Bonhoeffer Project Day 1
Two parts follow: first are my notes and highlights from the day. Second are my comments and thoughts about what I heard and where this is going. The sections are clearly marked for this longer than usual post. If you want the meat and defending the faith aspect, skip to part two.
PART 1: SUMMARY
Dietrich Bonhoeffer often quoted phrase is “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.” He wrote the book The Cost of Discipleship and ultimately died at the hands of Hitler’s lackies at the end of World War II.
From 1935 to 1940 he trained pastors in an underground seminary where he and eight to ten people would spend a year together studying, discussing, and doing discipleship. The Bonhoeffer Project seeks to immolate that model by creating cohorts of disciples who meet ten times over the course of a year where they read, discuss, debate, plan, and strategize as they do life together. (Adapted from the participant guide).
I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up and came here. I heard about the Bonhoeffer Project a few years ago when it started, but being in the middle of my doctorate, I found it unwise to take on another form of training. This two-day seminar allowed me to “come and see” what this thing is all about. I know Bonhoeffer, I know Bill Hull’s ministry, but I didn’t know how the two would come together.
What follows are my notes organized and explained (when necessary) as the take away from the event. I hope that other people can benefit and glean from this something helpful.
“A local movement of disciplemaking will change the world.”
“A young pastor read the gospel of Mark 12 times and could not find the gospel i.e. the plan of salvation.” Note: This point is key as much of the time is talking about the concept of the gospel. In my ministry, I devote much time to defining the gospel as well as explaining the effects or results of the gospel. Much more will be said later.
“Some look at the decline of the church and say, ‘oh no!’ We look at the decline and say, ‘what’s next?’” Note: the idea is don’t fret but do something about it.
“Bonhoeffer prayed in NY just before he returned to Germany before the war broke out, ‘What is the will of God for me here and now?’ It’s not a mystery: Matthew 28:18-20.”
“We should schedule discipleship because our schedule reflects what is important.”
“Volunteers won’t change the world. They won’t die for the church. We need bond-servants.”
“Obedience is where the Holy Spirit meets us.”
“Ask yourself, “how is Jesus discipling me today?’”
[In reference to the parable of the soils in Matthew 13] “Minister to the first three soils, but invest in the fourth.”
Find the people who are up for the journey.”
“Desire -> Practices -> Habits -> Character”
“Have a vision that is big enough to carry you through the pain of transformation.”
“The questions we ask reveal what matters to us.”
“Don’t ask, ‘What does it mean to love enemies?’ Ask, ‘which enemies do you need to love?’”
BREAKOUT #1 Upstream: The Discipleship Gospel Summary
Note: this breakout discussed the foundation of the upcoming book The Discipleship Gospel.
There are five primary gospels taught in our world:
Gospel of the Left.
Gospel of the Right.
The goal is “Gospel of the Kingdom” i.e. The Discipleship Gospel.
Note: What followed is primarily from the book, and without breaking copyrights or giving too much away, it centered on defining the essential elements of the discipleship gospel.
Note: This session explained the philosophy of the Bonhoeffer project. It really isn’t the prepackaged program most ministers typically find on the shelves of Christian book stores. It’s a system by which the gospel leads to making discipleship whereby ministers find the model, materials, and definitions that will lead to the programming and plan that fits their ministry context.
And to me, this is what is so attractive about this training. So many seminars and conferences offer a product. The Bonhoeffer Project literally offers relationships and materials through which ministers may develop a disciplemaking plan for their churches. Nothing like it that I know of. What’s even more amazing is that I met some of the leaders of the Baptist State Convention of Missouri who are implementing this as part of the convention’s strategy for making disciples. They are also engaging leaders from several other states, so it was good to see other Baptist leaders who are passionate about making disciple-makers!
“The church is for discipleship, and the disciples are the church’s gift to the world.”
Bonus Quote: to be a minister, you need the courage of a soldier, the discipline of an athlete, and the patience of a farmer – adapted from Paul’s advice to Timothy.
PART 2: PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND ANALYSIS
First (and simplest), the notes above about discipleship in general and the methods of the Bonhoeffer Project in particular are self-explanatory.
Second (and more interesting), the focus tomorrow afternoon, and my major concern, is the defining of the gospel.
While we might think this a settled issue, I know from my experience as a pastor that many Christians cannot give a clear explanation of the gospel either in one sentence or several. Statistics show that most Christians don’t share their faith, and this lack of understanding and throwing around of the word “gospel” contribute. For example, we have gospel music. I’ve never understood how the style of music should be termed “gospel.” We have gospel preaching, gospel churches, gospel singing (which may or may not include gospel music), and gospel tracts. So I’m fully supportive of starting with the basics and asking “What is the gospel?”