Into The Quiet — How to think About Discipleship — Part 2

Leading Others “Into the Quiet”

Part 2 of How to Think About Discipleship
“Lessons from the Underground” Series

In the last post, Beginning with the M in Mind , I contrasted a life formed “in the Loud” with a life formed “in the Quiet”. I used the lives of overseas workers living in lands where the gospel is prohibited — for whom I used the desgination, M — to frame the question of developing disciples.

One of the several excellent commentators on the post, Paul, asks:

Specifically, as a leader how do we guide people into the quiet? Most “discipleship” material out there is so content driven. Read this, memorize that, fill in the blanks. The disciple almost doesn’t need a RELATIONSHIP with anyone! Our team is currently working through this issue of growing disciples. The “loud” has so much surface emotion to it that it will easily draw a crowd, but the future of the church depends on the next generation not only catching the excitment of the loud, but having the depth, commitment, and tenacity of the quiet. Any good resources? Not looking for curriculum as much as mindset and philosophy of leading others into spiritual formation.

Yes! The premiere resource available is the narrative description of how Jesus shaped men. Jesus successfully built the communal lives of his followers on the code necessary for igniting a movement.

Jesus asks a question at the end of a parable in Luke chapter 18 that can give us some guidance in our task of leading others into the quiet.

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on Earth?”

In a sense, Paul is asking the very same thing Jesus asks. Paul (our commentator) states:

the future of the church depends on the next generation not only catching the excitment of the loud, but having the depth, commitment, and tenacity of the quiet.

The parable of Jesus in Luke 18 is the story of the tenacious widow. Her commitment is the commitment of the desperate. She’s a widow. She has no husband to protect her. Within the horizons of the story she has no son, or brother or uncle that steps up to help her. She has one recourse and one only. She must get through to the judge or she is ruined.

Eventually she turns the judge in her favor. Jesus concludes:

And will not God bring Justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable with an end in mind. He wanted to show his disciples “that they should always pray and never give up.”

This is not a stand alone statement. In fact, taken alone it would mislead us into thinking that Jesus taught his disciples to pray by telling them stories. Jesus told this parable within a much larger context of turning his disciples from men whose hearts were silent towards God, or at very least, whose hearts were an endless chatter of self concerns, into men whose inner voices cried out for the Justice of God upon the earth.

How does Jesus do this?

I want to walk you through a simple line of thought from Luke chapter 1 through Luke chapter 18 that I think you will find helpful as you seek to lead women and men “into the quiet”.

If we track Jesus’ steps we will find that leading people “into the quiet”, that place where transformative pauses happen, has several critical paths that deviate from our norms. We’ll touch on these as we go through the narrative. Here are a few of them before we start.

First, Jesus is described by Luke as someone who “is led into the wilderness” (4.1ff), gets up at “daybreak” and goes to “solitary places”(4.42), often “withdraws to lonely places and prayed” (5.16), goes “goes out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (6.12). In other words, Jesus was a man of action and he was also drawn to the quiet.

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How would this kind of man approach the discipleship of his followers?

Our approach is to sit new converts down in a study designed to focus on their inner lives. We teach them what prayer is, help them memorize a scripture, and try to get them on a program of regular prayer times. If we don’t build them from the inside out, we say to ourselves, they will cave in under the pressure of life, ministry and mission. Or, perhaps we might send them homes with materials that take them through a survey of scripture with regard to the spiritual disciplines. Fill in the blanks, we tell them. Meet again next week for discussion. Or perhaps we get them involved in an existing prayer group or support group where everybody talks about their feelings, their doubts, their angst.

The first surprise to digest is that according to Luke’s description of Jesus ministry, he does not [first] teach his disciples to pray. He does not [first] call them to lonely places. He does not [first] tell his disciples to pray at daybreak. He doesn’t get them into a nurture group or a spiritual support group.

This approach had consequences. The chasm between the lifestyle of Jesus and the lifestyle of his disciples was immense. In fact, the disciples of both the Pharisees and John the Baptist had better spiritual disciplines and training.

They said to him, “John’s disicples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” (6.33)

Jesus was not perceived as a good influence on his men when compared with John and the Pharisees. We could add to this that Jesus taught his disicples to break rules (6.1 ff), insult the audience (4.22ff), purposely create controversy (6.6ff), but that’s not our subject. We’re tracking Jesus’ way of leading people “into the quiet”. How in the world does Jesus do this?

Before we touch on an answer, we must note that Jesus –in Luke’s narrative — violates what we know about disciple making in several ways. He calls men not known for fasting and prayer to his leadership team (6.12ff), he sends them out with authority, and makes them symbols of his work (10.1ff).

The man of action begins with calling men to action. He makes them responsible for others, ambassadors for the kingdom, heralds of the good news before they have any interest whatsoever with their inner lives.

What happens?

  1. Jesus is himself a man of action who longs for the quiet. Jesus’ actions performed before his disicples require an explanantion.
  2. Jesus asks his disiples questions that must have made them wonder. “Where is your faith?” Jesus asks them (8.25). Wait, isn’t it Jesus responsibility to help them find it? No.
  3. Jesus begins to include a few of his disciples when he prays though while he prays they’re just there (9.18ff) or they sleep (9.28ff).
  4. He allows them to fail and feel their limits (9.37ff).
  5. Jesus waits. Jesus does not answer questions that are not being asked. He waits until they’re ready. He waits until they ask for something they’ve seen in him that they want, something they now think they need (11.1)

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, Just as John taught his disiples.” (11.1ff)

What follows are 5 lines that may be the most memorized lines in all of history (11.2-4). He teaches them what is now called the Lord’s Prayer.

The disciples got serious. The learner was ready. Did you see it happen? Jesus did not feed his disciples. He made them hungry. Jesus did not say to the men when he first called them, “OK, I’m going to teach you to pray so you can be looked upon as proper disciples and so that my skills as a rabbi will not be in question.”

Jesus’ process in Luke was

  1. Relational — They had to be with him to experience his hunger for “the quiet”. Only then could their own spiritual anorexia be exposed.
  2. Missional — Their hunger for the quiet was created in a relationship with an action oriented man on mission.
  3. Patient — He let their appetite for “the quiet” grow while he exposed them to his passion and involved them in his mission.
  4. Personal — Jesus was there when the pangs of hunger were too much for them and they broke. He offered what the starving men needed in the moment they were ready. This was the “teachable” moment. Hunger for the quiet cannot be imposed nor can it be satiated by a mere ritual.

How can we apply this to our ministries? In order to lead others into the quiet…

  1. We must have a mission that gives rise to questions about our role in the world. Live a life that requires an explanation.
  2. We must know the quiet ourselves and allow the voices from eternity to guide our lives, ministry and mission. Live a life of prayer and worship.
  3. We must ask questions that make the convert to take responsibility for his own development.
  4. We must wait until the learner is ready. Natural occurrences often create an environment for teachable moments: Death, disease, divorce, disaster create opportunities for deep conversation as do failure, success, relocation, opportunity, etc.

Disciplemaking is an art, a relational art. Leading people “into the quiet” is about creating a hunger.

So, what’s the end game? Disciples who are tenacious, hungry, and desperate for Justice on earth. Disciples who pray not only for themselves but for others, for the nations. When you’re thinking about discipleship, begin with that end in mind.

What do you think?

Questions for processing

  1. Jesus knew why he was here, how clearly do we?
  2. Am I ready to take others “Into the Quiet” because of my personal journey and hunger or because I think it would be good for them to go there?
  3. Activity: Brainstorm a list of questions that would help disciples take responsibility for their own development.
  4. What are the “key questions” that we’re hoping to hear that will let us know a disciple is ready? What activites or experiences can help get them ready?

I hope this post becomes a resource for you as you seek to lead others “into the quiet”. Enjoy.

See you in the mystic…

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If you like these conversations, consider an IMN training opportunity.

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Photo: Wall art at the Mayorca Cafe just outside of DC. This is one of the hot spots used by church planter Jumaine jones for his new work there.
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10 thoughts on “Into The Quiet — How to think About Discipleship — Part 2

  1. Hi Alex, This post and the last one are, in my often not so humble opinion, two of the best, most important and most profound posts you have ever made. Thank you so much for your heart and for sharing this. I think it is right on. Brilliant! Important! Challenging! Bless you. Max

  2. Leading my students “into the quiet” has been a many-years endeavor with no present-flesh model. it’s been a near elusive adventure. It’s like trying to grasp God and then, once we think we have it, we realize that we’ve slipped and missed. However, for me I believe the most important question is do we lead them ‘ “Into the Quiet” because of my personal journey and hunger or because I think it would be good for them to go there?’ Most of the people I’ve met, disciplers, if they do it at all, do it for the latter, seldom the former. The quiet is not so quiet for me. It’s a cliff-hanger of a life because if I’m going to live a life that require explanation, then there will be constant challenges to what I do – basically people asking me to explain.

    To go into the quiet because we think it’s good for them takes God out of the equation and makes us the molders of men instead of taking men and women and bringing them into the hands of the Creator. What I think a man or woman might need can miss the mark of what the Creator desires for them at that moment. My quiet must be tangible to the point of contageousness. If not, then I simply have an unwritten curriculum by which I fulfill my discipleship duties. We can often fool ourselves into thinking that because we don’t follow a curriculum we’re “in the quiet”. That’s a sad place. I’ve found that the institutional church isn’t interested in the quiet, however I’m desperate for it.

    Thanks for the challenges.

  3. Yes! This is what I’ve been talking about: the contemplative way. I am convinced a leader cannot disciple anyone unless they are first being filled (passive language is intentional). I think every follower has to find their personal rhythm – what works for you. I spend three days a month in solitude. In our community we have morning prayers and lectio divina each week several times. Alex is on it: there is a two direction aspect – an inward journey, an outward journey, or in other words “we must ‘pilgrimage’ AWAY from culture, and we must ‘enculturate,’ engaging, superceding and creating culture.” PILGRIMAGE AND ENCULTURATE. Write more on this Alex. The IMN and Evangelicals are good at enculturation (sometimes) but terrible at actually knowing the soul of Jesus. More please!

  4. Very good thoughts Alex. Both this post and the previous one reminds me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings about spiritual formation in “Life Together”…

    “Many people seek fellowship because they are afraid to be alone. Because they cannot stand loneliness, they are driven to seek the company of other people. There are Christians who cannot endure being alone, who have had some bad experiences with themselves, who hope they will gain some help in association with others. They are generally disappointed. Then they blame the fellowship for what is really their own fault…Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and the community…God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.”

  5. When we pursue the Christ He calls us to the Quiet – the Mary Moments (Luke 10). That one thing is better. Those Mary Moments, if truly with the Christ, will result in moving into the Loud. Jesus’ time in the mountains, at night, by Himself – the Quiet – were followed by intense times of ministry – the Loud. And, it’s not that the Quiet is “necessary”, thinking the Loud is the place to be. Rather the opposite – the Quiet is the place because that’s Christ (not that’s where Christ is, because He’s in the Loud as well), it’s about who He is. When we finally grasp that the Quiet is where Christ craves for us to be because He is passionate about being with each one of us, it can be revitalizing. The institution has missed this significantly for many, many reasons. All your posts are refreshing, invigorating and encouraging. It’s a weird story that brought me to this site, but I know that when I come here, I’m with the Quiet. It’s not about activity but intimacy and even that isn’t an action! I Love it, guys!

  6. hi alex!

    I am actually coming to Humana with my Wesley staff…but, it would be a great idea for the culture pub team to come. I will have to suggest that to them.

    thansk! katie n

  7. Dear Alex,

    Thank you for this post. I happened upon it by chance, just as I was attempting to encourage some folks in a Bible study grow. Indeed, your advice to wait until the learner is ready was the corrective I needed. Too easy to begin viewing (subtly and without intending) spiritual disciplines, designed to transform our inner lives, as some sort of meritorious achievements, when pushed into them apart from desire for God and his presence.

    Thanks again.

    – Sam

  8. Petert, exactly. thanks for the input.

    Sam, discipline is good too. but you’re right, when the horse is thirsty, he’ll drink.

    Katie, see you at humana 2.08.

    Peter Keady, Yes, the “Mary Moments.” Thanks for the encouragement.

    Mike, Read Life Together along with lots of other stuff by Bonhoeffer when I first started the journey. Good, good stuff.

    Dan, I love your sense of the sacred…the contemplative way. keep it up.

    Max, Thank you. This post and the last are deeply, deeply rooted in my own experience. I appreciate the encouragement.

  9. Hi Alex. Thanks for speaking in such a way that avoids answers that are too easy, falling back on cliches. Your perspective in this post and in others have the ring of truth to them. I’m not sure that I see hungering for the quiet or spiritual formation as “the answer to” or something that “must be done first before” something else must happen (I think some are implying this). It’s not that retreating to the quiet necessarily leads to a hunger for God, it’s that in a man who hungers for God, a behaviour that retreats to the quiet (AS WELL AS being a man of action) is demonstrated – the other way around. You cannot give that hunger to anyone, only the Holy Spirit can. I think that’s the point and the reason why Jesus doesn’t simply start off by teaching them spiritual disciplines like they are the “key” to maturity “before” taking them on mission. I will seek to IMITATE the behviour of a mature and hungry man (Christ) in the hopes that God will give me the same hunger, just as someone may perform acts of mercy in the hopes that God will give him the compassion of Jesus to go with it. Any idea that somehow spiritual formation must come first “before” action makes us less missional that Jesus. If we tell people “you must first learn your spiritual disciplines”, not only is this not what Jesus said, it makes the church less missional than it needs to be in this century. We must be, as you say Alex, men of action who hunger for the quiet, and then hopefully some will ask questions.

    Peter

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