Plan of Discipleship Essay
Plan of Discipleship
In due course of ministering to the body of Fairway Church it has become apparent that there is a greater need for discipleship among the un-churched and the de-churched of the surrounding community. It is therefore, the goal of this exposition to introduce, clarify, and expound the goal of the discipleship ministries of Fairway Church in said context. This action must be seen as imperative not only to the church but also in the broader context of mission as a whole.
It is the hope therefore, in the following curricular plan that there would be adequate space and definition given to the following areas of concern: Scriptural Foundations
Core Ministry Values
Behavioral goals (including Slogans and Visuals)
Base Path of Development (Measurable Steps)
Encompassing Vision Statement
Identification and description of characteristics of the target group.
Scope and Sequence Plan
Budget and Communication Tools and Techniques
Through the further defining and examination of the above factors the goal of this curricular plan should be well established in the collective efforts of the church as a whole. With this in mind one should be capable of appreciating and desiring to continue in the work of discipleship at Fairway Church.
Furthermore, it should be noted that discipleship is no easy task, yet it is a worthwhile one. It should be the overarching goal of the local church as well as individual believers to be involved in the representative work of Christ in the local context. The command has been given, the call has been sent out, as individual followers the response therefore, must be to follow well and seek to make other followers.
Perceiving, therefore, a need for valid and comprehensive discipleship it is the desire of this program to integrate Scriptural content into a practical outreach format. It should therefore, be the purpose of this expositional section to deal with the Scriptural foundations of the below development of a discipleship strategy. This must be done through a successful examination of the call, the example, and the sacrifice of Christ as well as the model of Paul.
First, one must see that Jesus has given a call to make disciples. If the local congregation does not understand the basic imperative of Christ toward discipleship, there is no hope that a successful model might be attained. This call is expressed nowhere more clear than in Matthew 28:9 which states to the followers of Christ, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
1 It should be seen that the goal of the disciple-follower should be to make other disciple-followers. This must not be compromised; it is the foundational block of any successful discipleship strategy. Furthermore, one must seek to gain an understanding of Christ’ example of discipleship. Here one must dissect the concern as to the question of, “Why?” Why does one make disciples? Although, it can easily be seen that Christ commanded this in the above passage, there is more to this than a mere call to do something in Christ’s name. As Francis Chan states, “God wants us to pursue certain actions, but as we put God’s commands into action, our motivation makes all the difference.”
2 A student of scripture must understand that discipleship is at the heart of Christ Himself. In reality Christ held a special call to make followers. This can be seen nowhere better than in Matthew 4:18-22. One reads: “While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
3 This passage is key in understanding the example of Christ as he sought to create and lead disciples. Christ called people to come and follow Him. The local church should be about the same business as they seek to reach the culture around them for Christ. This is more than a command, it is a
lifestyle exhibited primarily by Christ.
Next, one who seeks to be a disciple must embody the sacrificial life of Christ. This does not dictate that one must seek to die in order to follow Christ. However it should lead believers to understand the call to live sacrificially even unto death, if necessary. Dietrich Bonheoffer points this out by stating that, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
4 This does not mean that Christ calls men to be killed but rather to live sacrificially. The idea is the same when one sees in Luke 9:23-24 that Christ calls people to live sacrificially. The student of this text reads, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
5 This passage is also a key in the concept of successful discipleship strategy. In short, the believer must be willing to live as if a cross was their goal. The disciple should understand that ultimately following Christ leads to the death of self. Without this understanding there is no means to successfully accomplish the objective of creating solid disciple-followers of Christ.
Lastly, one should see the practical applications to the above theological themes concerning discipleship. This is nowhere exhibited more fully than in Pauls’ ministry to the Philippians. Paul states in Philippians 3:17 concerning the church that, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”
6 This should be seen as directly related to the nature of disciples as followers. Paul is pointing to himself as an acceptable example for disciples to follow. This point is of great importance in that it is attainable to the average believer. The individual congregant of a particular church should seek to embody this model in any effort to be a disciple-making disciple. Individuals should seek to create followers of themselves and in this lead others to Christ.
With firm scriptural texts established one should further seek to develop and implement the core values of discipleship. These values are highly important in the forming of vision and the continuation of a successful disciple making structure. The local church must be seen as central to this and should be placed in context of discipleship structures. It is therefore, the hope of this expositional section to place the local church at the center of effective disciple making.
In this context one should see that the core values of discipleship in the local church congregation should include a healthy understanding of, engaging culture (mission), organic relationship building, accountability, and lastly reproduction. These core concepts should sit at the center of the discipleship efforts of Fairway Church.
First, the congregation should seek to understand the reality of the culture in which the church exists. The current culture is one in which most seem to be hostile toward Christianity. The spectrum shows it obvious that, “Christian faith is quickly losing traction in Western culture, not only as a result of unchristian behavior, as significant as that is, but because we haven’t recognized our new reality and adapted.”
7 The path forward is defined by how the local body interacts with this culture. Interaction must be seen as key. Considering discipleship and the way in which the church engages culture dictates their ability to reproduce disciples. Tim Keller, speaking of the Israelites, and their engagement of Babylonian culture gives three options. These options are: “Move into the city and lose your spiritual identity…” “Don’t move into the city and keep your spiritual identity… “ “Move into the city and keep your spiritual identity…”
8 It is frightful to think of the number of churches that embody the first two models in the modern context. Furthermore, it should be seen that Gods model for cultural engagement is one in which believers engage culture. One reads in Jeremiah 29:7 that believers should, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
9 The situation is one that is clear. Church people should not live in isolation of culture, in fact, individual believers should be engaged with culture yet not lose their spiritual identity. The church must be engaged with the world around it. This must be a core value of any successful discipleship strategy.
In connection to the above idea of engagement, the local church should seek to understand the value of organic relationship building. It is through relationship that community is formed and this concept must be seen as central to the very nature of being Christian. This was the practice of the early church in Acts. One reads in Acts 2:42-45 the following: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
10 The idea is one of community. Here the church must be about building relationships in community. Through engaging culture the gospel becomes attractive and as relationships are developed there should be people added, first, in areas of common interest and then as firm followers of Christ.
In the context of relationship building there should also be an aspect of accountability. It should be noted that the ultimate goal of successful discipleship is to make people accountable to Christ first and each other as an outflow of the primary relationship with Christ. This however, must be linked to healthy accountability in relationship. Some may refer to this as creating healthy boundaries.
Although, this may seem abstract to many, in its exposition it should become clear. Some may find it offensive to even suggest that disciple makers should consider relational boundaries. However, this is important in two ways. These ways are easily seen as maintaining proper doctrine and picturing proper Christian love.
First, one must see that doctrinal boundaries must be maintained. As Jonathan Leeman points out, that the church is rampant in its, “loss of doctrinal, boundary making thinking,”
11 furthermore, that this loss is linked to allowing churches to, “veer toward number-counting or Spirit-chasing (or both)”.
12 This has ultimately led the church to see an influx of people. Yet, also there is a lack of spiritual maturity or ability to reproduce disciples. This must be seen in direct connection to the cultural phenomena of, “individualism, consumerism, and a reluctance to commit, and skepticism toward all forms of dogma”
13 The goal however, should be in relationships to picture the opposite of this mentality. The goal should center on accountability and self sacrifice, healthy boundaries and love from a biblical context of community.
Furthermore, it should be understood that in picturing proper, restorative love in community is essential. The culture to which disciples will be sent is one intoxicated by love. This is a problem, in that the predominant cultural perception of love is so often implied upon the church and furthermore, Christ. It is expected that Christ is all accepting rather than concerned about belief or accountability. Restorative ministry in a community context must be fleshed out in a context of Gospel transparency. The church cannot disciple sinners with out loving them enough to picture this model in relationship. Hold true to doctrine and do not compromise for the sake of “love”.
Lastly, one must seek to operate a framework of discipleship that can be reproduced. The church in too many cases has tied itself to structures that cannot be reproduced on an individual level. It is key to understand that, “Reproduction ensures that a movement will live past its founding stages.”
14 This must be acknowledged in greater depth. Jesus understood the need for reproductive discipleship and so should the modern church. The model of Jesus must be seen as the most successful model in that he understood and implemented a strategy of reproduction centered on a small handful of original disciples. Robert Coleman notes this in his book the Master Plan of Evangelism by stating the following: “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes but with men whom the multitudes would follow… Men were to be His method of winning the world to God. The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to His life and carry on His work after He returned to the Father.”
Jesus understood the value of organic reproduction. The local church as well should seek to embody this. However, it seems this has not been the goal in much of the historical efforts of discipleship.
Discipleship as Frank Viola states is, “a lifestyle—an authentic journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples.”
15 Therefore, any process seeking to make disciples should desire to integrate fully a successful plan of curriculum. This curriculum should hold a clear-cut concept of behavioral goals. As Mitchell states, “Step number one in developing the curricular plan is establishing both institutional and individual goals and expectations.”16 This must be assessed if discipleship is to be accomplished.
An overarching goal statement should be established to guide the educator as they seek to lead and make disciples. The goal then of this curricular plan must be seen as follows: To make disciples capable of living on mission, in journey, and reproductive in nature. This goal statement should be seen at the heart of successfully making disciples. However, the statement in itself is incapable of fleshing out the reality of this goal. There must be an expectation of personal goals accompanying the discipleship goal statement.
Behavioral goals should be built around the framework of this statement. These goals should follow as well the model seen in the core ministry values. Individuals in the discipleship structure should be encouraged to integrate the following principles into their lives on a daily basis:
Individuals should be encouraged to integrate these behaviors in their own lives on a daily basis.
The terminology of Scripture should point this out. One reads in Matthew 28:19 that the call is to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,”17 The point of “going” is better conveyed in the Greek, which reads as, “πορευομαι”18This therefore is defined as, “to lead over, carry over, transfer, to pursue the journey on which one has entered, to continue on one’s journey.”19 This must be seen as important in the behavioral goals of a discipleship effort. Individuals must be encouraged to integrate the four core values into a lifestyle of evangelism, rather than the more common structure of catapulting oneself into culture. Such an effort is often times defined by congregants in the form of confessional faith alone. The goal should be to integrate people into the journey before ever assessing the nature of their salvation. Salvation should be the goal yet; it should not be the point of the spear. Far too many have presented Christian community as transactive, whereas it should be seen as transformative in nature.
The above format however may be seen as drastically different than the model shown in the historical model of church. Individual disciple-followers should begin to acknowledge that the need is not to go “on mission” but to “do life” as mission. There should be a language component to this shift. An individual slogan therefore could be stated simply as, “Keep Calm and Disciple on”. The goal of such a slogan is two fold. The desire should be to create a common language as well as a framework for motivation in a comfortable and familiar style. This must be understood in order to fully integrate discipleship into ones life. Furthermore, there should be a visual component to this as well.
This visual can be seen in the following: .
The above visual should be seen as key in the integration of material into the teaching and educative principles concerned with behavioral objectives. The form can be utilized as a further tool to incorporate and engage the culture at large concerning the building of relationships. This must be seen as key in the implementation of the above described discipleship structure.
Therefore, it should be assessed that the behavioral objectives of this discipleship strategy are to lead others to integrate the “engage, care, build, reproduce” strategy into their lives. Individual disciple-followers should be lead to, engage culture, care for their communities, build relationship through that caring, and reproduce disciples from those relationships. These are the behavioral objectives of this strategy and are essential to its implementation.
Measurable outcomes should also be seen as important to the accomplishing of valuable discipleship structures. The question of what expectation is held by the leadership of Fairway Church for the individual disciple-followers is important and should be well defined at the onset of the structure. Dietrich Bonheoffer stated in his classical work Life Together that as believers, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God, God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans…”
20 This quote should help individual leaders as they seek to integrate measurable objectives into a successful framework for discipleship. Successful discipleship should create disciples willing to have their lives interrupted by Jesus.
The measurable outcome in conclusion should be centered on the ability of individuals to live in such a way that discipleship is accomplished regardless as to the inconvenience to their personal lives. It should therefore, be noted that at the end of this discipleship course individuals should be integrated into community and motivated to form community in whatever context available to them. These measurable outcomes must be placed as central to the success of this plan of discipleship. Each component must be seen more in depth as to understand the importance of each.
First, one must see the importance of individuals being integrated into community. Darrin Patrick notes this in his book For the City in a remarkable way. After noticing the large amount of non-believers in his congregation Patrick also noted that they (leaders), “learned that what stood out to people was the context of challenging, biblical teaching in the context of a community of people who seemed to genuinely care for one another and spend time together.”
21 This is for the purposes of this paper a successful picture of what it means to integrate people into valuable community. This integration however, must be driven toward further goals.
Next, one must be capable of thinking sacrificially to accomplish the goals of engaging and reproducing. This must be seen in the context of community. Darrin Patrick exhibits this point by describing the establishment of the fifth campus of his church “The Journey”. Darrin notes that, “we launched our fifth campus, which started because of the heart of a member of our church who owned a thrift store and desired a place for people who frequented there to go to church.”
22 This must be seen as an embodiment of the measurable outcome of being motivated to form community. The individual disciple saw a need in community, as a result a new congregation was started and discipleship was carried on. In summation concerning the point of measurable outcomes leadership should assess individuals in their ability to be part of community and their ability to form community. A successful disciple-follower will reproduce the discipleship model in different context outside of the original community. This must be seen as the most important measurable objective of this discipleship structure. Base Path of Development (Measurable Steps)
A base path of development should also be considered at this point in the development of a discipleship structure. These steps should be assessed on both a corporate and an individual level. The larger context of the local church should benefit from the advancement of discipleship efforts. This would be the measurable steps assessed in the corporate context. However, it should also be seen that assessment on an individual level is needed. Furthermore, the benefit to the church is not one of a superficial nature. The church itself should be seen as being reproducible. The goal is to build from smallest to largest. The smallest being individual disciples and the largest being the reproduction and continued proliferation of church planting movements. The symbiotic relationship that exists between the corporate and the individual nature of discipleship is seen by the statements of Dennis McCallum who disciples through a process of, “using one-on-one or one-on-two relationships to help people who have only recently met Christ and need help just getting started at the most rudimentary level.”
23 However, this is also integral to the model of reproduction. The above quote points to the greater implication of multiplication. McCallum goes on to point that; “Each home church in Xenos seeks to replicate itself within one to four years, depending on the type of group. To succeed, the home church must raise up a new team of leaders and double the size of the group.”
24 In short, it should be seen that a measurable outcome in the discipleship process of Fairway Church it the reproduction rate of both discipleship groups and church plants. As one evaluates the outcomes of developing disciple-followers there must be an emphasis placed on the corporate reproduction as well as the individual reproduction of disciples. As individuals are encouraged to “disciple on” there should be an understanding that an organic structure driven toward reproductive fellowships (i.e. church in whatever context) must be realized. Therefore, it must be noted that two measurable outcomes must be considered. First, are individuals making disciples? Second, are these disciples forming relational fellowships built around the tenants of church? If these two outcomes are not seen leadership should re-assess and equip individual disciples to continue by other means. This is key to the understanding of measureable outcomes in the context of the above discipleship structure. Furthermore, individuals should be encouraged to be experimental in their application of biblical teaching in the context of discipleship. One reads in the book the Trellis and the Vine concerning this theme: “…just as some sort of framework is needed to help a vine grow, so Christian ministries also need some structure and support. It may not be much, but at the very least we need somewhere to meet, some Bibles to read from, and some basic structures of leadership within our group.”
25 It should therefore, be embodied in the relationship between structure and organic growth that a supportive leadership model gives guidance but not directives. The goal should be to keep first things first in the context of community application. There should be a solid vein of doctrinal agreement, leadership authority, and oversight. However, this does not mean that the communities are manipulated to look alike in any context. A vibrant community of faith should be one in which the practical application of doctrinal belief binds a community together rather than driving them apart.
Encompassing Vision Statement
Furthermore there should be an encompassing vision for any discipleship structure. The vision of a group must be well defined in order to keep the group as a whole motivated and driven toward a goal. A successful leader will continually measure the progress of the group. This leader should also be willing adjust the methods used as needed. Transformative leadership is leadership that must not be fixated with plans but capable of accomplishing goals through working and changing with the group. Vision, it seems should be viewed in a dualistic nature. Vision can be a catalyst or a nail in a coffin. Darrin Patrick notes this in his book Church Planter. He comments that a pastor without grace is a man characterized as, “a blind man elected to a professorship of optics, philosophizing upon light and vision, discoursing upon and distinguishing to others the nice shades and delicate blendings of the prismatic colours, while he himself is absolutely in the dark!”
26 It must be seen therefore, that vision can be very dangerous if given from the wrong perspective and through the wrong person. However, this should not lead one to think it unwise to have vision. Paul is noted as have thought strategically about vision. In short, it must be seen that vision does not trump strategic thinking and strategic thinking does not cancel out the value of vision. One reads concerning this that, “Paul had two checks in his spirit and an open vision, but it wasn’t until he concluded—put all these things together cognitively—that he knew where the Spirit was leading.”
27 It should be therefore, that the leader of a discipleship effort should seek to combine an open vision with cognitive practical thought. Therefore, in considering the above exposition concerning the proposed discipleship structure of Fairway Church there should be a desire to define a vision built in the notion of Paul. This vision should be moldable as well as practical. At this point individuals should see the following vision statement as functional as well as doctrinal and spirit formed. Fairway Church discipleship exists to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to all those outside the walls of this church. We will live missionally, give sacrificially, and never stop encouraging others to join us on our way to Jesus.
This vision should be implemented to encourage individuals to successfully accomplish the goals of discipleship. In conjunction with leadership on a personal level it is hoped that people will be motivated toward replicating the discipleship structure on their own.
Identification and Description of Characteristics of the Target Group
The target group of this discipleship model is two fold. These two groups are best and most easily identified as follows: Church Attenders and believers Un-churched and De-churched peoples
Each of the above groups listed groups possess its own challenges as well as concerns. However, the success of this structure must be gauged in its ability to mesh the two together.
First, one must integrate the existing resources of people and facilities toward accomplishing a greater understanding of evangelism in the context of discipleship. Ed Stetzer speaks of this by emphasizing the importance of a successful, “evangelistic strategy.
“28 he points out that such a strategy, “requires stages, helping people move from the ranks of the inactive and unreached to being active followers of Jesus Christ.”
29 Therefore, these steps must start with those who already believe.
Furthermore, this provides great comfort to the leader. Community in this seed group or core group will help not only to build new leaders but also give courage to the one in place. As the group develops and begins to implement the strategy of discipleship momentum will build and individuals will become bolder in their discipleship efforts.
Second, one must seek to broaden the base from which the discipleship efforts can begin to take shape. This stage would further develop the core values of engagement and relationship building. In a sense this stage would be the branching out stage. Individuals from the core would be encouraged to engage, care for, and build relationships with their community. In this process these individuals would seek to understand and acknowledge the individuals that can be identified with the un-churched and the de-churched.
This however, may seem a daunting task. However, when placed in context it should be seen that this task, although daunting, could be accomplished. One term seems to predominantly describe those that remain outside the church. The term of post-modern has taken on a prolific hatred in the contemporary American church. Yet, the hope remains that through engaging this culture there can be Gospel work accomplished.
First, one should understand what a “post-modern” person is. Stanley Grenz notes that post-modernism is, “a questioning, and even rejection of the Enlightenment project and the foundational assumptions upon which it was built, namely, that knowledge is certain, objective, and inherently good.”
30 In examining this definition the church may react rather than respond. However, the church should ask itself whether this shift is necessarily a bad thing. Gabe Lyons notes that over all, “Americans are spiritual, but they have begun to seek spiritual experiences outside the framework of traditional religions.”
31 If this is the case than why should the church be frightful of reaching out to engage this cultural shift? In a sense should not such a culture find value in Christian community? Not to say that Christian community should bend to accommodate but that a mentality defined by, “Think, hence I am”
32 by its very tenant, accommodates one who acknowledges Christ. Therefore, the church should seek to engage this group in an effort to integrate them into greater biblical community. The question is well phrased when reading, “What if it’s (the post modern culture) actually a harnessable wind that can refill the sails of our faith?”
33 Action Plan
An action plan should further the discipleship effort of Fairway Church. This plan should be all encompassing as well as directed toward the context of each individual target group. The following steps should be taken in the goal to accomplish successful discipleship in the congregation of Fairway Church. The activities should be seen the context of two activities of a Biblical context. These activities can be defined as net casting and pulling in the nets. First, one should see the first steps of the action plan as a net casting activity. These steps include the cultivation of existing believers and the utilization (pulling in) of such to broaden the discipleship pool. In a sense one is casting nets into the relevant communities in order to find the workers for discipleship. These individuals are then brought into the discipleship conversation as a means to parlay such resources toward the greater community. In this step of action one seeks to find where God is already working and align themselves in an effort to have greater community impact toward making disciples of the un-churched and de-churched. Second, this step should be repeated on a broader scale.
It is in this second step of action that one should look for areas in which the church can truly make a difference. In this context Christians should be encouraged to build relationships by engaging the culture around them. The net casting in this step is defined by the individual disciples living on task and on journey in their community context. Continual long-term engagement should be encouraged at this point. Furthermore, this second step should be defined by the individual efforts of disciples to become more involved in the lives of those outside the church. Although, disciples should be encouraged to invite disciples to Christian activities the main point is to form valuable organic relationships with those in the community. This step is hugely important to the continual development of discipleship efforts.
Scope and Sequence Plan
Scope and sequence planning should be seen as important as well. In such an assessment there should be adequate evaluation given to the curriculum, calendar, and personnel needed to accomplish the goals of the discipleship efforts. It is in this portion of development that one may see the options as limitless. However, for the sake of being organic it should be noted that scope and sequence planning should be a minimalistic activity.
Curriculum must be seen as standardized. Regardless, as to which group or facet of the discipleship structure, there should be a successful implementation of curriculum. It is the suggestion of this paper that there should be an emphasis placed on book studies. These studies however, should be developed from practical to theological and from larger group to smaller.
As individuals who already self identify as disciples arise in congregations they should immediately be integrated in a cohort structure of discipleship training. The curriculum for such a group should be focused on training and empowering these individuals to cast nets for themselves and train future disciples. Each cohort should last no more than six weeks and should consist of a high level of accountability.
These groups should be no more than six participants in number. This number should allow for adequate leadership and training. In this context there should be a practical book such as For the City by Darrin Patrick and Matt Carter. In conjunction to this there should also be a Theologically significant book such as The surprising Offense of Gods Love by Jonathan Leeman.
To second these efforts there should also be practical training involved. Each disciple should also be engaged for up to three weeks after the initial cohort. Each disciple-follower would be encouraged in this time to begin a personal outreach to his or her local community. Creativity would be emphasized and applauded. The leader of the cohort would be there only in a supportive role.
Budget and Communication Tools and Techniques
A budget plan should also be taken into consideration. However, with an emphasis on an organic model and structure, the budget should also be very minimalistic. Within the confines of such a structure the main cost would be book materials. Although individuals can be encouraged to buy the books there should be adequate understanding on the part of leadership. Books should be purchased in bulk and distributed at cost to leaders of individual groups.
This budgetary model should be seen as helpful in several ways. However, the lower the cost the more likely reproduction will be. Individual participants should be encouraged to take ownership of the discipleship model and its proliferation. Too many churches have launched into discipleship efforts with an emphasis on church structural centrality. This in turn has made the portrayed model barren not easily reproduced. This mistake should be avoided at all cost.
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