This is developed from Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen and is available at through the store at weare3dm.com.
The Church is found wherever Jesus is present with his people. And the Church Jesus founded is a living organism. Peter uses the this metaphor: The church is a “spiritual house” made of believers who are “living stones”. The house is alive! In Romans, Paul calls the church the “Body of Christ.” The Church is alive. And like all living things, the church can be more or less healthy.
Life is also messy. To minimize the mess, many church groups focus on the organization: organizational structure, budgets, location, facilities, curriculum, plans, etc. These are things we can (try to) control. Some level of organization is necessary and beneficial. But too much focus on it squeezes the life out of a group. Spiritual health focuses on the habits and practices that bring life and vitality to discipleship groups, households, missional communities, and churches. The Septagon is about attending to those habits and practices.
1) Movement: Movement shows we aren’t dead. God’s Covenant people began with life on the move as God called Abraham to leave Haran and set out for the Promised Land. Jesus invited his disciples first to follow him and later said “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Healthy life involves seasons and rhythms of moving, especially moving toward others to build relationships and to meet needs with God’s love and grace.
2) Respiration: Respiration happens when we breathe. Spiritually, we are talking about prayer. As respiration releases energy in the cells of our body, so prayer releases God’s power in us. As we cannot do much in life without breathing, we cannot do more in God’s Kingdom than pray until we have prayed! Employ tools like the Lord’s Prayer (the hexagon), healing prayer (the steps), praying using scripture as a guide, prayer books, and other resources and guides for prayer. (There are many!). Without prayer we cannot live.
3) Sensitivity: Living things have senses that inform them what is going on around them and calls us to act. When we feel something hot, we move. When we see something that needs attention, we go to work. When we hear a call for help, we turn to see what we can do. In the Body of Christ, the five types of ministry in the church are like the five senses. The tool for this is the pentagon (APEST). We need all five to be healthy and effective. We need prophets to discern what God is saying, pastors to care for the hurting, teachers to discern and helps us with understanding, evangelists to discern where to proclaim the good news, and apostles to establish new things where needed. Sensitivity in the Body of Christ is about allowing APEST at work, together.
4) Growth: This is very much about putting the lessons of the semi-circle into practice, learning rhythms of abiding and producing, resting and working in order to see real spiritual growth happen in our lives and our fellowship. Only God brings the growth, but we have a responsibility to prepare for it. Are we cultivating the soil and creating an environment for Spiritual growth in our own lives and in our groups and church?
5) Reproduction: This is about putting the multiplying life (or the Square) to work. Living things reproduce. Are we engaged in helping others become followers of Jesus? Are we planning on it? Are we investing in the next generation? There are several responsibilities if we are to be healthy in this respect. 1) Praying for God’s Kingdom to come to bear in the lives of people we know, 2) Learning to find persons of peace (the Octagon), 3) Being intentional about helping others follow and imitate Jesus in a way that make sense (the Square) are practices that lead us to see healthy reproduction.
6) Excretion: This is not a very pleasant aspect of health – but a necessary one. And spiritually, we all have sin that builds up. Left unattended, it can cause serious sickness to the body. Creating an environment of grace and truth (or invitation and challenge) allows for the openness of healthy confession and repentance. A good test of this is to incorporate some of the accountability questions included as an appendix to this packet into your meetings. Is it safe to ask and answer these questions? Does loving concern trump judgment? To grow, we need to create communities that are safe, loving, open, and honest: where 1) there is a deep acceptance that we are sinners in need of God’s grace, 2) accountability is present, but not overbearing and 3) where we recognize our authority and responsibility to say to one another, “in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”
7) Nutrition: Quoting scripture, Jesus emphasized “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We must learn to hear and discern the Word of God. To be healthy, we need regular “meals” of meditating on scripture and listening for God to speak. There is a Bible Reading plan called “The Essential 100” attached as an appendix. One of the most powerful and diverse of the Life Shapes is the Learning Circle. Learn to use it while reading scripture in order to put into practice what God says through scripture.
Questions for Reflection:
1) What steps could you take to develop healthy practices in your own life? Within your discipleship huddle? Within your missional community?
2) It is pretty easy for huddles to become inward focused Bible studies. What can you do to help one another “move”?
3) What are some sustainable habits for your huddle to develop in order to release everyone into their base for ministry (sensitivity)?
4) How safe is your huddle for confession, forgiveness, and accountability?
5) What are the warning signs that your group has too little respiration (prayer) and too little nutrition (God’s Word)?
6) Is God saying anything? What will you do about it?