Our friend friend Alex Absalom of Dandelion Resourcing, along with his co-author Bobby Harrington, has written a tremendous new book — Discipleship that Fits — that helps church leaders create a discipleship model that works for your church, your people, and today’s world. They do this by doing a deeper dive into the five different contexts where God disciples us and calls us to disciple others.
Today, we’ll be digging into the most common (and most visible) context for discipleship — the Public Context.
According to Alex and Bobby, the Public Context is made up of those times when people gather in the hundreds around a shared resource. We see the Public Context happening most often on Sunday mornings, when hundreds of people gather around the shared resource of a pastor delivering a message. In this context, the focus is usually on engaging with that shared resource, rather than developing relationships with the people surrounding us.
Some of the most memorable moments in Jesus’ ministry came when he was engaging with people in the Public Context. He delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) to crowds of hundreds of people who were focused on Him, not necessarily each other. He and His disciples fed the 5,000 (John 6) when the crowds had gathered to hear Jesus speak. Jesus used these Public Context gatherings to give people a glimpse into what was possible in His Kingdom, but He also connected with people in each of the four remaining Context to truly move them forward in their discipleship journey.
We see the same things happening each weekend in our churches. Thousands of people gather in our churches to hear a message, participate in worship, and connect with their churches — but not necessarily with each other. If we do, it’s usually in passing by exchanging a quick word of greeting or making a brief introduction to new faces.
We need these times of Public Context to stay connected with our churches, and to help introduce new people into our church communities in ways that let them engage at levels that let them feel comfortable. But because the Public Context is so common, and so visible, we can place lots of expectations on that context to be all things to all people. It can’t. God never designed it to be the be-all and end-all of discipleship. And because this context carries so many expectations, it can frequently go wrong. Our best intentions for the Public Context often end up being the exact opposite of what the Public Context needs to be — and then you introduce the ways we try to share our faith on social media, and it’s basically a perfect storm for violating everything the Public Context is supposed to be. (And you’ll have to dig into Chapter Five of Discipleship That Fits to figure out what that means!)
The public context is the place to share and celebrate how God is at work in our area, and how He is building a movement in our communities. How can you share those stories this Sunday?
To get a copy of Discipleship That Fits for yourself, just click on over to Amazon. Or you can connect with co-author Alex on Twitter. For another look at the five Contexts, check out this infographic.
Alex Absalom leads Dandelion Resourcing, which empowers leaders, churches, and denominations to build more effective disciple-making cultures. He is also the leader of missional innovation at Grace Church Long Beach, CA, an avid tea drinker with his wife, and, with their three sons, a huge fan of Liverpool FC. You can connect with Alex on Twitter at @alexabsalom.