Last summer, I commented on a review of Mike Breen's Building a Discipling Culture. The original review was at a blog entitled Notes from the Trail. In it, Jeff Noble offered a mixed review of Breen's book, lauding its intentional and structured approach to discipleship, but questioning the necessity of such a convoluted approach to discipleship and the effectiveness of the geometric images that Breen employs.
Based on my own experience in a church that had begun using Breen's approach, I commented on Noble's review. I've thought long and hard about whether to deal with the subject here on this blog, and decided that rather than saying a lot myself, I'd simply reprint my comment on the original review, along with a couple of the responses to me. I'm doing so because I think that Breen's approach is dangerous, and I feel that I need to let people know. My comment on the original review read as follows:
A person seeking to join the Order of Mission must make a multi-year commitment. The Missionorder.org website states the following:
On taking their three year temporary vows for The Order of Mission, members take the following vows at Initiation:
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit,
I solemnly promise before God
to devote myself
to a life of simplicity, purity
within The Order of Mission.
I vow before God and in the presence of the Senior Guardian (Guardians)
and the members of the Order,
to live and work according to its Rule.
I ask for the grace of Almighty God
and the prayers of all those present.
Interestingly, the vow requires members to live and work according to the Rules of Life of the Order. The Rules of Life of the order are based upon the concept of “Lifeshapes.” The Lifeshapes used by the Mission of Order are the same Lifeshapes that are taught by 3dm ministries. The Order uses geometric shapes to teach their “rule of life.” The shapes used are:
The Circle: Listening to God’s voice and responding obediently
The Triangle: Balanced and deep relationships
The Semi-Circle: Kingdom-oriented rhythms of life around Rest and Work
The Square: Multiplying the life of Jesus into the lives of others
The Pentagon: Personal calling
The Hexagon: Prayer
The Heptagon: Organic Health
The Octagon: Relational mission
Both 3dm and the Order of Mission think that in order to build a discipling culture, you must first have a discipling language. They believe that the language used creates the culture. Tthe language used by the Order of Mission and 3dm is completely different than that used to describe discipleship in the Bible. The 3dm groups call their meetings “huddles.” They engage in close knit missions or “oikos.” They talk about SWOT analysis and inflection points. They talk of high challenge, high invitation churches, etc., etc.
Members of the Order of Mission also take vows of Simplicity, Purity and Accountability.
The use of “accountability” and the ushering in of a “new” discipling language clearly makes the 3dm and Order of Mission potential candidates for a re-emergence of the abusive and heretical Shepherding Movement that ran from the 70s and 80s. I was part of a church involved in that movement and saw first-hand the damage that it did. When your desire is to create a system that requires people to take vows to live by the Rule of Life of the Order, you steep them in a “special” language, you tell them that they are a part of a radical movement that will usher in the next great awakening, and you make them accountable to you, you have taken far too many steps down the road of Shepherdship error. The steps outlined above can lead to “disciples” who are alienated from other Christians (who do not share their language), who have taken vows to live by something other than the Bible, and who voluntarily submit themselves to the authority of another human being under the guise of “accountability.” There really is only one mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus.
I never want to see the abuses of the Shepherdship movement repeated, and I don’t want believers to think that in order to be “radical” you have to learn something “deeper” and “more effective” than the language that Jesus and his disciples used to transform the world. If you are like the Bereans who studied the scriptures daily to see if what was taught them was true, you will find that Jesus did not use Lifeshapes, he did not require a special discipling language, he never authorized Senior Guardians or Guardians, and he never required anyone to take vows or oaths.