Last week I had the opportunity to spend 5 days and 4 nights living in community with a small group of pastoral leaders wrestling with understanding intentional disciple-making through a Wesleyan lens. We read some books in advance of gathering together (Invitation to a Journey by Robert Mulholland and Making Disciples by Sondra Higgins Matthaei). We wrestled with statements like this: "when holiness is your goal, you do evangelism differently" (Richard Heitzenrater). And this one from John Wesley himself:
That part of our method, the private weekly meetings for prayer, examination and particular exhortation, has been the greatest means of deepening and confirming every blessing that was received by the word preached, and of diffusing it to others, who could not attend the public ministry; whereas without this religious connection and conversation, the most ardent attempts by mere preaching have proved of no lasting value. (Works, VIII:252)
We talked about the de-toxification/de-construction that is required of our first formation in the patterns of our culture (consumerism), before we can be formed by the new patterns, habits and practices of the life in Jesus. This is where Wesley's "method" is particularly helpful, the means of grace (acts of piety and mercy) are habits and practices that open us up to the ongoing formation of the Holy Spirit -- a rival formation to the patterns we have already been shaped by. We liked this video clip from Alan Hirsch.
We recognized that all the various "discipleship" resources are not solve-all plans, but just helpful tools if we already have an understanding of what it means to grow up in Jesus, following the Jesus Way, which we suggested is a journey, a path, rather than a particular destination, or set of beliefs. A key insight was to recognize that much of our ministry activities lead to mushy, anemic Jesus followers (the kind who struggle with Luke 14:25-27) rather than active, surrendered, Jesus-centred, others-oriented, disciples. The goal of the experience was that participants would discern a way forward for their own intentional disciple-making within their own ministry contexts.
This is the fourth group of pastors that we have entered into this kind of learning experience with. It's not a "course with students," but a multi-dimensional learning experience with co-labourers/learners.