Once participants have experienced a demonstration through KR or through some other kind of missional experience (formal or otherwise), they and their leaders are invited into an assessment process to begin excavating their own cultural, faith, and family stories. If we want to see greater embodied authenticity however, we need to aim for heart instincts. And that will involve excavating some of the family and cultural narratives that have shaped all our stories. In the words of Dallas Willard 1,
“It is one of the major transitions of life to recognize WHO has taught us, mastered us, and then to evaluate the results in us of their teaching. This is a harrowing task, and sometimes we just can’t face it. but it can also open the door to choose other masters, possibly better masters, and one Master above all”
Dallas Willard, “The Divine Conspiracy” Ch 8.
God is constantly in the business of revealing what’s in our hearts. This is one of the major narratives that spans the entire Bible and embodied most concretely whenever Jesus poses questions of the heart to listeners. Often, after Jesus demonstrated God’s Kingdom, he offered inquiries that revealed what was in the heart of his listeners. For those who ought to know better2, the assessment of hearts was hard hitting, full of truth. For the less initiated, for the marginalized, the assessment was given with much grace. The assessment of hearts was a precursor to repentance, and Jesus always calibrated grace and truth perfectly. This is the kind of calibration we aim for.
Our assessments are “face-sensitive” to maximize accessibility to story excavation. In my experience, family background excavations are most likely done in pre-marital or therapy settings. That’s very limiting because marriage is not for everyone, and not everyone is open to therapy, especially among those who come from collective cultures. But everyone can benefit from family and cultural excavations; they help reveal “WHO has taught us, mastered us.” So we’ve developed “face-sensitive” excavations using collective classroom practices to create safe space for participants. As a result, participants learn how their family and culture of origin reflects aspects of God’s Kingdom they’ve often not considered before. Or if they have, it’s often not been shared with other members in their community.
Our process is not new and this process should be the backbone process of every Jesus-follower, whether piecemealed together, or provided through a “one-stop shop” like a church or other spiritual organization. But here’s my critique: my western church culture tends to put teaching and personality on the pedestal. We talk ABOUT vulnerability and authenticity in the way of Jesus, but often don’t put enough focus on assessment...or we make discipleship processes like this optional, as if only “special” believers sign up for these kinds of events. Part of Kingdom Rice’s vision is that EVERY person who counts themselves a follower of Jesus experiences a process where any Scriptural input leads to assessment in the spirit of James 1:22-25. In doing so, this will result in deeper heart knowledge of the truth, and it will accelerate the vision for every human being to experience Good News.
The areas of story excavation are many, but the most frequent ones we do regard family and cultural background, as previously mentioned, but we’ve also led participants to assess how they see work, how they see grief, shame, and more.
What does assessment look like in the different contexts we serve? The typical church retreat or missionary conference includes a time for “small groups” after most talks or sermons. We simply integrate small group times into the speaking time to create more of a dialogue throughout the entire speaking and small group time. This way, small groups are able to hear and glean from other small groups. We find that treating the “speaker” time and “small group” time as one collective whole yields more cohesion and more integration3. What we actually plan to do is appropriate to the age, experience, and knowledge base of the participant. Tools such as inventories, debates, and skits are all employed to help the participant excavate their own stories in ways that reveal true heart beliefs. This gives space for the Spirit to shed light, and even bring about repentance so that the process “can also open the door to choose other masters, possibly better masters, and one Master above all.”
1 former USC philosophy and author of many great books including “The Divine Conspiracy”
2 E.g. James 3:1
3 I was first introduced to this mode of instruction not from the church, but from “Integrated Thematic Learning.” Today, it’s more commonly called (ask Sarah Pape).