The Circle

A foundational tool for spiritual growth.

the circle

What if I told you that the most significant thing that I have learned about consistently growing in my faith is something as simple as a circle?

As I was in the process of launching the Acts 13 Network, I received some training by an organization called, 3DM. Their focus is teaching Christians to be people who multiply their lives in others. This is often called, “discipleship.”

This was not a new concept for me. I had spent ten years on staff with a parachurch organization whose focus was the same. I had discipled scores of young men over the years. I had a plan to help others take steps of faith. Yet, I don’t think that I ever gave them a clear and easy tool to help them simply grow in their faith every single day.

There are lots of things that many Christians talk about as critical to your personal growth. They include things like prayer, bible study, and worship. In the particular sub-culture of Christianity that I grew up spiritually in these were combined in something called a “quiet time.” The quiet time was the cornerstone to Christian growth. When I was asked by someone how I was doing in my faith my response was always filtered through the state of my quiet times.

Do you want to know something interesting? The times of greatest growth in my life have been during seasons when I wasn’t having “quiet times.”

These times of great growth were times when I have intentionally engaged in a practice I have come to refer to as the “circle life.”

The circle is a concept that I learned in my training with 3DM. It is a tool that describes a method to keep us moving forward in our faith. This tool helps us to identify the personal, the communal, and the significance of our interactions with the divine. It’s a tool for mindfulness that relentlessly points us toward change and growth.

The circle is comprised of a kairos moment, repentance, and belief.

Kairos

In the Greek language there are two words for time. The first and most common is chronos. This is where we get our word, “chronology.” It refers to the moment by moment, the constant tick-tock of the clock. You could call it “ordinary” time.

The other word, “kairos,” points us to those moments when it seems like time stops. There is an in-breaking something outside of our normal experience. This could be as simple as being overcome by the sunset or the rainbow in a puddle that catches our eye. It could be as significant as the moment you fall in love. Kairos moments are those moments when we interact with the divine. They don’t need to be major earth shattering moments, they can be small and seem insignificant.

As we try to live the circle life, we are trying to grab hold of each kairos moment that we experience every single day. We want to acknowledge, engage with, and embrace these moments for what they are. As we do, they plunge us into the process of spiritual growth and away from stagnation.

Repentance

After we recognize the kairos moment, we wade into the waters of repentance. Many of us hear this word and it holds for us a negative connotation. Too often we think of repentance only in conjunction with some sort of failure. Yet, the word simply means to change direction 180 degrees. We can repent from something good to something better.

Repentance is nothing more than changing. When we engage with the kairos moments of our lives we either enter in with them and the process of change or we let them go and continue moving forward as though nothing happened. When we practice the latter, stagnation of our spiritual lives is the result. If we can embrace the call to repentance inherent in the kairos moment we will continue the process of spiritual growth.

The process of repentance is comprised of observation, reflection, and discussion. Observation is that process of identifying and grasping hold of the kairos moment. It’s that moment where we say, “AH! This is that!”

In reflection we take the kairos and dwell on it, we meditate on it. We treat it like a prism and turn it around in the light trying to witness all the beauty and nuance of the light refracting through it.

In discussion we bring the moment to our trusted community. We put it on the table and wrestle through it together. In community we talk with one another and process together. Often this looks like our community asking probing questions to help us turn the moment around and catch different glimpses than we have before.

Belief

The final turn around the circle is encapsulated in the concept of belief. This points us toward our response to repentance. Change, necessarily means that we must act differently than we did before. Almost always, change brings uncertainty with it. It is uncomfortable and demands us to step out in faith.

The belief side of the circle follows a similar rhythm as the repentance side. Instead of beginning in the individual it continues the engagement of the community in what we call “planning.” Our community helps us create a specific plan for change. In light of the change that comes from engaging with the kairos moment, we must answer the question, “What do I do now?” in a specific way. When we try to deal with this question on our own we too often leave it open and general. Our community will help get specific.

After we create a plan, we must put accountability in place with our community. How will we allow ourselves to be held accountable to the plan we have developed?

Finally, we move to the individual, and that is the “act” stage. Belief that is not accompanied by action is not really belief. As we move out in action the circle is completed and we move towards our next kairos moment.

Time

There is no way to hurry or rush the process to get to the next kairos moment. We can’t control when the kairos moment comes, all we can do is be ready to grab hold of it when it does. There is no recipe that brings about these moments. It is simply a process that we continue to engage in over and over again.

Over the years this process has helped me to avoid stagnation in my spiritual life. It also brings great meaning and purpose to everything that I do. Within every interaction, every book, every moment there is a possibility of kairos. This possibility creates a sense of wonder, awe, and intrigue in all of life.


The circle illustration and the concepts written about here can be found in more depth in Mike Breen's book, Building a Discipling Culture.