Divine Space

By Paul Wilkinson

Divine space is the discipleship context most readily available to us, yet it is often the context that we focus upon the least. Divine space is defined as, “Being alone with God, your Creator and Redeemer (eg intentionally sitting and enjoying His presence).”* Because this space incorporates only the individual and God, one has perpetual access to it. But because of the business of our lives with demands from work, family, church, and friends, we often jettison this most significant of spaces.

We must follow Jesus’ model, trusting that fruit will be borne by our obedience. Jesus withdrew from crowds (Matthew 14:13, Mark 6:45-46, John 6:15), Jesus commanded us to be alone at times (Matthew 6:6), and Jesus desired solitude in His most distressful moments (Matthew 26:39). While many times we learn God’s will through mentors, sermons, and group life, we must not neglect discerning God’s will through time alone with Him. My worry is that life is so hectic, we won’t take time to reflect upon how the Lord is working through our experiences.

The contemplative pathway is not everyone’s most natural spiritual pathway; nevertheless, intentional solitude should be a regular part of one’s discipleship regimen. You can pray during this time, read the Bible, just sit and listen, or take a walk and reflect on your previous week in light of God’s nature. In these moments, we will be refreshed and renewed to pour ourselves out for others. Another option from which I have benefited is to learn my spiritual pathway and then to read the biblical stories about the characters most like me. I have gained much insight into myself from that exercise.

How do we make Divine Space available to our group members? First, we must preach it to them. We must make clear the importance of spending time alone with God. Second, we must model it. Share with your group members how you utilize this space in your self-discipleship. Third, encourage your group members to take advantage of the “self-guided study” dimension of JourneyOn. I cannot overstate the value of running some theological or spiritual idea down by studying the Scriptures and reading numerous books, listening to numerous podcasts, or watching video presentations of it until it is settled in our mind. The JourneyOn strategy provides for this domain by offering your group member (and you) a list of resources on their topic of interest. Then, if they so desire, they could talk with me (or some expert if I can find one) about this issue after having studied it. I did something similar through an independent study of the “Metaphysics of Causation” in seminary which fundamentally changed my life.

However it occurs, we must be clear, as leaders, that one is not experiencing holistic discipleship if one is neglecting the Divine Space. As shepherds, we must urge our group members to engage this space.

* http://dandelionresourcing.com/2016/01/28/5-contexts-of-discipleship-infographic/

The Effect of Spaces on Discipleship

By Paul Wilkinson

The study of proxemics deals with how physical space and population density affect behavior. The idea is not foreign to church life in general and discipleship in particular: people act differently in different spaces. Think about someone needing to confess some personal sin. Do you think it more likely that they confess in the front of the sanctuary from the stage on a Sunday morning in front of a few thousand people, in front of 20 people in a LIFE group, or in a small group of 2-3 people? Clearly, one is more likely to be vulnerable in the smaller, more intimate setting. As leaders, we must be aware of these trends and provide spaces for our people to mature in their sanctification.

The Absalom’s with Dandelion Ministry cover this reality well. They suggest 5 spaces: Public (>100), Social (20-70), Personal (4-12), Transparent (2-4), and Divine (you and the Godhead).* Each space affords a different effect and efficiency for discipleship. As the numbers grow, we think more in terms of vision casting and group mission. As the numbers dwindle, we become more vulnerable and open with our own foibles; discipleship demands them all.

Jesus knew these realities. Consider the different spaces Jesus offered: Jesus fed and taught 5000 (Luke 9:10-17), He had a more intimate group of 70 (Luke 10:1-12), He had an even more intimate group of 12 (Luke 6:13-16, 9:1-6), He had an even even more intimate group of 3 (Luke 9:28-36), and Jesus spent time alone (Luke 6:12). Each of these groups afforded Jesus different discipleship opportunities: to show the awesome power and grace of God, to send out 70 to preach and teach, to teach 12 the intricacies of the Gospel and to carry forth the mission, and 3 on which to form the foundation and inaugurate the kingdom.

We will unpack how each of these spaces are utilized within the overall JourneyOn strategy for discipleship. For now, take some time this week to think through how you are incorporating these spaces into your own sanctification. Particularly, are you spending divine time on your own and are you enjoying intimate space with a, or as a, mentor/discipler? I pray that you are!

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* http://dandelionresourcing.com/2016/01/28/5-contexts-of-discipleship-infographic/

Questions on Our Journey toward Christlikeness

By Paul Wilkinson, Adult Minister–Groups Associate

If a disciple is one who naturally exhibits the words and deeds of Jesus where they live, work, and play, and if we understand disciple making to be a process, then what are some of the major “road signs” to move us along our way? Today I want to introduce you to four key questions that we as group leaders must be answering for our group members or, in the very least, putting our group members in a position to answer these questions for themselves.

    • Identity – Who am I? A major question that every believer must answer is the identity question. As we move from old life to new life by justification and then progress towards glorification through our sanctification, we must remain vigilant to self-critique. One of the major attacks of the spirit of the age is to attempt to define our identities for us. We, as group leaders, must be faithful to the Word to demonstrate people’s identity in Christ: you are an adopted child (Ephesians 1:5), you are co-heir of the kingdom (Romans 8:17), you are salt and light (5:14-16) . . . . Through your teaching, shepherding, and living of the Christian life before your group, you will be affirming and confirming their identity for them.
    • Purpose – Why am I here? We must also demonstrate to our groups their purpose in this world. I think that the first response to the Westminster Shorter Catechism sums it well: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. How do we do that? First, we glorify God in our worship; and, we understand worship as a lifestyle. We never want to devalue corporate worship on certain days of the week, but we must mature to the point where our lifestyles themselves during the other 167 hours of the week are celebratory worship. As Paul wrote, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And we glorify God by thanking Him and delighting in Him as we enjoy His good gifts. The other dynamic of the Westminster response is to love God forever. That, to me, implies evangelism. Are we expanding the kingdom such that we will have more adopted children and co-heirs to live with God eternally? So, we glorify God through perpetual worship and evangelism.
    • Location and Destination – Where am I? If we are regenerate and we do seek to glorify God in all that we do, then how are we going about doing it? Where am I currently on my sanctification (spiritual maturity) process? Am I radically dependent on a weekly group leader to feed me the Word and answer all of my questions, whether theological, biblical, or ethical? Am I like Peter during the night of Jesus’ persecution or am I like Peter at Pentecost? Our obligation as group leaders is two-fold: help our members understand where they are in their maturity and then to paint the picture for who Christ intends them to be. A general spectrum could go something like this: totally inward focused as they are coming to terms with their faith; a shift toward an outward focus where they are doing service projects, charity, and general evangelism; a further shift toward leading others in such projects, Bible study, and group worship; and an even further shift toward making disciples who can then go reproduce themselves as disciples who make disciples. God has called us to be their spiritual guide on that journey!
    • Significance – What are my next steps? If my destination is to be a reproducing disciple and I know that I am currently not such a disciple, then how do I become that? We must provide on-ramps for our group members to begin understanding themselves as disciples and then as disciplers of others. We need to apprentice someone. We need to be investing in a sub-group of 3-4 people who can then start their own sub-groups of 3-4 people. We need to be challenging them to love God, which means that they are keeping God’s commandments. (1 John 5:3) This part, group leaders, is the hard work. Here is where we must labor, life-on-life, just as Jesus did with Peter, James, and John, to produce transformed people. And while this work takes much effort; please know that this work is delightful!