“So, what’s the goal?”
The question is a familiar one. It is usually asked after a WGA presentation or after our monthly orientation meeting, during the Q&A time. I always ask for clarification to get a better handle on what the speaker wants to know:
“What do you mean?”
“You know; what are you trying to accomplish? What is the outcome you hope people will gain from participating in WGA groups?”
“Well, we really don’t have an agenda for people. We try to provide an environment within which neither God’s grace nor His truth are compromised, a place where there are people willing to be a paraclete, one who comes alongside to support and encourage group members in the pursuit of God’s provision for them. But we don’t set goals for them, nor do we insist they adopt ours.”
“Yes, I know! But you do hope they change, don’t you?”
“My hope for them is that they will become ‘rooted and grounded in love’ (as mentioned in Ephesians 3) and come to understand the love of God, as the scripture promises. In this kind of grace and truth environment, people do change in all sorts of ways, but the change is a by-product, not the goal.”
Inquirers are rarely satisfied with my answer to this question. Even as I say the words, the room is charged with the (usually unspoken) challenge. I see it in their eyes, written on the faces with an eyebrow raised, or lips pursed in disbelief, as if they are thinking, “There’s always an agenda–isn’t there? Even Jesus had an agenda for people–didn’t He?”
Did He? Really? I’m not so sure. As I read and re-read the life of Christ, I see Him inviting people to come along with Him–to follow Him–and He would make them “fishers” of people.
Of course, one could argue that Jesus’ agenda was to make “fishers” out of His followers, but it just doesn’t seem to me that was the main point. I think that becoming “fishers” was a result of being immersed in dynamic relationship with God Himself, through His son, Jesus Christ, and being filled with the power of His Spirit. The disciples became “fishers” because they had come into the presence of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and they were transformed; they were changed.
It seems clear to me that the transformation of the disciples began when they were invited–and they accepted–and followed Him. Then, over the next few years, they lived with Jesus and with each other in community. It is clear from scripture that they were individually and corporately loved, taught, exhorted, challenged, and trained by Jesus. Jesus made them into disciples–all except Judas, who had his own agenda.
Jesus told us to go into all the world and make disciples. Believing that he meant that, I am committed to doing just as He did. We invite people into the community of WGA, where they are individually and corporately loved and taught, challenged, and trained up, by the Holy Spirit, sometimes the Holy Spirit works through His servants, the WGA staff and leadership team. Together with the Spirit, we want to make disciples–in His way, His timing, His power.
Only God alone knows what each group member needs at any given moment. So, we immerse ourselves in prayer, listen carefully to people, and pay attention to what God is doing in their lives, so that we can come alongside and cooperate with Him. We offer an environment, a community with teaching and tools to use to aid in their growth. We yearn also to discern what helps people experience God’s love, so that we know when to exhort and challenge and when to let love “cover a multitude of sins.” But we leave the outcome to God.
As always, I appreciate your prayers for WGA. What we are doing is radical discipleship, and the enemy of our souls and yours is constantly “prowling about seeking whom he may devour.” Please pray that we will be bold in our resistance to the enemy, and submissive to the slightest leading of the Holy Spirit!
This article was updated and reprinted from A Measure of Grace, December 2001
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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