Transition is the word I would use to describe the essence of my experience as a discipleship entrepreneur who functions at the discipleship periphery. I would have never dreamed that would be the case but how to deal with change in a healthy way has been the most important, and difficult, thing I have had to learn. I also find that I am not alone in this confession. Discipleship entrepreneurs are focused, determined people. Change is always hard for people who are wired that way.
Transition has occupied such an important place in my life because the discipleship periphery is dynamic and unpredictable. I have always wanted to remain situated there, so making private, inner changes and navigating public transition has not only been unavoidable, it has been welcome. I have made three significant transitions in my life, so far. I have found that many discipleship entrepreneurs can relate to them.
First, I changed how I perceived the discipleship periphery and, eventually, how I defined it. I came to believe that the existence of the discipleship periphery is not determined by geography or culture. It is not a spiritually dark place or a specific group of “unreached” people. The discipleship periphery exists among families and friends, clans and communities in whom the Lordship of Christ is unknown or unwelcome. It is also the environment which these people create and in which they live. This point of view enabled me to see the discipleship periphery that was emerging around me much more clearly.
Another transition that I experienced was understanding how to be a successful discipleship entrepreneur. I came to the conclusion that success would be modeled by Jesus and adaptable to my life on the periphery. On that basis, I would venture to say that faithfulness was the measure of success and stewardship was the measure of faithfulness.
Faithfulness and stewardship are two sides of one coin. Integrating them simply means doing your best with what you have at a specific time and place. When we do that, God always sustains us where we are or gives us more to manage in a wider, deeper or completely different way.
Success is, therefore, largely determined by who I become during my pilgrimage at the discipleship periphery. Who I become is predicated on whether or not I keep surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and keep inviting him to teach me about life in the midst of trying to function as a discipleship entrepreneur. This is critical to properly appreciate and put into practice. Without personal experience of transformative discipleship in one’s own life, the discipleship entrepreneur may innovate shallow, transactional gospel communication rather than offering comprehensive, life-giving good news over time.
The third transition has been learning to adjust how I function on the discipleship periphery so that who I am becoming as a disciple is more fully expressed in what I do as a discipleship entrepreneur. It is discerning what should be done and knowing how to do it in a specific time and place. This has led me to transition my entrepreneurial efforts in 3 major ways: from church planting within the Hindu diaspora to coming alongside people to managing projects. These three transitions are not mutually exclusive; all three have usually been present in my life to some extent, but they do represent shifts in primary focus.
To be honest with you, I haven’t always handled transition very well. The primary reason for that was my own rigid definition of the discipleship periphery and a correspondingly narrow view of how discipleship entrepreneurs function there. I found that my thinking was significantly untouched by the example of Jesus and the truth of scripture. Instead, my assumptions had been profoundly shaped by my identity as an American Evangelical. A review of the life of Jesus revealed several transitions that he made as he pursued the will of the Father. This knowledge freed me to follow his example.
How do you feel about transition? I asked how you feel about making transitions because the emotions surrounding them almost always overwhelm us. If making transitions feels like more than you can handle, you are not alone. Please ask yourself these two questions. Do I know how to include transition into my life on the discipleship periphery? Most of us don’t. Will people distance themselves from me if I no longer meet their expectations of what an entrepreneurial life on the periphery is supposed to be like? Some people will do exactly that, but others will not. Let the answers to those questions speak to you and guide you.
It is entirely possible that the exhaustion, boredom, anxiety or frustration which you can’t seem to shake is an indicator that you need to make some changes in how you view the discipleship periphery and what you have assumed to be your role there. Transition is not weakness or failure. It is wisdom for the long haul.