Churches want the Jesus way, or at least that’s what we confess. It seems like most church leaders like the idea of talking about the simple purpose of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Some use the five purposes as developed by Rick Warren. Others use the Up-In-Out idea (Mike Breen). There are lots of ways that people talk about. We know that God wants us to live the way that Jesus did, in communion with the Father, in loving relationships with one another and in gospel engagement with our world.
We could diagram the rhythms of the Jesus Way like this:
We all want this in our churches as a whole, in our small groups or missional communities, and for individuals. But how do we get it? Saying that we want it and even setting up a plan to get it is one thing. Actually leading people into it is another.
Is more training what we need? Will more sermons or teaching on the topic change things? How about another book?
Yes, yes and yes! We need all kinds of proclamations that call out of the normal and present the vision for the way of Jesus. But if we’re leading others, whether the church as a whole or a small group of people, we need something slightly different. Vision proclamations of what God wants for us might open the door, but they won’t necessarily change the way we live. For that, leaders need ways to ask questions and foster conversations. When we ask good questions, we provide opportunities for people to discover for themselves what the Jesus way means for them. For instance:
• How does the kingdom contrast with the ways of the world, especially in Western cultures?
• What does it mean to love God when the world is pulling us in ways that are unloving?
• How do things like workaholism, our addiction to power, our need for entertainment and other common patterns hinder the kingdom?
In the next few posts, I offer some questions around three rhythms of group life that form us in the way of Jesus. These three questions have at their center the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The first is the rhythm of communion.
The Questions of Communion
Leading with predetermined answers instead of questions propagates this clinging to others because we naturally try to connect to others in order to fix our loneliness. We join a small group and try to relate to others the way we are supposed to do, as outlined by the book or by the pastor. Isolated people try to fix their isolation by clinging to others. Even those who seem strong and independent connect to others in order to get their needs met. We cling like hungry leeches, assuming that this is the way we’ll find answers to our loneliness.
The alternative to relating directly to others is to relate to one another in the “space between.” That is the space where Christ exists. The most direct path to ministry is communion with Christ. The only way to relate well is to cling to Christ, the one who lives in the space between us. Nouwen writes:
We are connected not as individuals who cling together like melded metals but as individuals who are in Christ, and Christ is in us who are joined together for a journey. The Christ in me is united with the Christ in you. And the Christ in us draws us together. This is not about clinging to each other but mutual identity in Christ.
• Where is the deep loneliness within me?
• How do I tend to cling to others to fix my loneliness?
• What does it look like for me to find myself in Christ?
• How can I share this struggle to find myself in Christ with others in my group?
—Adapted from Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus, pages 55-58
This article originally appeared here.