by Carter Cox
When one studies the Scripture you will notice a masterful tapestry of God working out His mission through His people by His Spirit within His structures. These compliment one another - His Spirit and His structures. They are not opposed.
God is not a God of disorder, but of peace (1. Cor 14:33), Paul goes on to write when this church gathers “everything MUST be done in a fitting and orderly way” (v40). Fitting and orderly. Does any other part of God’s creation portray fitting and orderly structure?
The human body: Without the Spirit we have no life, and without a body, there’s nothing in which to live.
The seasons of life: A time to be born and a time to die; a time to sow and a time to reap; a time to wake and a time to sleep; a time to work and a time to rest.
Creation itself: From the macro universe and galaxy in which we live to the very micro atomic particles making up the fabric of all things there is design. There is a order. There is a structure.
I have recently sensed a tension, an uneasiness, even a scoffing, at discipleship structure. The argument suggests structure hinders God’s Spirit from working. But as demonstrated in the examples above God is very comfortable creating structure in which to accomplish his work. All of creation and the testimony of the scriptures point to the necessity of some order.
Our structure within discipleship is this: Follow Jesus. If Jesus did something, or said something, and goes on to command us to do likewise, then our structure should serve this purpose. It should help others learn to follow the person & pattern of Jesus.
Here are some examples:
Jesus lived in close proximity to His disciples spending much more than 1 hour a week with them.
Jesus broke bread and ate with his disciples regularly.
Jesus cast a global sized vision to his disciples.
Jesus prayed with his disciples.
Jesus held his disciples accountable to obey what he said.
Jesus deeply loved, cared, and nurtured His disciples.
Jesus taught His disciples God’s Word.
Jesus Commissioned His disciples with all His authority to do everything He said.
Regardless of how you plan on making disciples. The above list minimally exemplifies the way to structure your time and life with those you disciple. Jesus practiced these elements and He is the ultimate disciple maker. His way is the pattern. His life is the structure.
Having structure is not equal to legalism, nor does it equate to dead religion. Having a structure which facilitates others learning to follow Jesus will NEVER be legalism. Having a structure that replaces following Jesus will ALWAYS be legalism.
To many times I see and hear the structure of Jesus’ life being sacrificed on the alter of “Oh, let’s just be Spirit lead.” When is the last time you said to...
“Ya know, hopefully I show up tomorrow on time. If I do I might get my work done. But maybe not. We’ll just see what the Spirit leads.”
“Ya know, I know we’ve been busy, but hopefully we get more time together...I don’t want to ‘plan’ anything, that would feel to structured. We’ll just see what the Spirit leads.”
Your landlord or bank:
“I know I’m behind on my payments, but hey, I’m sure things will turn around when the Spirit leads. I can’t promise to pay on the first of this month...but we’ll see what He says when that day comes around.”
“Hey kids, ya know, I don’t want to be to harsh or strict...So you want to stay up all night, have a filthy room, sleep in and not go to school...I trust the Spirit on this one, I’m sure he’ll lead you to do what’s right.”
That doesn’t work, it is called chaos. Isn’t it amazing how a little bit of structure in other areas of life actually leads to peace? Why then are we so fearful to have structure in discipleship?
Jesus was the perfect Spirit filled human to ever walk the planet. Would it not then make sense if we were walking and living controlled under His Spirit’s influence that our lives would imitate Him? Even down to the very structure and pattern of disciple making which He laid out for us to follow.
Don’t think of structure as the container, but rather a foundation. Containers hinder and limit, foundations sustain and support. We aren’t referring to every structure, but the structure of Jesus and his discipleship patterns. Don’t hinder the Spirit’s work by refusing structure in your discipleship.