Grove Fellowship — Tree Discipleship

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. — Einstein

I’m no Einstein, but I think he is right. I simplified my understanding of the Christian life down to a one page diagram. It includes my understanding of the overall biblical story, how one trusts Jesus as Lord, the process of transformation, and the telos of God’s salvation. It is meant to look like a tree planted by a stream. The imagery comes from Psalm 1, but I did not get the idea to simplify from Einstein. That came from a tragedy.

My 1 Page Statement of Christian Faith & Practice

How does one faithfully present hope without hype?

Good experiences and bad experiences need to be represented. That is basic. But a message about a way of life with hope needs to include some degree of resolution to the tensions between good and bad experiences and expectations. Focusing on the good seems like a hopeful idea but reality is not kind to delusion. Failed efforts at delusional optimism lead to despair. What direction can one get from a resolution of the tensions between the good and bad we experience in life that still provides meaningful hope?

What does it look like to live according to this hope without hype?

Ultimately, what difference does all of this make? What are the results in someone’s life? Beyond that, what are some forms impact we might expect from their life? What is the pattern, over time, by which these results manifest?

May I show you?

I use the imagery of Psalm 1 as the framework to help us picture what biblical discipleship actually does. There are promises of a life that is neither delusional in naive enthusiasm not despairing in dark cynicism:

Blessed is the one who does not walk, then stand, then sit down in despair.

Drawing steadily from the stream of God’s revelation will deepen our roots, extend life to the very tips of our being, and produce fruit in due season.

— Psalm 1:1–3 paraphrased

This writing is designed to present the ideas and images for a willing learner so that everyone can see what we are trying to say. Later I will present more detailed explanations of why and how all of this matters, how it deals with various concerns, and what it looks like as it is learned and shared.

3 Step Cycle -> 1 Main Result

1st we will see the stream as God’s Story of life overcoming death through Jesus. This is simplified to keep our understanding focused on what matters most in the Gospel Jesus preached. Overcoming the problem of death, overcome through the death and resurrection of Jesus, is the consistent focus in the book of Acts. Other details and doctrines do matter, but we should all be unified in the primary aspects of the gospel story. That unity in him is exactly what Jesus prayed for with his disciples the night before his death.

Stream = The Story of Death to Life

2nd we will use a rooted tree to represent what it looks like for us to respond to Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom. The single tree trunk, grown from a seed that took root, will show how faith grows from simple to deep. This is where we will develop the ideas of personal faith and devotion from our first days as a Christian throughout the rest of our lives. Rings of experience widen the trunk and the roots get deeper and more complex over time. This gives us stability in our identity and a point of connection between the stream of God’s word, into our lives, and then later extended outward from us.

Rooted Tree = Personal Growth from Simple to Deep

3rd we will use the branching out of the tree seeking light and empowered by the water drawn from the stream, through the roots. This helps us learn how to live what we believe for ourselves in ways that are genuine and useful in relationship with others.

Branching Tree = Interpersonal Growth from Now to Next

Finally, we will focus on fruit that results from the stream drawn in through roots strengthening the tree that branches out in the light. What is the point of this pattern of discipleship presented through the image of a tree by a stream? Discipleship that connects the biblical message with our personal convictions and our interpersonal connections produces expressions of love through our life that blesses people and glorifies God.

Fruit = Love Produced Season to Season

Key Ideas

The brevity of the introduction is meant to highlight the essentials at their most simple. Everything will be developed in increasing detail as the book continues. We will work on learning the essential ideas using memorable diagrams and short phrases as reminders. The actual content is much more than the simplifications, but clearly not less.

Learn the elements of the tree image…

Building on the Basics

We will connect the images and concise ideas to more familiar ways of speaking about discipleship and Christian living as we progress. Biblical passages, as well as examples from life and other illustrations, will continually elaborate these basic images and phrases arranged in a memorable cycle. The goal is to have a reasonable mastery of the essential framework. That helps keep the wide range of things that are important meaningfully connected to one another. It also helps us to maintain unity with other Christians while exchanging ideas about different views of various details. Unity and diversity are built into the Triune God’s growth plan.

Story of Death to Life

Rooted Simple to Deep

Branching Now to Next

Fruitful Season to Season

Like a Tree…

Let’s learn it, own it, live it… and celebrate what God does through it!