This may be confusing for you, but Jesus never came to make consumers or churchgoers. He came to make disciples. These were initially people who listened to his teaching (and this before his death and resurrection) and made the choice to follow him. Not just to listen to his teaching, but having made the decision to entrust their lives to him, also decided to seek to put his teaching into practice in their lives.
This proved then and proves now to be a huge challenge. A cursory reading of his teaching, as recorded in the New Testament, strengthens the whole idea that this is a truly tough assignment.
You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery
If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you
Theres a whole heap more of Jesuss teaching where that came from (the Sermon on the Mount). All this is not easy and would be truly impossible for us if Jesus simply left us with a book and our own often feeble selves. But he didnt leave us on our own. With the Father, he released the most powerful force for human transformation in the universe - the Holy Spirit!
My great fear for 21st century disciples, created by God to be his children, is that they have been re-created by sophisticated mass marketing to be one of lifes many consumers. Too often, rather than seeing discipleship as a life-long challenge, we think that a course on discipleship or a year of discipleship in some local church will tick the box.
Consumers are on the look-out for:
- What they want
The added information of a cost/benefit analysis.
On the other hand, Jesus is looking for self-denying, cross bearing followers. See the problem? He wants, not just to be the Lord of your church life, whatever that might look like, but Lord of everything you think, speak or do.
Churches that implicitly promote a low friction discipleship will not make much of an impression. When Jesus told his disciples of old to Go, make disciples he knew that it will be his true disciples that will need to play their part in the process that he would always initiate.
It is surely right that our Diocese is highlighting, as a key component of our Connections strategy, that we commit seriously to making disciples wherever we are.
I have met athletes, members of political parties, even Des O Connor fans who are prepared to give everything for their cause. We need to rediscover in many churches that overarching passion and drive that marks out many who serve a lesser cause. And dont forget, Church tradition has it that all the original disciples of Jesus lost their lives for the faith they believed in.
Let me close with some words from Dallas Willard in his book, The Great Omission (referring to discipleship)
The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heart-breaking needs, is whether those, who by profession or culture, and are identified as Christians will become disciples students, apprentices, practitioners of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom into every corner of human existence.
Amen to that! As Jesus said, Go and do thou likewise.