? I'll probably have to bring in my first born as an offering!”
The meeting broke up and everyone went their separate ways.
Samuel suddenly felt overwhelmed. Why had he volunteered to coordinate a group to go over disciple building. “What was I thinking? Am I crazy???” Work deadlines were looming, lunch was his ONLY tiny oasis of time. The kids had been sick and the Mrs' was always unhappy when the kids were not feeling well. Ugh!” But, Samuel wasn't a quitter. He looked over the papers, at the top he had listed all of people in the group. “Let's see... the facilitators said to choose difficult people.” When he read Ted's name – it stuck out like it was flashing in bright red, warning, danger, keep away. He and Ted had had several run-ins at work. He thought about Ted, “The kinda guy who'd throw you under the bus if he felt it'd help his career.” Samuel was sure of this from BOTH personal experience and some of what had been said on the grape-vine! Then he read Jill's name.. “Ha! Miss Gossip herself. Always having something to say about someone, behind their back, of course, but coached in sweet Christian words.. 'I'm just so concerned for so and so... not taking getting all her work done... I think she's stressed with all she has to do at home what with her mom now living with the family, being sick and needing so much...' But, would Jill actually OFFER to help so and so with the over the top needs at home? Of course not! The point was to talk about so and so...”
Samuel shut the list and prayed, “Lord, should I invite Ted and Jill? Anyone else?” Judith's name popped into mind. Judith was just an all around great person. Contemplating the group he was thinking about seemed... right. He'd do it, he'd invite them all – Ted, Jill and Judith. “This should be interesting,” Samuel thought! He planned their first get together for Monday at lunch. They all clustered for lunch, Samuel, Ted, Jill and Judith. To Samuel amazement they had a great time! When they actually sat down and talked, Ted just didn't seem all that bad.... maybe he was wrong on Ted. Samuel asked the group to be careful of gossip in passing on any personal and potentially damaging things that were said in the group with those on the 'outside'. He encouraged people to just be careful... To his surprise, actually to everyone's surprise, Jill piped up and said, “You know, sometimes I have a problem with gossip,” she stopped, almost mid-sentence, and looked chagrined. “Wow, that just kinda 'came out', sorry. Don't mean to dump on everyone.” The group looked at each other, somewhat sensing and sharing in Jill's embarrassment. Amazingly, Ted took the lead, “Tell you what, Jill. We can all be guilty of gossip. How about this – whenever I hear you swerve into what might be gossip, I'll just say “Is this good talk?” You can then self correct. How about that?” What Samuel didn't know was that Jill often sought Ted out with juicy 'tidbits'. Ted hated gossip but hadn't figured out how to stop the gossip without offending Jill.
Bingo! Following this interchange on gossip, it was like a floodgate opened. The others chimed in, offering similar confessions and not a few other 'weaknesses' were put on the table -probably partially to help Jill feel better- but when the group responded it looked to Samuel like 'relationship glue' oosing out of the tube. They agreed to help each other on several personal challenges that'd been shared. After the meeting Samuel kept saying to himself, “Wow, wow, wow...” He made a beeline to one of the facilitators. He had to share. He had never actually EXPERIENCED something like this with a group of people who were just getting to know each other! “Wow..wow...wow...”
Samuel's group decided to schedule every open lunch for the next two weeks to cluster together. They wanted to have enough time to really look at disciple building. During one of the clustering times, they planned a dinner out with spouses as their 'celebration' for getting through their discussions on disciple building.
The facilitators had their hands full. There were good reports, for sure. But there were problems, too. Even a story like this cannot ignore the real world issues of getting people together! Plus, the facilitators worked to 'mix up people' – they wanted to spread the relationship 'glue' as far as they could.
One of the first issues happened in Sarah's group. Sarah was so disheartened after group had clustered for lunch... They'd had a fight. Over doctrine. They had started out well. Then someone said, “It is great we're going over this, too many people commit to following Christ and then, since they don't know the basics, they fall away.” Sarah shared that sediment and said so. Suddenly, one of the members literally erupted and challenged the group, “What is this? Are you saying that a person can sin and lose their salvation?!!!” Sarah froze. She got along with most everyone and really avoided Biblical arguments. Wouldn't you know it, here one was falling right into her lap, more correctly, into the lap of the group. The person who had made the original comment felt personally challenged, irritated and responded, “Of course people can turn away from Christ, don't be silly. It happens every day!” The next thing that happened was the scriptures were being sent, machine gun fashion from one person to the other. Sarah's mouth dropped open. Those not in the fight looked uncomfortable, obviously wanting to leave, quickly. Sarah had no idea how to stop the fight. From what she could hear, they were both making some good points, but from what she could see, neither was actually listening TO the other, just listening to find a break in the conversation so that more 'scripture grenades' could be lobbed.
Finally, she spoke up. “Hey! Hey! We're all Christians here, ok? Lets not fight!” Both turned hostile eyes toward her and spoke almost in unison. “I don't know if I can connect to someone who thinks...” on that part they agreed... they didn't think they could connect unless the other one saw scripture their way. Sarah said, “Let's talk about this later, ok? I mean its our first time to talk these things over and I think we are setting a bad example for the others.” Now, everyone felt uncomfortable! The two quit fighting, Sarah read through the next item on disciple building, but no one was quite in the mood to share. People excused themselves early saying they had work to do.
Sarah was nearly in tears when she found a facilitator and shared what had happened. “Yup,” agreed the facilitator, “You had a real mess.” Sarah asked, “How can one doctrine cause such division?” The facilitator gave a dry laugh. “Are you kidding? It isn't one doctrine causing so much division. Hello? Look around us – there are what, about three THOUSAND denominations? Each is 'right' on their particular doctrine. The problem is, this way of doing things has caused the same mess in the Kingdom that you had in your meeting! Talk about straining on a gnat and swallowing a camel! There are SO many scriptures that say God wants unity, Christ himself said, he wants us to be one!
“Here is the root problem, sure doctrine is important. But, people cannot separate the important from the critical. There are things we really need to agree on; why, if we don't, we aren't even Christians and we cannot get to even first base in living out the Kingdom together! If you look over the sheets we handed out on disciple building, there aren't any arguable points. Well, at least not arguable between real Christ followers; ya know there are some pretty strange groups out there who call themselves Christ. I'm not talkin' about that.
We need to get your group back on track. Let's you and I meet with each of your, lets call 'em warriors and see if we can get things straightened out. OK?”
Sarah breathed a sigh of relief, maybe there was a way to get through this, she hoped and said, “Sure thing!”
The Facilitator replied, “Tell you what, since this is your first go round, I'll be happy to meet with you and each of the members of your group. I've seen this before, if people really want to serve Christ, we should be able to get it straightened out. And, if previous experience is an indicator, this should actually move your group forward because they overcame a hurdle. Sound OK to you?” Sarah was elated, “Sure!” and she felt in her heart that what at first seemed like a brick wall might turn out to just be a bump in the road and might actually turn out to be a good thing.
Over the next few weeks... to be continued.
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