Walking through the valley

Last week, we introduced the key elements of invitation and challenge which are vital in growing a discipleship culture (click here to read).

We use the Invitation and Challenge matrix as a way to illustrate where different congregations may find themselves on the journey towards becoming empowered disciples of Jesus. The destination should be an empowered culture – high on both invitation & challenge.

But what does the journey to an empowered culture look like?

As we’ve reflected over the years both on our own story and that of others we work with, we’ve seen that the journey often looks something like this:

As we journey towards the ‘empowered’ quadrant, we’ll often experience significant challenge and head through the ‘discouraged’ quadrant.

As the name suggests, the dip into this quadrant can be discouraging! We said last week that things will often seem to get worse before they get better. This is because the process of stepping out requires us to live uncomfortably, to stretch ourselves, and often to experience misunderstanding from others. This process happens personally for us as leaders, but is also something experienced by the congregation. But take a look through the gospels…. doesn’t this sound familiar? Isn’t this precisely the place we often find the disciples?  Jesus was not afraid to bring challenge.

There were many others in scripture who followed this journey too.

In Psalm 23, we see David refer to this dip as ‘the valley of the shadow of death’:

 “He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;”

Following paths of righteousness will lead us into the valley of the shadow of death.

But David’s response is clear and concise: “I will fear no evil, for you are with me”. The valley is the place where the Lord invites us to draw near and remember He has called us on the journey.  We are to keep walking through with the Good Shepherd, knowing that he will take us to the mountain top.

Many of the leaders we have in coaching huddles (click here for more info) are in the middle of transitioning their church to a discipleship culture. They’ve identified the need to lead as disciplers not benefactors, to reproduce disciples not consumers, and to grow a community of followers not simply fans of Jesus. In doing this, they are choosing to walk on paths of righteousness and through the valley of the shadow of death. We are often humbled and inspired by their courage in doing this.

Jesus walked his disciples through this same valley. In following his example, we as leaders need to stay the course and walk our disciples through this process.

For the sake of our teams, our churches and our communities.

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