Concentric Circles & Mutual-Submission

This season of life has had me wrestling through many of the tools, values, vehicles, and language that I have dedicated myself to practicing the last decade. I’ve been asking myself, which of these tools have I understood correctly? Is there another way of understanding them? How does this line up with scripture? How has the practice affected relationships and mission? Naturally, I fear that it’s easier for me to go with the flow with someone else’s convictions rather than my own. So I’m thankful for this journey I’m on of wrestling through my convictions so that I might be a more confident leader in the kingdom of God. And thankful for those who have helped me dive deeper into these concepts.

The first tool that I feel is worth sharing my reflections on is the tool called Concentric Circles. It’s a wonderful tool that helps someone remain faithful to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and other persons the Lord brings into one’s life; persons of peace. The goal is also to help move your relationships from FRIENDS to FOLLOWERS to FAMILY. For someone like me, an evangelist at heart, who has to be disciplined at remaining with people and not always searching for new friends, this tool keeps people from falling through the cracks. Super valuable.

Here is a picture of it below. The X’s are people and the arrows ID whether or not someone is moving closer to FAMILY or further away. Where there is movement, either in or out, signifies that you should probably reach out to them and care for them or advocate for them because something is happening in their life; good or bad.

Concentric Circles Tool

Concentric Circles Tool

When we read scripture, we cleary see that Jesus was about building a spiritual family on mission where God’s children might be discipled, loved, cared for, championed, challenged, supported, and represent the Good News of Jesus to the world, not alone, but together. So the goal is that through sharing the love of Jesus that people might become such good friends that it feels like family. What an amazing gift of belonging! #framily (thanks T-Mobile).

The tool teaches that the way to identify FRIENDS is that they serve you, FOLLOWERS sacrifice for you, and FAMILY submits to you. Remember the goal of the tool? The goal is FAMILY. This leads to where I had to wrestle. If the goal is FAMILY, then the result that comes with it is submission. Submission is good, yet often misunderstood. Denise Larson Cooper from a Crosswalk.com article shares:What does submission mean? Google’s dictionary defines submission as “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.” Submitting means putting others before yourself; it means not always doing what you want to do. It means putting God’s desires above your desires.” Submission is the way of Jesus where His unconditional love can be made manifest between people (Phil. 2:4). However, one-way submission is not. It must be two-way. The Apostle Paul tells us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). This is a mutual submission rooted in deep love, sacrifice, and service. We are to love each other deeply as family and outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10). The Concentric Circles tool, if used one-way, is a roadmap on how to move people from FRIENDS -> FOLLOWERS -> FAMILY while creating a familial culture of power and control guised in the mask of biblical submission. The result? A culture of unbiblical lordship/feudalism. “Don’t lord [your leadership] over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” (1 Pet. 5:3).

Submission is the way of Jesus where His unconditional love can be made manifest between people (Phil. 2:4). However, one-way submission is not. It must be two-way.

What does this mean? FRIENDS SERVE EACH OTHER (1 Pet. 4:10), FOLLOWERS OF JESUS SACRIFICE FOR EACH OTHER (Eph. 5:1-2), and FAMILY SUBMITS TO EACH OTHER (Eph. 5:21). And for the leader? The leader is called to SUBMIT from the very beginning. SUBMIT to their FRIENDS, SUBMIT to their FOLLOWERS, and SUBMIT to their FAMILY setting the example and tone for the culture and the relationships. The result is a thriving and healthy spiritual family on mission saturated with grace, rooted in love, expressed in freedom, and strengthened by joy through mutual-submission in Christ.

I apologize to all of you whom I have led in this way and I ask for your forgiveness.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NLT)

For more practical information on why mutual-submission is biblical, please visit: https://www.thetableindy.org/mutual-submission/

Reflection:

  • Are you leading others by way of one-way submission? or mutual?
  • How has this impacted your relationships and leadership?
  • How have you seen this effect your influence?
  • What are some tangible ways you can begin leading via mutual-submission?
  • What are your hang-ups with mutual submission?
  • What does healthy mutual-submission look like while being under authority?

Following Directions Even When You Didn’t Hear ‘Em

This morning at our daily devotions at Target Central Starbucks, we were discussing hearing the voice of the Lord even during times when He seems silent. We know that the Lord delights to speak to us, spend time with us, and hear from us. However, we also have seasons where either the Lord is withholding His voice, or perhaps the silence is created by all the distractions and cloudiness within our own mind. Either way, God’s character never changes and even in the silence we know that God is near.

As a spiritual family, we read through the Moravian Daily Texts together and this morning’s Psalm was Psalm 77:10-15; a Psalm of Asaph:

10 And I said, “This is my fate;
    the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
    Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
    You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

In verses 1-10, Asaph is lamenting because God has seemed to have “turned his hand” against him. A time of silence. A time of painful stillness. A time of trouble. However, in verse 11, Asaph’s faith kicks in.

When we can’t hear the voice of the Lord, we then can rely on what we know the Father’s character to be. God is a good father. When we can’t hear him speaking, we still know who he is. When he seems far, we know He is close. When we don’t know what to do, we still have the example of Jesus.

It reminds me of a conversation, well, several conversations actually, with my oldest daughter Bella. We often talk about how she can best represent Ashley and I when she is at school. I remind her often of who she is, she is a Phelps. And we are constantly teaching our children what it means to be a Phelps. Our identity, who and whose we are, forms how we live. Obedience is always flows from our identity. So I remind Bella to remember who her dad is… what kind of decisions do I make? how do I show love? How do I serve? How do I talk to others? What are my priorities? These are things that I hope she remembers, so that when she’s faced with situations she can remember what her dad would do. That she would hear my voice in her head even when I’m not there. But more importantly, I want her to know that she is God’s daughter and I want her to imitate Jesus. I love this quote of Craig Groeschel: “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” (That phrase is said a lot around my house!)

It’s similar with God. We know His character, so even when we can’t hear His voice specifically, we still have a pretty good idea of what Jesus would do. We know who we are, too. We are His kids. And because we are His kids, we represent Him wherever we go. So let’s do what we know He would do.

So today, as I drove home from devotions I didn’t necessarily have a plan for how I would exactly spend my time. So I prayed: “Lord, what is your plan for me today? How should I spend my time? Who should I talk to to? Where should I go?” I had sort of planned to go to our church campus and get some planning done, work on the website, write a song, and other office-type work, but I decided to go home first last minute. As I pulled onto my street, there were my neighbors shoveling two cubic yards of limestone and sand for the pavers they were going to install for their new backyard patio. Alright, here we go. So I got to spend an hour or so shoveling rock with my neighbors. And it was good.

I’m thankful I had the opportunity I did. I didn’t hear the Lord tell me to help my neighbor. But I knew that Jesus would have if He were me earlier today. So take the time in all your comings and goings to consider what Jesus would do if he were you. And I even had  time to finish all the other work I wanted to do (including this blog post), and I feel more energized.

Missional worship leaders are good neighbors. Good neighbors bear good fruit. Good fruit produces more good fruit. How can you be a good neighbor this week?