METRICS: THE FOUR CORNERED ROOM DISCIPLESHIP PATHWAY

JESUS has a discipleship pathway. It begins in Matthew 4:17 (Follow Me) and progresses step by step, command by command through Matthew 28:20: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Each command of Jesus is a step on the discipleship pathway. In order to have metrics, a way to measure progress on the discipleship pathway, it’s helpful to combine these individual steps into sections along the path. One such paradigm is known as the Four Cornered Room, which is a United Methodist version of the famous Saddleback Church baseball diamond.[1]

The Four Cornered Room suggests that the typical activities of an institutional church happen in the center of a large room, while the discipleship pathway is traveled counterclockwise around the walls of the room. In the center is worship and church governance/committees (Board, Staff, Trustees, Finance, Personnel, Church Office, etc.) People enter worship via the front door, at the center bottom in this illustration.[1] This dual representation of the traditional church (right hand) and the discipleship pathway (left hand) together are an ambidextrous church.

The discipleship pathway assumes that people go through stages of maturity similar to the basic developmental stages of human beings – infant, child, (puberty), teen and then adults as parents and grandparents. Each corner represents one of these four stages of maturity, and the walls between the corners represent a continuum of small groups which minister to persons flowing from one corner to the next, blending attributes as one corner flows into the next. Each activity in the local church has it’s own place, either in the center or along the wall, depending on its characteristics.[3]

Ministry in the discipleship system takes place in small groups. A person need not spend time in each small group in order, but must master the lessons of each corner in turn through participation in one or more groups. Developmental maturity is additive; the growing disciple continues to practice the lessons of each corner and typically continues to participate in each corner.

We can measure growth in discipleship by counting who is present in each corner of the discipleship pathway at the growing edge of their maturity as a disciple. These details are explained further in the Disciple Making 101 course materials, which can be found at www.disciplemaking101.com.

The first corner is the FELLOWSHIP CORNER, where people are loved and learn to love one another; this is the corner of the Great Commandment. In small groups in this corner people have fun and healthy relationships develop. This corner involves a quality of discipleship where newborns are completely dependent upon others for their care. The cry of the spiritual infant is “Pastor, I’m just not being fed …” Approximately 83% of church attenders are at this level of spirituality, entirely focused on getting their own needs met. And the lack of loving, planned nurture results in a “failure to thrive” beyond this point.

The second corner is the INTEREST CORNER, where people learn and grow in knowledge. The signature characteristic of the child stage of development is curiosity and an endless sequence of questions. In small groups in this corner, people learn about what interests them, which might be spiritual or might involve other sorts of classes, such as an exercise class, a book study on parenthood or a 12 step meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous.

The third corner is the SERVICE CORNER, where people discover and fulfill their missional calling, including their spiritual gifts. As people use their spiritual gifts, they exercise differentiation; like teenagers, they find themselves and begin their life’s work. They gravitate toward the corner which best represents their calling as leaders within the church, or to the ministries of worship or governance, or develop a ministry to the community outside of the church. Small groups in the service corner are teams that work together to do the work of the church inside the congregation or outside in the community.

Typically, there is a cultural Rite of Passage between the Interest and Service corner, an experience which facilitates a great leap of personal and spiritual growth. Children go away to the Rite of Passage, which is conducted by the elders of the tribe, and return to take their place as adults in the community. A Rite of Passage typically involves leaving home, becoming a part of a team on a great adventure, and returning with benefits to the community. Examples include the Walk to Emmaus, a mission trip or experiences like the Mardi Gras trip conducted by No Greater Love ministries (http://www.nogreaterlove.org/).

The fourth corner is the HARVEST WORKER CORNER, where disciple mentors watch over specific persons and help them to grow. Servant Leaders from the Servant Corner track attendance and participation in the corner where they serve as leaders and on the Rite of Passage; Harvest workers are involved in relationship building and ongoing mentoring, and particularly in helping specific persons make a transition to the next stage of their growth. Harvest workers use the Prayer Tool to maintain ongoing mentoring relationships with persons outside of the church and inside the church as they go around the four corners in order.

METRICS: To measure growth in the discipleship pathway, just count the people involved in each corner. (Harvest workers monitor their people for readiness to move to the next corner.)

What groups for fun and fellowship happen in your congregation on a regular basis? Who attends them? How many people who attend worship are not yet participating in one of these and developing relationships? Everyone needs to be connected beyond worship.

What groups for learning and personal growth happen in your congregation on a regular basis? Who attends them? How many people who attend fellowship events are not yet participating in one of these and learning together? (The sign that people are ready for this corner is that they are asking lots of questions.)

Who is exhibiting unrest or conflict in learning groups, as if they have outgrown this stage? Spiritual teenagers want to “do” rather than just discuss; they often want attention and want to feel special. Are they ready for the adventure of the Rite of Passage?

What is your congregation’s preferred Rite of Passage? How many have gone through that experience? How many are ready to go for the first time? Who are leaders for the Rite of Passage?

What teams for missional serving form in your congregation on a regular basis? Who participates on them? Are they open to new workers? How many people in your congregation can name their spiritual gift? How many can identify their calling to serve? (People who cannot identify their gift after exploration are probably focused on the traditional activities of the church – it’s possible that their gift is designed to meet the needs of unchurched persons outside in the community.)[4]

Who is willing to focus on a ministry with specific individuals, up to twelve, and watch over them as spiritual parents? With the Prayer Tool, you seek God in prayer over your neighbors in your social network to discover one new person each month you are called to mentor, and you agree to pray for them daily, touch base with them weekly, invite them to something that deepens the relationship monthly, and evaluate whether you should continue to mentor them annually.

When someone you mentor begins to use the Prayer Tool to mentor others, you become a spiritual grandparent, like Paul to Timothy. Twelve persons using the Prayer Tool provide a mentoring influence over 144 persons; twelve groups of twelve provide a mentoring influence of up to 1,728 persons in the community in a network of Christian love inside and outside of the local church.[5]

SIDE DOOR: As Harvest Workers use the Prayer Tool to invite monthly, small groups in each of the corners can also provide entry as “side doors” into the congregation and form relationships. A person who regularly attends fellowship, a class or serves on a team will inevitably attend worship due to the network of relationships. (The primary difference in the gigantic third world cell churches that fuels growth is that people attend the cell first, and then later come to worship with their cell.)

Groups can also work together to open side doors. A weekly Sunday School class (Interest Corner) can plan a monthly party for friends and neighbors to attend (Fellowship Corner) and a quarterly service project in the community (Missional, Service Corner). Relationships formed in these activities will increase participation in every corner.

RESOURCES

[1] “The Process of Growing and Sharing the Christian Life,” Great Plains Conference, https://www.greatplainsumc.org/lctdetail/1094447

[2] David Kueker, “A New Way of Making Disciples: Using the Left Hand,”
https://www.beadisciple.com/blog/a-new-way-of-making-disciples-using-the-left-hand/

[3] See page 33-41 in “Seminar One: Diagnosis” at http://www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html for an explanation of each growth stage.

[4] Disciplemaking101 prefers the Saddleback Church understanding of spiritual gifts, as how God “SHAPEs” you for ministry through your Spiritual gift, your Heart, your Abilities, your Personality and equipped by your Experience. Cf. Eric Rees, S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life or try the online test at https://www.freeshapetest.com/. Gift tests that are limited to spiritual gifts identified in scripture violate the principle of differentiation in the body of Christ as identified in 1 Corinthians 12; we are meant to be stewards of whatever we have received.

[5] For more information on the Prayer Tool, view the materials for Module 4: The Prayer Tool at the Download Class Materials link at www.DiscipleMaking101.com. Two Audio presentations with Slides on using the Prayer Tool for Ambidextrous disciple-making are available at http://www.disciplewalk.com/PPT_Presentations.html.


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