Discipling (a nurturing process for new Christians; key words in the discipling process in the Boston Movement include "trust," "submission," and "imitating one's discipler") is an essential element of the Boston Movement.
According to the Boston Movement teachings, having a discipleship partner is not optional. In 1987, Al Baird wrote a series of articles for the Boston Bulletin entitled "Authority and Submission." In one of these articles he stated:
Similarly we expect every member to be discipled by a more spiritually mature Christian who is given the authority to teach him to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). (Al Baird, Boston Bulletin. "Authority and Submission," Part V. October 4, 1987)
During the 1988 Leadership Conference in Boston, Kip McKean and Scott Green taught a class on "Discipleship Partners" where Kip McKean said:
We need to make it abundantly clear is that every brother in the congregation needs to have a discipleship partner. To not have a discipleship partner is to be rebellious to God and to the leadership of this congregation. I think sometimes we have been too soft, but the example that will be given today, as Scott said, is not just a nice methodology, but it will be based on the relationship of Jesus to the Twelve.
The Boston Movement sees its view of discipling as being a part of God's divine plan and not just a method devised by man. The proof that discipleship is an eternal, divine plan is their assertion that Jesus was discipled by God. In this same class on "Discipleship Partners" at the 1988 Boston Leadership Conference, Scott Green clearly showed the Boston Movement premise:
Secondly, in verse 9 (referring to John 15:9, JO) we realize that God himself discipled Jesus Christ. He says, 'Listen, the love I learned from the Father I make known to you.' Further on in the passage he talks about, 'Listen, my Father taught me all kinds of things and I have tried to make them all known to you.' We see that Jesus himself was discipled by his Father. Why was that important? Because discipleship is an eternal spiritual plan. It is not an invention of the Boston church. It is not an interesting way of looking at the Bible. It is not an interesting way of taking apart the scriptures and finding a neat method. I was raised in the church. I have been in the church of Christ all my life. I have never seen anything like what is being done in this movement and it is because we are restoring an eternal plan Amen! An eternal plan. Jesus himself was discipled by the Father.
This premise is filled with many erroneous implications. Among them is the idea that since discipling involves correcting and rebuking others for their mistakes, how could it ever be said that God discipled Jesus?
"Trust" is one of the key words in understanding the Boston Movement teaching on discipleship. Scott Green also explained the necessity of trust in the discipleship partner relationship in the 1988 Leadership Conference class on "Discipleship Partners":
The thing that Kip talked about in our first discipleship partner time was the need for trust--the need for trust and friendship. I will never forget that lesson. And I know that kind of trust has engendered this in my character--it makes me want to obey the advice that I've received. That is very, very important. A lot of us have not learned that in our discipling relationships and we haven't tried to call our disciples to it. To have the attitude that 'Listen, I want you to be an obedient disciple. I want you to do what I say because this is the pattern of God." Listen, unless you get that person's trust, they are not going to want to obey. So we need to talk about trust, produce friendship; this will produce disciples who want to obey.
The Boston Movement teaches that "trust" helps you to get others to believe that "your judgement is better than theirs;" without it, you can't guide and "mold their lives." In the 1988 Boston Leadership Conference class on "Discipleship Partners," Kip McKean taught these ideas relating to trust:
Friendship is what builds trust. I really believe with all my heart that you will never be able to disciple someone unless you build a friendship with them and thus they can trust you. You see, here is the bottom line and get this down. The person that you are discipling must believe, must trust that you are out for God and their best interest. Because you see there is going to be some advice they will not understand. But if they trust that you are out for God and their best interest, they will obey.
Secondly, they must believe emphatically that your judgement is better than theirs. This is so important. How can you tell someone what to do, when they are even unsure of what is going on unless they will obey by trust that your judgment is better than theirs? I truly believe that in order to develop this kind of trust you have got to have a time when you are contacting that person every day. Hebrews 3:12 and 13 ... so the premise seems clear. Friendship which builds trust which allows you to be able to guide them and to mold their lives.
The first written material (that I am aware of) that stressed trust in the discipling relationship appeared in the Boston Bulletin on August 17, 1986. When this article is read carefully, you can see the same emphasis on trust in discipling that Kip McKean and Scott Green taught in their discipleship partners class. This article, "Because You Say So," was written by Ed Townsend, who was discipled by Al Baird and sent to assist in leading the San Francisco Church of Christ.
A trusting heart. Peter's trust in Jesus led him to say, 'But because you say so...' In order to be discipled by others a person must have a trusting heart, one that listens even when it doesn't fully comprehend or see the end result. Proverbs 3:5 teaches: 'Lean not on your own understanding.' Often we rely on our own ideas and perceptions instead of listening to those who are discipling us. Peter let down the nets not knowing what would happen because he trusted his teacher. Do you trust those discipling you? Do you trust beyond the point of your own understanding?
A totally obedient heart. Teachability and trust always leads to total obedience. Peter's willingness to act shows his teachable and trusting heart. He could have listened all day and even claimed great trust in Jesus, but the proof is always obedience. Do you fully obey when you're given direction and instruction or do you interpret, filter, or revise what you hear? If we are really going to learn from others, we must decide to fully obey. For Peter it ultimately meant more than boats full of fish! His obedience eventually led to a life-changing relationship with his discipler (Ed Townsend, Boston Bulletin. "Because You Say So," August 17, 1986.)
Please read Proverbs 3:5 and observe how Ed Townsend used the verse out of context. He placed trust in the discipler, whereas Proverbs 3:5 places trust in the Lord.
Although Ed Townsend's article was written three years ago, equating one's trust in his discipler with trusting God is still predominant today. Theresa Ferguson, the wife of one of the Boston elders and a women's counselor, wrote in an article entitled "Forever Growing" which appeared in the October 22, 1989 Boston Bulletin.
Also, we need to trust in God, completely to enable us to grow and, most importantly, we need to trust the people he has put in our life to help us change. Ultimately, if we do, not trust these people, we do not trust God. To the extent that I trust my discipler, Gloria Baird, I am in reality trusting God.
The importance of trusting others (disciplers) is also seen in the prayer request lists (see Appendix). When a member doesn't trust his discipler, he repents and asks for prayers of fellow Christians to change.
Bob Harpole, who was trained in Chicago and sent to Cincinnati, wrote in an article entitled "How To Be Sure You Are Not Discipled:"
Trust your discipler's motives. Keep no hidden reservations and give the benefit of the doubt. Although weaknesses should not be ignored, neither should they become the focus of your relationship. In a word, your faith in God is reflected in your faith in your discipler. (Chicago Fire, August 16, 1987.)
Barbara Porter was converted and trained in Boston. She was part of the Toronto planting and was later sent to Sao Paulo, Brazil. She wrote:
Open Up To God. It is easy to trust God when you agree with his will. It is easy to submit to your discipler's advice when it is what you would have done anyway. However, the true test of our trust and submission comes when we are called upon to trust and obey a decision contrary to what we normally do or think. (Boston Bulletin, "Loving Your Family," Part I, April 23, 1989.)
The emphasis on "trust" is also taught in children's Bible classes. A lesson plan (see Appendix) used in Atlanta in the fall of 1988 shows how the church teaches "trust" to its children. This foundation of "trust teaching" is an attempt to prepare the youth for a discipler. Below is the activity suggested to communicate this lesson:
1. Before class, put the household objects in the brown grocery bag. Seal the top of the bag. Leave enough room in the top so that an arm can fit in the bag. Have the students sit in a circle. Tell them that to be a disciple we must learn to trust other Christians who are teaching us about Christ and how to follow him. Tell them that we are going to play a trust game. You are going to let each student take a turn putting their hand in the bag to feel and learn what is in the bag. Tell them not to say what they feel until everyone has had a turn putting their hand into the bag. Then they can talk about what they felt. See if the students trusted you. Were any of them afraid that something in the bag would hurt them? If so, take time to discuss this. Praise the students who trusted you. Stress that you would not do anything to hurt them because you are teaching them about Jesus and you want them to be like Jesus. Stress that we can't just blindly trust everyone in the world. God wants us to be able to trust His disciples, Christians.
2. Use the blindfold to play another popular trust game. One child is blindfolded while you guide them around the room. Do they trust you? Is it easy to trust in this situation? Discuss how each felt while they were being led around blindfolded.
3. Now, tell the students that you want them to play "Follow the Leader." Have them line up behind you, the leader. They are to follow you and do exactly what you do. Discuss what kinds of things they had to do to follow you exactly. Hopefully, they will mention watching closely, not allowing themselves to become distracted, etc. Discuss how these same things are true if we are going to follow Christ daily. We need to read our Bible closely. We must not become distracted by the world. We must be learners of the other Christians
"Trust" is a powerful word in the Boston Movement and conveys a message to its members that is different from an outsider's understanding when he hears the word used in sermons or sees it in articles. The best way to understand what is meant by the word is to observe the "company of words and ideas" attached to it. You have already seen the word "trust" used in Boston Bulletin articles by Ed Townsend (August 17, 1986), Barbara Porter (April 23, 1989), Theresa Ferguson (October 22, 1989) and in the children's class lesson. Another example of the emphasis placed on trust is seen in the article, "Trust Me! The Key to Being Discipled--Part I," (Boston Bulletin, July 16, 1989) by Terry Moore who has spent six and a half years in Boston. The article parallels the Jesus-Peter relationship to two Christians today and is similar to Ed Townsend's article (August 17, 1986).
Jesus was simply saying trust me! ... Jesus knew what was best and Peter needed to trust. Peter would have gained wisdom and maturity had he had a submissive spirit and trusted Jesus ... For disciples trust is an essential quality, and learning is fundamental to the lifestyle of a Christian. Any relationship is based on trust and is only as deep as the trust goes.
Peter's sin was that he was not trusting Jesus. Jesus realized that if he could nor trust him in such a simple area (especially at the end of three years of discipling), then Jesus could not have any impact on his life and therefore he was not a disciple in heart or spirit. Trust in the discipling relationship is absolutely essential. Without it we will never grow beyond our own perceptions of ourselves and situations, because we are screening out everything that doesn't already fit in (this is also referred to as "filtering" in other places, JJ). We seriously restrict any growth we might have. We, like Peter, often times do not trust the people God has put into our lives. We hold back our affection and loyalty, maintaining an independence that kills the learning spirit that we are to have in our quest to become like Jesus.
There are many reasons why we do not trust God and the people he has put into our lives. Do you argue or resist being a disciple as Peter did? ... When we change our heart to trust in God and in the people he has put in our lives, we will be able to overcome many of the things in our lives that have plagued us and live victorious lives in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(You are urged to read an earlier article by Theresa Ferguson on the place of trust in discipling entitled "Overcoming Fears," Boston Bulletin, June 25, 1989.)
The bulletin articles by Ed Townsend, Theresa Ferguson, Barbara Porter, Bob Harpole and Terry Moore, as well as the children's class lesson and the prayer requests (see Appendix) and the material from the "Discipleship Partners" class taught by Kip McKean and Scott Green, give the inquirer a good picture of the Boston Movement's teaching on discipling and the place of trust in the process. When you combine the thoughts, suggestions and teachings of these articles, you could conclude: A disciple is one who obeys his discipler even if he doesn't comprehend what he's told. Because he wants to have a teachable heart, he will fully obey and be totally obedient even if what he's asked to do is contrary to what he would normally do or think. To distrust the person God had put in his life is equal to distrusting God and his faith in God is shown by his faith in his discipler.
Eric Mansfield, who is a Zone leader in Chicago, also emphasized the concept of trust and the extent to which one should trust his discipler:
We must accept that we are not objective about how we come across to others or how we think. We need help to see where we are at in our spiritual maturity. An awesome disciple is one who assumes his discipler is more objective and accurate about his life than he is. (Chicago Fire, May 14, 1989.)
"Imitating" or "becoming exactly like one's discipler" is also a key element in the Boston Movement's concept of discipleship. At the June 1987 Atlanta Leadership Conference, Jim Blough, who was discipled by Kip McKean and led the planting in Bombay, India, explained this concept.
Let me tell you my attitude towards Kip. Let me explain it to you. You know, I may have a good quality here and there, occasionally if you look hard enough, you can find one in almost everyone, you know. But I believe this. I believe if I could become exactly like Kip, I'll be a whole lot more useful to God than I am by myself. Do you know what I'm saying? I believe that. You know what I do? I humbled myself before Kip. Kip says, 'Brother, you do this.' I say 'Okay.' I don't argue, I don't question; I do it. Why? Because I want to be more effective for God.
Robin Deal, who was a part of the Toronto planting, wrote her explanation of discipling relationship and how it includes imitating one's discipler.
Obviously our discipler is not perfect and commits sins every day. We are to be copying her repentance and growth. Strive to emulate her outlook, reactions, thought processes. Obedience and imitation are God's answer for pride and selfishness. As our obedience becomes immediate and exact and our imitation deliberate and comprehensive we will truly be becoming like Jesus deep down in our hearts.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- In what ways is your obedience sometimes not exact?
- Who in your life is it most difficult for you to obey and why?
- Do you filter your imitation of your discipler?
- What is the biggest barrier for you to imitate your discipler thoroughly?
- What practical ways can you change your obedience and imitation to be more like Jesus?
(Robin Deal, Boston Bulletin, "Follow Me," September 25, 1988.)
Kip McKean's view and goal of discipling were expressed in a class that he taught in Boston at the 1988 Leadership Retreat:
And truly if you are a pacesetter in your relationship with God, if you are a pacesetter in your evangelism, if you are a pacesetter in the sense that you are growing, that people can see your progress and inspired by that, then it should be comfortable to say, 'Imitate me as I imitate Christ.' If you cannot say that to people, you will not be able to disciple them. Let me tell you this, the people that are easiest to disciple are those individuals who are the ones who most want to imitate you. Because the moment you start saying, 'Well, there are some parts about this brother I am a little bit unsure of,' what that person begins to do, is they begin to filter through the direction and advice that's given to them. And when they start filtering through, they begin to filter out. And when they start filtering out, they're going to filter out what seems best to them, and the whole point of being a disciple is that they don't know what is best for them. But their discipler knows what is best for them. And so I believe a challenge for us is to say, 'Listen, I really love and appreciate my Zone leader. But more than that, I want to be like him. I mean, you know, isn't that what you can say, I mean, can't you say, 'I want to be like Phil. I want to be like Preston. I want to be like Martin.' This is what I'm saying. I mean, you've got these kind of guys. I mean, why wouldn't you say that? You know why you wouldn't say it? Two things.
Number one, is you're fearful that you can't be like that. And that's sin, because it controls you. It's not sinful to have fear. But it's sinful when fear controls you. And so many of us are so insecure that we have doubts about whether we can change, and that is sin. Or thirdly, we're prideful. And some of us think that we are better. Listen, if you were stronger than your Zone leader, you'd be leading the Zone. And so, as a pacesetter, you not only need to have that as a mindset, that your life needs to be worthy of imitation, but bottom line, you got to call people to imitate you as they imitate Christ.
In the same class at the 1988 Leadership Conference, Scott Green further explained the goal of discipling:
You know, I think a lot of us, probably here even in this room, at this time, really struggle with the things Kip is trying to teach us here. And I think the reason is because a lot of us feel like we have to have, you know, absolutely, the personality, you know, of Phil. We've got to be able to have that kind of electrifying smile, you know, that's really going to blow away the disciples. We've got to have the kind of heart that gushes forth that Martin just exudes. You know, we've got to have the Russ Ewell explosiveness, that's going to make the difference in the kingdom. And let me tell you something. I think that people will be willing to follow a man who is doing it. Now. I believe that the disciples need to follow even personality traits. I think disciples need to imitate us wholly in what we do. I think we need to call disciples to do that.
In a class taught at the Boston Seminar in 1988 with Rubin Ha, Scott Green gave additional thoughts on the concept of discipling others to be like you:
If you want to be a great discipler in the Lord, you must call young men, you must call even older men, you must call men to follow you as you follow Christ. You must make the call clear; you must take that responsibility. You see, the reason why a lot of us don't ever call men to follow us in that way, the reason why we are not clear is not because we are not clear in a class like this. The reason why we don't do it is because we fear the responsibility. You see, we know if we sit down with someone and say, 'You follow me as I follow Christ,' and then we start flubbing the dub during the middle of the week, we start broaching on our assignment, we start messing up on our responsibility we are going to feel so guilty! And we should. I'm saying nothing can stop us if we want to fulfill Jesus' plan from having the guts and then, of course, the accountability determination to follow that up and say, 'Listen, I call you to follow me as I follow Christ.' If you are not willing to make the call, you can't be a discipler. And disciples, if you want to be a great disciple, your job is to follow. You see when the discipler makes the call, 'I will make you a fisher of men.' Then the disciple responds, 'I will follow, I will drop my nets, I will drop my complications, I will drop my excuses, I will drop my life, I will drop my independence and I will follow you to the ends of the earth.' That's the responsibility of a disciple.
You know I appreciate when I was beginning my relationship with Kip McKean back in January 1982. You know when Kip said, 'Hey. I want you to follow me.' I remember we went out to his house in Lexington and I was just sort of an innocent college senior at the time. So I sat down there on Kip's rug, you know, kind of hacking around like a college student does, but here I am in Kip's house. And I sat down there on the floor and then Kip sat down against the other couch on the other end and we had this little talk. And I'11 never forget that right off the bat, something I will never forget, was Kip defined the relationship and he said these very words, 'I am discipling you and I will send you out to preach, but you must follow me as I follow Christ and it must be a relationship founded on trust.' I mean he might as well--he didn't have it put it on a cassette recorder--but those were the kinds of words it was. What Kip was doing was simply carefully defining the relationship. Do you see that? Do you have that kind of relationship? Have you defined your relationships on that basis? And as a disciple, have you been looking to give that kind of responsibility yourself? This is what it is going to take clearly to be a great disciple. I remember in Hong Kong, you know when we first got to Hong Kong, one of the biggest problems we had was that we had not spent time together in the summer. You see, the elders had rightfully called my wife and I to move out to San Francisco, California where we initiated sort of a switch over between Tom Brown as the evangelist. I became the evangelist in California. Tom went to Boston for retraining. Of course, then Frank and Erica initiated that beautiful reconstruction September after Lynne and I went to Hong Kong. Well, by being in San Francisco the whole summer we came back ready to go to Hong Kong without a team because we were ready and they were not. And so trying to piecemeal that team together man, it took months in Hong Kong to piece that team together. It took some time. We had to start making that call again, to call men back to discipleship Now, even before I left Hong Kong to come here, just to give you an illustration, you must make this call, you must make this responsibility again, again, and again. One time is not going to cut it. One time is not going to be clear. It's got to be spaced repetition. And so what I did was I got with all my brothers before I left and the last discipling time we had that's what it was all about. I said, 'I want to call you to follow me as you have never done before.' Get that down, you need to say those words. You need to get with your guys and say, 'Hey listen, Joe, Sam, we've been hacking around this relationship too long. We've been monkeying around; we've been playing basketball; we've been getting ice cream; we've been playing games of intenseness and we don't really mean it. I want to start calling you to follow me as I follow Christ. I want you to follow me and then I will take responsibility to mold and shape your life responsibly into a fisher of men. Agreed?' That's what we need to have. That's the spirit, let's make that contract verbal. Let's make that contract with the heart. Then we will take responsibility of discipleship so we can get the game going. Amen? Amen.
The following quote is taken from the same tape as the previous quote and Scott Green further explains imitation in the discipling relationship.
I wanted to be a writer at one time. I used to do a lot of newspaper writing, magazine, stuff like this. And even then, it was really true that the best writers are just borrowers. They really are. The best painters, they are all borrowers. There is really nobody who is that original. What everybody does is, they start off by copying somebody they like and then, you know, things just kind of spin off from there. And that's how it is with your disciple in the Lord. You set your mind to be an exact replica, you set your mind to be an exact imitation, if you set your mind to do that, the Lord is going to carry you to be not only like your discipler, he may indeed carry you to some place scary! He may carry you to bring things out of yourself that you didn't even know were there and then your disciples starts imitating that, it's going to scare you. (Short sentence: not understandable JJ.) Be great imitators first and let the Lord develop your life. Be imitators, not those that are gathered towards information. You know when I was a young intern--I want you to really weigh this--I was undynamic, undisciplined, I was not a leader of any kind. I just didn't have the ability. Those are serious handicaps if you want to go into the ministry. You know, big ears are not that bad of a handicap if you are going into the ministry, but being undisciplined, not knowing how to lead and being undynamic, that's bad. (Name omitted) knows back there because he was one of my young disciples in those days, trying to love me and shaking his head. The point is I needed Kip McKean to teach me discipline. I needed Kip McKean to teach me to lead. I needed Kip McKean to teach me to be dynamic. Do you catch what I am saying? Are you convicted about your weaknesses? Are you convicted about where you are not at in the Lord so you need to imitate to get those things you need to have. Amen? You know when I was in San Francisco for the last conference in May, I was really excited about a comment someone made. I gave a speech to the San Francisco Asian Conference. I was pretty excited about the speech and really tried to preach the word, but the most exciting thing--different people came back and said, 'That point cut me here,' 'This point touched me there,' but one young lady came back and she said, 'I closed my eyes and I heard Kip McKean.' I mean I gave that sister a big hug because that's my goal, that's what I want to be like. I want to be able to imitate Kip McKean. I want to preach like him, I want to think like him, I want to talk like him. Do you see what I am saying? Are you an imitator or are you an information gatherer?
Rubin Ha claims to be a disciple of Scott Green and is part of the Hong Kong planting. His understanding of imitating his discipler, as taught to him by Scott Green, is expressed in a class that he taught with Scott at the 1988 Boston Seminar.
Brother, I know you love coffee, but it's hard for me to appreciate coffee. But other than coffee I can imitate Scott. I want to imitate Scott. I want to be like him. I want to be like my discipler. Brothers, brothers, I think what's the problem if we're not like our discipler. Have you guys ever had people who talk to you, who say, 'Brother, I think you're really like your discipler. You act like him. You talk like him. You think like him.' Has anybody told you that? Nobody told me, yet. I realized I wasn't imitating Scott. And recently, he challenged me on it and I changed. And it was really, really, just, the main problem is, what he would say, 'Pride.' Again it, takes humility to be like another person exactly. It takes humility for me to like coffee. I really need to imitate everything. How, the way he speaks, the way he preaches. the way he thinks, the way he acts. I want to be like that. And it's great. There's a Brothers Preaching Night last Wednesday, and I stood up and I preached. I thought, 'Okay, I'll preach like Scott.' And you know what? Somebody came up and told me, 'Brother I think you really preached like Scott.' Amen, brothers? Brothers, you can do it. You can be like that.
Those who defend the Boston Movement's position on discipling try to make this material refer to leaders only; hence, they would understand that the disciple would not have to be just like the discipler. However, the same ideas set forth by Scott Green and Rubin Ha can be seen in Boston Bulletin articles such as:
The teachings in the bulletins are intended to be for all members of the Boston Movement, not just the leaders.
In addition to these articles, the following statements are taken from prayer request lists published by the Atlanta Church of Christ. These statements demonstrate how the man in the pew understands the Boston teaching on discipleship (see Appendix for the complete prayer list).
From Prayer Requests Sunday, September 11, 1988:
Similar prayer requests are found in other places. A prayer request list dated February 1988 from the University of West Indies had the following requests. (Names have been replaced by initials. See Appendix for complete list.)
The teaching that would motivate these prayer requests is seen in articles such at the one written by Theresa Ferguson (Boston Bulletin, "Forever Growing," October 22, 1989) where trusting a discipler is essential to growth.
In addition to a strong emphasis on imitating and trusting the discipler, there is also a strong monitoring of the member's activities. The following accountability sheet was used in the Atlanta Church of Christ.
|Did you every day this week:|
|Have your Q.T.'s?||_____||_____||_____|
|Pray with your spouse?||_____||_____||_____|
|Go to bed with your spouse?||_____||_____||_____|
|Get up on time?||_____||_____||_____|
|Go to bed on time?||_____||_____||_____|
|Share with someone new and/or follow up with someone?||_____||_____||_____|
|Have D.P. time with your children?||_____||_____||_____|
|Have family devotionals?||_____||_____||_____|
|Get with all your D.P.'s?||_____||_____||_____|
|(Q.T. means Quiet Time and D.P. means Discipleship Partner, JJ.)|
Another sample of an accountability sheet is the one used in the St. Louis Church of Christ.
To someone outside the Boston Movement, this type of accountability and input seems unreal. In the "Discipleship Partners" class at the 1988 Boston Leadership Conference, Scott Green stated:
Listen, are there bad attitudes? Don't avoid conflict! Let's express disappointment. Let's express the anger that needs to be there. People who have qualms, people who have independent spirits, people who have quiet reservations, let's confront the situations and not have conflict avoiders. Nothing is off limits in discipling someone's life.
The Boston Movement's teaching on authority and discipling overlaps in practice. Without its view of authority, discipling could not be as demanding as it is.
Submission and total obedience, another key element in discipling in the Boston Movement, was introduced in the articles by Ed Townsend, Barbara Porter and Terry Moore. Joe Garmon also discussed this concept in his second article in his series on "The Attitude of Christ" (Boston Bulletin, October 2, 1988).
God's plan is that everyone on earth be in a disciple's mode. Everyone has someone in authority over them, even Jesus. 'Now I want you to realize that the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.' (1 Corinthians 11:3). Some might say 'Yes, but only God was over Jesus. I only want God to be over me, and no human.' In saying that, remember that Jesus was equal to God (Philippians 2:6, John 1:1). In other words, Jesus submitted and accepted as his head God the Father, who was his equal. Jesus' act of submission was a decision to humble himself (Philippians 2:6-8), not because the Father was superior to him, but because humility is necessary in order to become like God. We are not God's equal. Yet, when we submit to an equal, another person, we begin to Learn Jesus' attitude.
The reader should read 1 Corinthians 11:3 and note the phrase, "the head of every man is Christ," is not included in the article. You will have to decide why this phrase wasn't quoted in the article.
During the Brockton House Church Reconstruction, Joe Garmon also taught that without discipling a Christian's heart cannot be fully submissive to God.
A disciple is someone who understands that he is going to be discipled by man. That is God's will, it is his purpose, it is his plan and it is the only way that it makes your heart fully submissive to him when you are discipled by another person--every single person. If you don't feel like your discipler knows how to disciple you, that's why God put him into your life to show you how prideful you are in thinking you know more than they do. Perhaps they don't understand everything about the Bible, perhaps they don't understand everything about you. I tell you the truth, I don't understand everything about you and it really doesn't make any difference. I don't have to understand everything about you to know what is right, to know what is wrong or what we should do or what God has called us to. You are to be discipled by people. That's God's plan. There is no other way to be in a right relationship with God.
Dick Runge gave one of the best explanations of the Boston Movement position on submission in a sermon entitled "Authority and Submission" (Part II) delivered on November 1, 1987 at the Cincinnati Church of Christ. If you were to listen to both Part I and Part II of this sermon, you would quickly see that Boston speeches and articles were the sources for his message. Dick Runge was serving as the evangelist for the Cincinnati church at the time of this sermon but was making plans to move to the New York Church of Christ for additional training.
I want to talk for just a minute about what submission is and what submission isn't. This will really apply to all different areas of life. All these different ones that we've been talking about. We will specifically approach it from the point of view of spiritual authority. Look over at Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 17. And, again, it doesn't make any difference whether its the authority that the Bible specifically lays out or that delegated authority from those people that the Bible specifically gives authority to. It's all the same thing. It's all the same thing. It's still authority from God. Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 17: He says, 'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men to who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.' It's interesting that the word here 'obey' as we talked about last week literally means 'to be persuaded.' And the root of this word, as its common root was the Greek word, 'faith.' Now, isn't that amazing? They have a common root in faith? In other words be persuaded out of trust. Be persuaded out of believing in God's plan. Be persuaded out of understanding what God is trying to do here. That's what that 'obey' means. But, then, you know even if there is not that trust there, he says, 'Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.' Even if there is not that trust, even if you haven't been around long enough, or even if you know, 'I wonder, I wonder, I wonder,' it still says to submit. So both principles are in there. Be persuaded out of trust, yes, but also submit. That word literally means 'to yield under,' 'to withdraw.' I withdraw my vote, as it were. Okay? Your vote takes precedence. That's fine. You see we're not in a democracy. The Bible doesn't talk about a democracy. It's a benevolent dictatorship, really when it gets right down to it. Jesus was a benevolent dictator. That's a compliment; that's not bad. Monarchy is a very common form of government. It just so happens that Jesus is the king. That's fine; that's fine. So they both have their root in the same word. I think that is really interesting.
What submission isn't. We're going to talk about what it isn't and then we are going to talk about what it is. What submission isn't is agreeing. It's not agreeing. Because, you see, if you agree, you don't have to submit. Right? You don't have to withdraw; you don't have to yield under. You agree, fine. So submitting is going ahead and saying okay even if I don't agree as long as it doesn't violate scripture and as long as it doesn't violate my conscience. Even if I don't think that is the best way to do it. If I don't think that is a wise decision, I still submit to it. As long as it doesn't violate scripture and as long as it doesn't violate my conscience. Of course, we've talked about the right of an appeal.
Secondly, submission isn't understanding. 'Oh, I understand, therefore, I will submit.' You know, if I did that with Clint every time--and, you know, this is the way he talks,' (not understandable, JJ).' So I'm going to sit down and say, 'Okay son, the reason I don't want you to sit on this table is I really feel like it's a bad example to the people who come in here and you're going to go to somebody else's place and sit on their table and scratch it all up. I'll be in big trouble. And you know what his response is? (Not understandable, JJ.) Now, do I still ask him to submit? No, I'll just wait until he understands. How many tables is that going to be? You see, we don't always understand what's best for us. And if we are humble, we'll submit. Throw your brain away? No we're going to talk about that in just a second.
It's not just outward obedience. Let me say on the understanding part, that is the goal, for you to understand. Sometimes we only understand by doing. Isn't that right? Sometimes you've taken advice and you've said, 'Yeah, you know, I'm not sure I understand that, I will trust you, I'll go ahead and do it.' Then you say, 'Man, I can't believe I was so dumb before that. I can't believe I was so blind before that. You really helped me out.' It's not just outward obedience. You know that kind of 'yes, I'm sitting down on outside, but I'm standing up on the inside.' 'Okay, I'll do it. Okay all right, if l have to I'll submit.' You see, that's not biblical submission.
Number four, it's not conditional. 'Well, if you ask men the right way and if you say it in a nice way, and you explain it, then I'll submit.' Now, if you tell me that's what I need to do, then I'm not going to do it. That doesn't work, does it? It's not a wait and see. That's the next one, wait and see. 'Go ahead, convince me that this is right. If you can convince me, then I'll do it.' It's hard to convince people who approach it like this. 'Go ahead, try it, try to disciple me.' It's real tough to do that.
It's not just being silent. Many times we say, 'Na, I'm not going to say anything. I'm not going to agree; I'm not going to disagree.' You see, that's not the option there. That's not the option there. It's not just being silent, but it is wholeheartedly following. Let me read to you. (Name omitted) is going to be baptized later on today and he wrote out just some things that he really wanted to repent of (I didn't tell him I was going to use his name, but that's all right, I just won't print it in the bulletin). He says, 'Ways that I have been insubmissive and afraid of authority. One, I have often gone along with the decisions of the leadership for the direction of the congregation without being a support.' (He wants to repent of that.) 'When programs are announced and plans are made, I have taken a wait and see attitude. I need to be one of the first to support and participate.' Amen. 'When talking about what is expected of a Christian, I am very quick to point out what it doesn't mean and much less careful to point out what it does mean. I filter it for myself and others. More than any other single thing, insubmission has been in the form of simply holding back my full acceptance of the plans and direction of my leaders. I have expected them to convince me that their decision was best, rather than trusting God to direct them.' Now see, he has the right understanding about submission. That's the kind of understanding we need to have.
You know, in going to New York--I'm going to be moving to New York at the end of next month--and I've already decided that I am behind the decisions that are made there. I've already decided. Whatever, I'm behind it. I don't care what it is. I don't care what it means for me, as long as it doesn't violate scripture and as long as it doesn't violate my conscience. I am already behind it. That's doesn't mean that I am not going to ask any questions; that doesn't mean that I am not going to say, 'Can you explain this to me,' but it doesn't make any difference whether I understand it or whether I would have come up with the same idea or whether even if I agree with it, I am already behind it. Now, some of you may say, 'That's just throwing your brain away.' No, that's biblical submission. It's trusting in God to direct things. I'm going to trust in God to direct things. You see, that's the right view of submission. That doesn't just apply to the evangelist or the elders in the congregation. It applies to your discipling partners too. Because that's delegated authority. It applies to your Bible Talk leader because that is delegated authority. Those people are put in those positions for a reason. And it applies just as much there as it does any place else.
Submission is not throwing your brain away. It's not trusting myself more than I trust God. That's what submission is. I trust God more than I trust myself. I know that I am not right all the time. I know I need help. And some of the reasons why some of us have had problems with submission is because we think we're right more than the people who are trying to help us out. And that's where we get into problems. I know more than you. I heard about a situation not long ago where the discipling partner was trying to convince one of the men of the congregation that he needed to disciple his wife. He needed to have discipling time with her 'No, you know I think I'm doing fine without it.' 'I'll tell you what, why don't you go ask her how it's going?' Of course, she said. 'I don't feel like I'm being discipled.' And so, he repented and that's good, except he should have repented before he talked to his wife about it. You know it's funny that all of the other leaders in the church felt like they needed to disciple their wives, if they have them (tape turned over and part of speech was lost, JJ). His attitude was, 'Okay, I've already decided that I accept that. Now, here's my schedule, help me work it out.' You know, see, in going to New York, I'm praying that I won't have a bad attitude about anything that I am asked or told or commanded to do. I believe that some of us are praying, 'I hope they don't ask me something that causes me to have a bad attitude.' You see, there's a difference in those two. I've already determined who is right. I'm not going to wait and see who is right. I've already determined who is right. See, I get that from the scriptures, not from my own thinking but from the whole idea of submission to authority that we find right here in the scriptures. What submission is it is joyful. It is joyful. Husbands, don't you love it when your wife joyfully submits. 'Okay, honey, it's your shot to call. Go for it.' It's willing, willing submission. Amen! I'm comfortable with the role that God has given me here. It is wholehearted. And ultimately, submission is trying to learn and develop convictions from the direction that I have been given. No you don't throw your brain away. You try to understand. You try to get in there and learn. You try to figure out why it is has been given so you can learn from it, you can grow to be more like Jesus. That's the reason for it. That's the reason for it. You try to learn the proper way to think as a disciple. You know isn't it funny, sometimes as we're being studied with, we learn 'Yeah, boy, boy, I didn't think that way about God. Didn't think that way about sin. Didn't think that way about how to become a Christian. Man, you know, all my thinking has been faulty. Once I've become a Christian, now my thinking is right. I've got everything on straight, I don't need to learn how to think any more. I already know it all.' Isn't that amazing that sometimes we take on that attitude. You know, we've got to understand that we all still need to be taught how to think as a disciple. Every one of us. Every one of us. That's one of the reasons I am moving to New York to learn more how to think as a disciple To learn more how to be like Jesus. We've got to understand that's what the Bible commands us to do. To have that kind of attitude about it.
What's the big barrier? Pride. Pride. Not, you know, 'That dummy discipling me.' That's not the big barrier. Not, you know, 'My husband, you know, if my husband were like Jesus, I would submit to him.' Okay, let's move Jesus into your home for a week. How would you like that? How would you like that? How would that fit in with your schedule? How would that fit in with the way you treat your husband? Would you treat Jesus the same way? See, that's the way we need to think about it. God has put these authorities in our life legitimately. He's put them in our lives concerned about us growing to be like the Lord. That's why they are there.
In discussing the discipling relationship of elders and evangelists, Gordon Ferguson (selected in 1989 to be one of the three elders in Boston) teaches it is the responsibility of the evangelists to disciple the elders.
Another area which is closely connected to the training of ministers is the training of elders. Discipling relationships are the answer to training any leader. The real issue concerns who is to disciple and raise up elders. Some would be very quick to answer, 'other elders.' And from a practical vantage point, the answer has some merit. However, the biblical answer is that evangelists disciple elders. Titus was to straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town' (Titus 1:5). Although the church at Ephesus had elders already (Acts 20:17, 18), Timothy had the responsibility to train, appoint and rebuke elders as the situation demanded (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17-22). Unqualified evangelists (those not discipled to maturity) cannot disciple other leaders effectively, especially elders. Qualified evangelists can and must disciple elders if the biblical example is to be restored and the world evangelized. For too long, elders have blocked the spread of the Kingdom through either ineptitude or pride or both. It is time for elders to humbly submit to discipling and for evangelists to humbly disciple them. The whole issue of authority which surrounds this subject is not a problem unless pride makes it one. Both elders and evangelists have authority in the church because both have responsibilities which are biblically defined. Responsibility determines authority. And although some overlapping exists between these two roles and although elders certainly will have input into the lives of the evangelists on a practical level, the responsibility of discipling elders still rests with the trained evangelist. Congregations like Boston who have restored this practice can boast of great relationships between elders and evangelists. And they can also point to a high degree of effectiveness in the lives of all concerned! The approach works because it is of God. (Boston Bulletin, "Progressive Revelation Part III, (B), Specific Examples Explained," May 22, 1988.)
The forerunner of the discipling relationships taught in the Boston Movement has its roots in the prayer partner practices taught in the early days of the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida. In explaining these relationships, Chuck Lucas denied "that every sin of thought or action should or must be confessed to a prayer partner" nor "should there be any superior/inferior or junior/senior concept of spiritual ranking among Christians.' (Firm Foundation, November 17, 1981.)
When the Boston Movement switched to a disciple partner practice, Kip McKean wrote an article describing the practice (Boston Bulletin, "Discipleship Partners" April 22, 1984). His article did not stress a discipler-disciple relationship, nor did it teach the strong authoritarian positions they now hold, such as the exact imitation of another person. The progression of the discipleship partner arrangement from 1984 to 1989 has been significant. The idea of a "partner" has definitely changed to one-over-one, rather than one-on-one discipling.
Al Baird taught that everyone has someone who is over him and who is responsible for discipling him:
A well-understood example in many churches today is the role of youth minister. This person is usually given the charge of training and equipping the youth for Christian living; surely no one would agree that he is given this responsibility without the appropriate authority. In Boston, we elders delegate authority to zone leaders, house church leaders and Bible talk leaders in limited ways. This limited authority enables them to hold those under their charge accountable for working and growing in the Lord Jesus. Similarly, we expect every member to be discipled by a more spiritually mature Christian who is given the authority to teach him to obey everything that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). Again, their authority is limited; for instance, the elders do not delegate the authority to disfellowship any one. We also teach that every member has the right to appeal any decision in matters of opinion to the elders and evangelist. (Boston Bulletin, "Authority and Submission," Part V, October 4, 1987)
It is interesting to read Kip McKean's article on "Discipleship Partners" (see Appendix) which was written April 22, 1984 and then read how Al Baird described the relationship three years later. The idea of a "partner" or "equal relationship" is no longer true. This is another example of the "evolution" of the Boston Movement teaching.
Kip McKean's description of the discipling relationship(April 22, 1984) doesn't sound like the one described in Al Baird's articles. On July 26, 1987 in the Boston Bulletin Kip McKean reported,
Some in Atlanta were opposed to such Biblical principles as the authority of the evangelist, one-on-one discipleship and the calling of every member to evangelism ...
However, the truth was, the ones who chose to reject the Boston teachings were objecting to one-over-one discipling, not one-on-one discipling. In his article, Al Baird definitely described a one-over-one and not one-on-one relationship. If the Boston Movement description of discipleship partners was correct in 1984, it is now wrong in 1987 since the two articles do not teach the same thing. When Kip McKean accused some in Atlanta of rejecting one-on-one discipleship, is it now, in reality (according to Al Baird's article), a rejection of one-over-one discipleship? In the speech I gave in Atlanta on July 19, 1987, one of the four concerns I discussed was one-over-one discipleship. In my explanation I set the biblical model as triangular, not linear. Marty Wooten who served as the editor of the Discipleship Magazine wrote an editorial (Fall Quarter 1987) which appeared to be an answer to my speech in Atlanta. In his editorial, "Authority and Discipling Models," he set forth the premise that "both models are biblical." He addressed four categories of leadership relationships in the church: (1) apostles/church, (2) elders/church, (3) evangelists/church, (4) disciplers/discipler. In all of these relationships, he attempted to show that they were both triangular and linear. However, in reality the Boston Movement only uses the linear approach, which has been established by tapes and articles cited in this book. The one relationship that he chose not to address or to diagram was evangelists/elders. Why did he not address this relationship? It has been proven that the practice of the Boston Movement is to have the evangelists over the elders. In my opinion, the Boston Movement didn't want to publicly proclaim what they really believed to be the role of evangelists where elders are present. What Marry Wooten taught in the article might appear to be good, but subsequent practices and actions demonstrate what is really believed and taught. Many members have walked away from the Boston Movement for various reasons, but one of the main ones has been the unscriptural view of the authority of the discipler over the disciple.
Discipling (maturing or nurturing) is a biblical idea (Philippians2:4; Galatians 6:1; Colossians 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 5:14; Romans 14:19; Hebrews 10:24-25) and can be practiced without the abuses of the Boston Movement. (See Jerry Jones, Back to the Basics.) The Boston Movement practices a linear approach or a one-over-one system. The following illustration shows the biblical model (triangular) for discipling.
Jesus clearly described the relationship that is to exist among Christians (Luke 22:24-27; Matthew 20:24-28; Mark 10:42-44). He described the basis of relationships in Matthew 20:24-28 and the abuse of those relationships in Matthew 23:5-12.
When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:24-28).
Everything they do is done for men to see: they make their phylacteries wide and the tassels of their prayer shawls long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.' But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:5-12).
A study of the relationship that Jesus had with the Twelve and that Paul had with Timothy is helpful in developing a lifestyle and ministry in accordance with the will of God. However, Jesus wan able to command and do because He was the Son of God, and Paul was able to direct because of his apostolic rule. Since we are neither divine or an apostle, we need to be cautious in the lessons we deduce from the ministries of Jesus and Paul.
I have written two books on discipleship explaining the ministries of Jesus and Paul. It's important to study these ministries and learn how we can be more effective and Christ-like in our lives. Whatever we do and how believers are to interact must be seen through the prism of Jesus' teachings.
Of all the material that I have heard or read pertaining to the Boston Movement teachings on discipling, the sermon which caused me the mast concern war delivered at the Sunday morning service of the I989 Boston World Missions Seminar. The speech was given by Mohan Nanjundan who leads the Bombay church planting and has been discipled by Doug Arthur of London and Jim Blough, who were both discipled by Kip McKean.
How far are you willing to take the challenges and say, 'Okay I may not be perfect; I've got some things to change, but I am not going to give up. I am going to work on it and trust God and trust my discipler and change.'
I think of another Christian in Bombay, an older lady by the name of Santan. She is a poorer lady, and Jan Blough studied the Bible with her about a year ago. You know, Santan had the most wretched and miserable life, but then she became a Christian and her life changed and there was so much joy in her heart. You know, one of the great joys in the ministry in India is just to be able to see how much in a very real way people's lives change through the gospel. You know, Santan changed. And Santan, from the very beginning, had the heart of a disciple. One day Jan was sitting with her, and they were having a counseling appointment and Jan was talking to her about dealing with some sin in her life. And, you know, Jan said, 'Santan, you have got to get more serious. You have got to get radical about dealing with this sin in your life.' You know, she turned to Mark 9:43. We all know the verse. 'If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.' And she told Santan, 'Santan, you have got to have a radical attitude toward your sin.' You know sometime later Jan and Santan were going around the city together, and they went to visit this other sister in one of the hospitals. And, as they were waiting in the waiting room, Santan leaned over to Jan and said, 'Jan, so this is it, uh?' And Jan said, 'What do you mean!' Santan said, 'This is it--this is time for the operation, isn't it?' And Jan said, 'What operation?' And it turned out that Santan thought that Jan had brought her to the hospital to have her eye plucked out. And you know the amazing thing about that was that she was willing, if her discipler thought it was the right thing to have her eye plucked out. Now, brothers and sisters, obviously I am not saying we should be going around counseling others to have our eyes plucked out. Some of us might look better for it, but that is not obviously what we are saying. But, at what point do you get a bad attitude? You know, when you are challenged, at what point do you get defensive? At what point do you say, 'My discipler doesn't understand?' You know, when we say these things, when we are not open to challenge, when we don't trust and obey, that is just nothing except pride in our lives ... Who you have got (referring to the discipler, JJ.) is better than you. God did not make a mistake (audience applauded). God didn't make a mistake. He put that person in your life because you need them. They have got things there from God that you need to learn. And if you would only become like them with all their flaws, you would be more like Jesus than you are right now. Do you really trust? I mean it is so great when you can trust, isn't it? When you can stop having to try to prove yourself and just be able to trust. Isn't that so relieving? Just to know there is a person God has put to take care of you, to direct you and help you to grow. Isn't that just so unburdening? Brothers and sisters, we need to trust and obey. How much do you seek advice? ... I remember one time as a young Christian, I sat down with Douglas Arthur and we had this conversation and Douglas said, 'You know, Mohan, in our relationship, 20 percent of your growth can come from me,' he said, '80 percent needs to come from your effort.'
(Question: Where does God come in the plan for growth of the Christian since the discipler's and disciple's efforts total 100 percent?, JJ.)
The sermon by Mohan represents the fruit of the Boston Movement teaching on authority, submission and discipling. When you listen to his sermon, the prayer requests cited earlier in this section are a natural fruit. Putting authority in a person to demand another to trust and obey is highly dangerous. It's my prayer that the leaders of the Boston Movement will reexamine its teachings. I believe many of the leaders became a part of something they didn't start and are now leading something they cannot control.
If you begin reading the August 17, 1986 article by Ed Townsend entitled "Because You Say So," you see the "seeds" of Mohan's sermon. When you listen to Mohan's sermon, you hear the practical outcome of the Townsend article. It is amazing and frightening to see how far the Boston Movement has gone in three short years.
(You are urged to read the article in the Appendix by Byron Fike, "Authoritarianism in the Church.")
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