I hear it over and over again, “I was burned by Christians”… I was too. I always hope it was because it was baby Christians who lacked in spiritual maturity, but then it’s a face palm when people say they were burned by 30 year deacons or pastors. This isn’t going to be an easy article to read. I’m not pulling any punches in this one and I’m taking the gloves off.
Church, we’re failing in discipleship. We fail the Christian community when we rush teenagers off to bible school to rush through 4 years of classroom education then push them into pulpits in their early twenties and rush rapid growth of filling pews. We’re failing the Christian community and the surrounding communities when we make the numbers more important than solid Christian discipleship.
Making disciples comes with great responsibility. It means we are committing ourselves to a new believer as they take this walk of faith in God’s grace. It requires nurturing them and admonishing them to grow into responsible people who value their spirituality in Christ as a high priority. It’s high time we stop rushing people into the pews in order to push for a confession of belief and quickly get them started with giving ten percent of their income to keep the building open. That’s not what being a Christian is about. It’s not about the numbers, it’s not about the money, and it’s certainly not about competing with the church next door.
It took over 2000 years to build what we call The Great Wall of China and it stills stands today. It took hard work, many people, many sacrifices, and lots of patience to erect such a strong wall. Are we approaching discipleship with the same effort?
I think this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 7: 24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (ESV)
If we have worried ourselves with rushing the construction of a fancy building, filling the pews with wallets so we can rub elbows with the prestigious churches and sit at fancy tables with the religious, then we are going to fall in the storm and many are testifying that this fall is already happening.
It’s time we repent of this bizarre rebuilding of Babel. Jesus isn’t concerned about rushing people to pledge allegiance to creeds and give their money to build temples. He created His temple within us. Peter gives us this beautiful illustration of the holy temple, us.
1 Peter 2: “4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (ESV)
A true disciple of Christ is one who walks by faith. They commit themselves to growing in grace and seeking wisdom to walk circumspectly, to exercise self control, one who seeks to drink from the Living Water and bear fruit.
These are not fruits that can be super glued to your life in haste. They can’t be mere labels stuck to knock offs who want to look like the real deal. It takes time to grow fruit and we must take our path in Christ seriously. We must not fancy ourselves as “arrived Christians” just because we complete a 6 week ‘discipleship’ course at a church. How dare we think a bible college graduate has the wisdom to lead a congregation fresh out of bible school without being mentored after graduation.
We need spirit filled Christians who have walked the path of faith, who have grown through adversity and still cling to a walk of faith, who extend grace and impart wisdom to our community. How can we expect to see mature Christians who hold fast to faith in Christ when all we’re doing is pumping out clones on a conveyor belt?
What do we need to do? Slow down.
We need to realize what it means to invest in one another, to walk with one another, to love one another in grace. Gone are the days of quick recruitment into a church and speedy public profession of creeds. We need to stop misrepresenting Christ by branding him into business logos and copyrighted self help programs. We need to stop identifying ourselves with denominations, popular pastors, and fancy new movements.
We need to take our time to mentor others in what it means to be a Christian before we rush them into agreeing with our interpretations and getting their signature on a church membership agreement.
Making a decision to be a disciple of Christ needs to be a very personal decision and must be accompanied with a commitment. Not a commitment to a brand of churches, but a commitment to walk in faith and to grow in grace. It takes a commitment to learn Christ within. Being a disciple of Christ is not something you ever graduate from, there is no point of arrival, and it can’t be something that gets a stamp of approval from a pastor.
Walking in discipleship is a journey in Christ. If you’ve been burned by what seemed to be pillars in your Christian community, I’m so sorry. They aren’t people who have arrived, by any means. They may have lacked in true spiritual discipleship. We do hope that a Christian would be someone who has integrity, wisdom, and compassion, but that’s not always the case. You don’t have to seek discipleship from people who haven’t been truly discipled.
So how is a person to find others who take their spiritual walk with Christ seriously? How can you find a community of believers that are willing to be committed to discipleship?
More often than not, you won’t find a ready made church that is equipped with all the bells and whistles. Cookie cutter style discipleship doesn’t work. I’m not fond of people putting out an ad to say, “Here we are (raising hand), we have the answer and best discipleship class in town.” You won’t find a solid spiritual journey by ‘liking’ the latest Facebook church ad. It’s not found in signing up to some website with your email to invite a leader to your home to instruct you.
Finding followers of Christ are more often seen sitting with the homeless at the beach. They don’t fancy themselves with suits and ties, they humble themselves to be real and relational. They aren’t interested in harnessing wealthy people into the pews, they are found holding tearful women at the exit door of an abortion clinic. They rarely are seen performing public feats of religiosity to get media attention, and are more likely to be found driving a drunk friend home and watching him all night so he doesn’t drown in his vomit. These are people who are disciples of Christ and it’s the Spirit of the Lord who guides them to have this kind of compassion.
They grow in grace and listen to the Living Word that is written on their hearts. It’s hearts of love that no longer fear being rejected by the religious. They aren’t into quick fixes, they embrace longevity in relationships. They don’t fit into the church systems and are often ordered into silence because they preach the true Gospel of grace and that grace scares the religious.
If you’re interested in being a disciple of Christ all you do is ask Him to guide you. His Spirit will guide you into truth and you’ll know it’s true love that sets your feet upon a solid Rock. as you walk by faith, He will guide you to others who are on the same journey. They’re out there, keep your eyes and ears open and He will show them to you.