I have been involved in small groups of various sorts for the last twenty years or so. They have been wonderful experiences, some of them in mixed gender groups with husbands and wives, and some in same gender groups with other men. These groups have been affirming, inspiring, and places of deep community where we could share life’s challenges and know friends would walk with us and pray for us. Whether reading a book or studying the Bible together, these groups create settings where we can be inspired by the faith journeys of friends and mentors.
Yet, despite the wonderful good that came from these groups, the friendships, the support during tough times, the learning and wisdom gained, I found one thing lacking. The groups were very low in accountability. Very warm and inviting, but rarely challenging. As Mike Breen points out in this workshop on Discipleship and Mission, Jesus always brought a mix of invitation and challenge.
I touch on the blessing of accountability here. Here, I am describing a tool of accountability that can make the difference between small group and discipleship group. It is one of the life shapes that undergird Mike Breen’s 3DM work. You can read about it in his book, Building Discipleship Communities. It is called the Learning Circle. It looks like this:
The Learning Circle is designed to help us understand two basic questions:
What is God saying to me?
What am I going to do about it?
When we introduce the Learning Circle into a small group, we add a component that holds us accountable for actually listening for God’s still, small voice in our lives, and then taking action in response. A Kairos moment is one in which the Spirit brings something into our consciousness. It may be a lyric in a Christian song that touches our soul. It may be the word of a friend speaking into our challenges. It may be a sermon that hits close to home. It may be a word discerned during meditation or prayer.
The first half of the Learning Circle calls us to Observe the moment in which God speaks. One of the exercises I suggest to help us have eyes to see God in the world is the use of these three questions:
Where have you seen God at work in the world this week?
How has God used someone to bless you this week?
How has God used you to bless someone this week?
After observing or hearing something from God, the circle asks us to stop and reflect. My spiritual director suggests journaling when we have a moment like this to help in reflecting upon what it might mean. After we observe and reflect, we are to discuss our observations and reflections with a trusted circle of truth-tellers who may help us find deeper meaning. Often Spirit speaks to us through those who know and love us. This step completes the first half of the learning circle, opening us up to Repent and turn back towards God in deeper ways.
After discussing a Kairos moment with our small group, we are tasked to make a plan. Sharing our plans with the small group brings accountability to respond to God’s nudging with action. In Jesus’ time, the word believe was inherently defined by a change in behavior, not just a new way of thinking. So, as this slide illustrates, we are called to an inflection point, to decide what we will stop doing, and what we will start doing.
As we plan, share that plan with accountability partners, and then act, we complete the Learning Circle of Repent and Believe. Each trip around the Learning Circle following a Kairos moment provides a small course correction as we are seeking and following God’s Faint Path. May you, too, find that accountability is a blessing in your Christian walk.
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