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.
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.
- Jesus is himself a man of action who longs for the quiet. Jesus’ actions performed before his disicples require an explanantion.
- 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.
- 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).
- He allows them to fail and feel their limits (9.37ff).
- 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
- Relational — They had to be with him to experience his hunger for “the quiet”. Only then could their own spiritual anorexia be exposed.
- Missional — Their hunger for the quiet was created in a relationship with an action oriented man on mission.
- Patient — He let their appetite for “the quiet” grow while he exposed them to his passion and involved them in his mission.
- 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…
- We must have a mission that gives rise to questions about our role in the world. Live a life that requires an explanation.
- 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.
- We must ask questions that make the convert to take responsibility for his own development.
- 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
- Jesus knew why he was here, how clearly do we?
- 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?
- Activity: Brainstorm a list of questions that would help disciples take responsibility for their own development.
- 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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