Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Story, Discipleship, Blue Like Jazz on the Couch

Two weeks ago the three of us sat on the couch and discussed repentance and community. I've learned a lot about this kind of discipleship from my friend, Will Walker, who wrote Kingdom of Couches.I also happen to be reading Blue Like Jazz (I know, I am behind).

Both of these books do theology through the back door, to borrow another friend's phrase. They are unpretentious, unimpressive and yet manage to make some rather plain truths more accessible. Both are written almost stream-of-consciousness, but then you realize by the end of each chapter that the journey the author took you on was not only existential, but profoundly theological. Perhaps its theology for the postmodern, but I'd still like to get to the biblical meat of the matter in any given chapter.

So, as we were talking about repentance from nagging cryptomeism, I asked how we can escape our tendencies towards spiritual narcissim, with obsession with our own stories. Dave replied, "To open ourselves to God's story." I asked, "So what's God's story?" After some debate we agreed to pursue our answer along the lines of story, narrative structure (some of which I stole from N.T. Wright and Donald Miller, with a spin of my own). We determined that the setting is Creation, the plotline is Redemption, the Problem is the Fall, and the Climax is Jesus--as Redeemer and Restorer, the Cross and the New Creation. After agreeing that knowing the climax of God's story is critical to experiencing the impact of the divine narrative in our own lives, we considered what our functional climax is.

Is Jesus the climax of our stories? I felt like some days yes, and many days functional climax is often me. I tend to approach Jesus from above, attempting to assert my own story over God's by mastering Christology or publishing on theology. By doing these things I feel good about myself. My identity is firmly placed in me, not the Story. My climax is me. The other guys had different answers, but we all found it helpful to rethink discipleship from the vantage point of our story vs. His Story.


At 11:18 AM , Blogger jason said...


Thanks for sharing this. I have spent a lot of time over that last two years thinking about discipleship. I did my MAR thesis on developing a new paradigm for discipleship that I thought did justice to biblical theology and came from understanding dicispleship as the way of life we are called to and not a program that we do which seems to plague much disicpleship thinking. It seemed necessary to start talking about disiclpeship first in terms of God's story as well. My version was Creation-Fall-Redemption. I like your explicit recognition of Jesus as the climax, I think that it was implicit in my paper but expressing it explicitly is a huge step forward. Thanks.

After understanding the story only then could we begin to look at our story or purpose or function within God's story. It seems to make sense that we look at our story out of the perspective of our creation in the image of God. So disciples are people who reflect God/Jesus. Disicpleship is then the Holy Spirit's transformative work in our lives of continuing the process of new creation conformity into the image of Jesus, who alone rightly "images forth" God.

At 12:13 PM , Blogger Dave said...

don't worry, i haven't read Blue Like Jazz either (at least not all the way through).

great thoughts and summation of the story. and you perfectly highlighted the reason we need the story because functionaly Jesus will never be the climax of our story in this age.

At 1:16 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Similar to Jason's thots, we've been gladly struggling through what disicpleship means and looks like. Some of the men at WBC have been reading McLaren, Murrow, Driscoll etc. and really feel like something needs to change in the way we 'do church' and live as Jesus' people.

So last Saturday morning we skipped the cartoons and about 8 men talked through the topic 'why do young men tend to abandon or walk away from their faith in Christ during the college years?'

The answers were all over the map, but we setteled on two key points:
1. Discipleship is lifelong, and the responsibility of every Jesus follower. i.e. Titus 2 'older men teach younger men.'

2. We must clearly teach sound doctrine under the umbrella of God's total plan and purpose for his people. i.e biblical theology that positions Jesus as the starter, finisher, and enabler of our faith.

Call me crazy but I think I smell what you've been cooking and we're using the same recipe, too?!

At 5:51 PM , Blogger Jonathan Dodson said...

I never expected such a coherence in comments on this entry- pretty telling.

Perhaps Jason would be willing to forward some excerpts from his discipleship project?

At 6:35 PM , Blogger jason said...

I am going to put my entire paper on my blog in a series of 15 or so posts. I would love feedback and responses overthere but I will be glad to post some excerpts here as well.


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