The last few weeks in June we have been focusing on discipleship. What have we come to accept as "discipleship"? A friend of mine recently handed me a program from a large and successful church. It's a rather exemplary model of what the idea has fallen to. Their plan for discipleship involves, first, becoming a member of this particular church. Then they encourage you to take a course on doctrine. Be "faithful" in attending the Sunday morning service and a small group fellowship. Complete a special course on Christian growth. Live a life that demonstrates clear evidence of spiritual growth. Complete a class on evangelism. Consistently look for opportunities to evangelize. Complete a course on finances, one on marriage, and another on parenting (provided that you are married or a parent). Complete a leadership training course, a hermeneutics course, a course on spiritual gifts, and another on biblical counseling. Participate in missions. Carry a significant local church ministry "load."
You're probably surprised that I would question this sort of program; most churches are trying to get their folks to complete something like this, one way or another. No doubt a great deal of helpful information is passed on. My goodness, you could earn an MBA with less effort. But let me ask you: A program like this—does it teach a person how to apply principles, or how to walk with God? They are not the same thing.
Several years ago I was honored to preach at my good friends installation service. While listening to the installation, I was zoned in on the verbs used to describe what this pastor pledged to do. It all focused on believing. The thought struck me, "Is that it? What about following Jesus and discipleship?" Our churches are full of people who profess belief. Rather lacking in those willing to follow Jesus with the disciple-like commitment faith in Jesus demands. How do we light the fire in our people’s walk with Jesus?
I think it starts when we get excited about what God has done and is doing in our lives and in the life of our congregation. It is easy to relax into a pattern of the way things have always been and as long as the bills are getting paid and we are having Sunday worship, everything is fine. We get complacent and before we know it we are in a rut. The wind has gone out of our sails. We look around and see our congregation growing older with just the basics in place. Our Redeemer is an awesome congregation. Our mission offerings are good and getting better. We embrace community service opportunities. We are loving and kind and love our Lord.
I sense though, the absence of an urgent vitality. One that looks at the fact that we have no youth group and says, "This is unacceptable!" An urgent vitality that sees things that need to be done and gets them done instead of letting them die a slow death in discussions. How can we get fired up? I would love some feedback, any feedback. Our faith in Jesus demands nothing less than our whole-hearted response and total commitment!