By Paul Wilkinson

The study of proxemics deals with how physical space and population density affect behavior. The idea is not foreign to church life in general and discipleship in particular: people act differently in different spaces. Think about someone needing to confess some personal sin. Do you think it more likely that they confess in the front of the sanctuary from the stage on a Sunday morning in front of a few thousand people, in front of 20 people in a LIFE group, or in a small group of 2-3 people? Clearly, one is more likely to be vulnerable in the smaller, more intimate setting. As leaders, we must be aware of these trends and provide spaces for our people to mature in their sanctification.
The Absalom’s with Dandelion Ministry cover this reality well. They suggest 5 spaces: Public (>100), Social (20-70), Personal (4-12), Transparent (2-4), and Divine (you and the Godhead).* Each space affords a different effect and efficiency for discipleship. As the numbers grow, we think more in terms of vision casting and group mission. As the numbers dwindle, we become more vulnerable and open with our own foibles; discipleship demands them all.
Jesus knew these realities. Consider the different spaces Jesus offered: Jesus fed and taught 5000 (Luke 9:10-17), He had a more intimate group of 70 (Luke 10:1-12), He had an even more intimate group of 12 (Luke 6:13-16, 9:1-6), He had an even even more intimate group of 3 (Luke 9:28-36), and Jesus spent time alone (Luke 6:12). Each of these groups afforded Jesus different discipleship opportunities: to show the awesome power and grace of God, to send out 70 to preach and teach, to teach 12 the intricacies of the Gospel and to carry forth the mission, and 3 on which to form the foundation and inaugurate the kingdom.
We will unpack how each of these spaces are utilized within the overall JourneyOn strategy for discipleship. For now, take some time this week to think through how you are incorporating these spaces into your own sanctification. Particularly, are you spending divine time on your own and are you enjoying intimate space with a, or as a, mentor/discipler? I pray that you are!