Thursday, September 16, 2010

Disciple Making In Brazil - Turning On The Key

As the summer comes to an end, so does our motorcycle riding instruction for the season. Once again, I am amazed at the process of the average person with no riding knowledge or ability, going from; "where does the key go?" to riding tight curves at 15 mph, stopping quickly, swerving, and all with decent skill for someone with only 10 hours of motorcycle coaching!

I'd like to attribute it to Tom and my great coaching abilities, and to our own knowledge and skill in motorcycling. However, that is not the case. I started riding only in 2006, and Tom did not have that much more experience than me when we started. Of course we did pass the gruelling "training of the trainers" process (86 hours of insane intensity!) but that isn't the key to our students' rapid skill acquisition.

Rather, it is because of the intentional teaching strategy of the program itself.
The program teaches in the way in which we learn best; a small group of participants, a short verbal instruction, a visual demonstration, a time and "space" to practice, with a de-brief process at the end.
Small increments of skill are steadily introduced at each level.

Jesus taught like this.

He had his few disciples around him; the men and women who travelled from town to town with him getting "coached" in Kingdom living. He would give a teaching or a principle, demonstrate it, often times telling them to do it, and then later talk to them about it. With this manner of teaching, they were able to learn and be mentored in a short time and in a way that left powerful impact.

I don't know when standing up in front of people, teaching and downloading information and opinions, became known as disciple making and training in Christian Kingdom life! Disciples are made in much smaller contexts and with direct coaching and involvement in the process. If Jesus Himself followed this process of making disciples, why on earth would we do anything different and think it's achieving the same end?

Of course we also see Jesus speak to the masses, as in the Sermon on Mount. However, in His intentional training of His disciples, He did it small, concise, with practice, and in increments, getting them ready and prepared for His departure.

On our trip to Brazil, this principle was at work with the team we had and the results were astounding!

Three of the five young adults that went were my own kids. Now, my kids have grown up in an environment of ministering. Tom and I have intentionally discipled them to be able to hear God, and respond in faith with an action of some sort (i.e. prayer, a word, a direction, etc). Discipling our kids now is a matter of giving them new experiences to grow and mature in these areas and acting more as a coach in the process.

But one team member had not been a Christian for very long and had not grown up in a family that practiced faith beyond a trip to church once a year or so. Her exposure to the different aspects of what I call "ministry" (i.e. praying for the sick, dealing with the demonic, emotional inner healing issues, salvation, teaching, counseling, prophetic understanding, sharing The Word, and testimonies of God's faithfulness, etc.) were all new things to her. Completely.

She was like one of our new, totally clueless motorcycle students on the first riding day of class saying; "Where does the key go?".

Now a word here regarding the ministry trips I lead to this area of Brazil. It is in the Amazon River basin area. Sometimes we are in a large and modern town, and other times we travel on boat to more isolated jungle areas. We minister in organized church buildings, homes, on the street or in the jungle; the contexts change - the ministry does not.

We "rough it" in all aspects. We don't stay in hotels but live with the people we minister to. That means we are "on call" to minister at any time that we're requested to do so. On one trip previously, I was using the bathroom when a knock at my door requested that; "when I finished, a couple was waiting for counsel and prayer". Sure enough, when I exited the bathroom there they were, just outside the bathroom door!

You get the idea. We eat, play, sleep, take bucket baths, use whatever is being offered as an outhouse, alongside those we come to serve. The only thing we do different is drink bottled water ( it just makes life a bit easier NOT to be running for the bushes or outhouse every few minutes).

This was the context our more inexperienced team member was tossed into. A challenge in every way for even the more "seasoned" minister!

Wow, did she ever rise to the challenge! She was an amazing asset to the team. She took her key, turned it on and took off!

She jumped right in, fully and without hesitation on the first day in Brazil. By bold and audacious faith, she stepped into the learning process and, in motorcycle vernacular; rolled on the throttle!

I saw how the small size of the team, the modeling that was being done, the freedom to practice and experiment in the learning process, along with encouragement and "de-briefing" later on accelerated her learning process. She was in a huge growth spurt!

I also saw another principle at work.

In the motorcycle classes, we have noticed that skill acquisition for a student who may have initially weaker skills or complete inexperience, is directly affected by those other people in the class and their skill and experience levels. When a weaker student is placed in a class of more experienced or skilled riders, the student acquires skill and gains confidence far quicker and stronger than those in a class of students who are at similar levels in their abilities.

People learn best when they are being challenged beyond their ability, surrounded by those a bit farther along in small, intimate, trusting and encouraging environments.

This young woman quickly made up ground that the others on the team had spent a lifetime in learning (albeit a young life, but a lifetime non- the- less). The peer modeling that was in front of her was powerful in it's impact upon her own progress. No sermons, books, seminars or conferences could of done what a few days with those a bit farther on the journey, could do in her gaining skill, confidence and ultimately testimonies of God's faithfulness in serving and ministering to others.

Are you in a place where your being challenged to grow beyond your present abilities and acquired skills and knowledge in the Kingdom?

Do you have others around you that inspire you to growth and new adventures of learning with Christ?

Are you discipling and mentoring others that you can coach in their new adventures with God?

It doesn't take a trip to Brazil to have a growth spurt or coach someone else in theirs. It doesn't take a motorcycle class to learn some new challenge.

It just takes you "turning on the key" and taking off on the adventure with some others, both ahead and behind you in the journey.

"Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo I AM with you always, even to the end of the age" Matthew 28:19-20

Monday, September 6, 2010

To Brazil and Back - Leading From The Rear

Nothing unusual for the Amazon basin region of Brazil; the day was incredibly hot and it was only 10:00 AM.
My clothes gripped my body like a second skin saturated with sweat. Some 'community oriented ' sweat gathered together forming pathways like rivers down my back, and all I could do was let it flow! I was working intensely to keep the inflow of water feeding this sweating frenzy full, hoping to avoid the all too common affects of dehydration.

My butt hurt from the hard bench I sat on, my back hurt from all the gymnastics maneuvering needed to get in and out of such a river boat. I had already popped my first dose of Ibuprofen of the day and wondered if I needed to up the dose.
I was tired from an already jammed packed series of meetings, ministry and socializing (extremely draining for an introvert like myself), and I was working hard to keep the focus off my own self, and focus on why we were there. It's not 'all about me', and that's not always easy for our flesh.

I watched the team of young people excitedly disembark off the boat we had just traveled in, and take off into the jungle, unhampered by the heat which was consuming my strength and focus. I listened to them call out to one another full of the joy of adventure, as they made their way forward, without much more than a glance back at the two "old folks" struggling behind them.

I slowly found my way off the boat, through the water soaked bank, over a few rotting logs used as walkways, and into the humid bush. They were long gone in front of me.

I took swig of water, adjusted my pack and girded myself up with a prayer lately becoming more of a ongoing chant of; "help me Lord!" and moved forward, not leading this group from the front, but following from behind.

This trip was all about leading from the rear.

Ahead lay our final destination for the next 36 hours - a small, poor community carved out of jungle. Where we would spend the day and night visiting, playing, talking, eating and ministering.

As I had watched the young adults trek off into the bush, I felt a mix of joy and sadness. Joy that they were embarking on a wonderful adventure and journey with God for which they would forever be changed and stirred, and sadness that my similar adventures for this sort of ministry trek were nearing an end. I had done a lot of them, but knew I wasn't going to do many more.

Leading from the rear means you will eventually be left behind.
Each of us will find ourselves at some point, slowing down, making the adjustments necessary as our bodies decline with age and use. Finding that we just can't do the things we used to do, like we did them anymore.
Everything in me fights this process, because I hunger to be involved in the Kingdom moving forward, taking the former domains of satan for Jesus, and like my heroes "boldly going where no man has gone before!" (Star Trek).

But I know my focus needs to not be in my continued "doing" but in those who will come after me and continue on. An army is only as good as it's replacements.

It's not about me constantly doing everything myself, always in the demonstrating and teaching role. Instead, it is about me stepping back and allowing space for those coming up after me to experience, explore and practice Kingdom ministry themselves, finding my encouragement and support fertile soil for their growth.

That morning, as we left for this particular ministry adventure, I had told the group of young people; "You all know how to hear from the Lord. I trust your ability to discern His Will in what the ministry we'll do will look like for this trip. Go for it. I'll be supporting you and whatever you want me to do, but you've got the lead".
It ended up being a powerful 36 hours of impact and lasting fruit both in the team and in those villagers, and each one of those young adults said those couple of days were their favorite of the trip.

Are you living the adventure in Christ AND investing in those who will have their own wild adventures in Christ AFTER you?

The scriptures say in James 4:14 b; "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."
Pretty minimal impact if your only concentrating on your own short vaporous life.
Elijah understood this and invested his time into Elisha who ended up having more than Elijah in power and impact. That's how it should be.

Jesus Himself, powerful and impacting, invested for a few short years into a group of men and women who would take what He invested into them, and increase it. He applies this to us also. It's an amazing scripture;
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
John 14:11-13

That's how it should be.

Leading from the rear.