Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why The World Needs Fewer Christians

Message Title: Jesus Circles
Message Audio: Listen HERE

In the Jesus Circle message, I explained how the discipleship process moves you from CONSUMER to CONTRIBUTOR. I want to explore the topic of discipleship further in this post by addressing the call to "follow Jesus" and not simply to "believe in Jesus."

Students of Church culture and Christian history argue that America is on a post-Christian journey. In other words, Christianity is losing its public influence. Perhaps the crystal ball points that direction, but if you took a poll, a vast number of Americans consider themselves Christian and many Americans still view this country as a Christian nation. You don't have to look far to find a professing Christian, but I don't think Jesus is after professing Christians. He wants practicing Christians.

We associate Christian with a belief. It sounds something like this, "I believe Jesus is the Son of God!" Boom! Christian! (Or, depending on your Christian tradition, confess and then perform some rite of initiation...Boom! Christian!) We've made Christian into a worldview declaration. But Jesus never recruited believers. As he said himself, "Even the demons believe and shudder!" Jesus wants followers.

Mark begins his story by skipping the birth of Jesus and moving right into his public ministry. From the beginning Jesus recruits followers. Mark 1:16-17 reads:

When Jesus was walking by Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the lake because they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

 Jesus does not ask Simon and Andrew to "believe in him," to "sing songs to him," to "wear t-shirts for him," to "listen to Chris Tomlin for him," or to "put fish stickers on their car for him." Not that some of those things aren't beneficial and even necessary, but Jesus invites Simon and Andrew to follow him. Jesus invites them to orient their lives to him. Jesus wants to be true north, by which they navigate their earthly excursion. He asks them to align their lives to his teaching. He does not want them to believe but to follow.

You can believe without following. I try to plan mini adventures whenever possible...maximizing small pockets of free time by doing some kind of activity outdoors. This summer I ventured on an 80-mile hike in 2.25 days (you can see pics and video from my trip HERE). The High Country Pathway is a looped trail through gorgeous northern Michigan. The 80 miles left me blistered and smelling of Vienna Sausage (My poor dog. He thought we were going on an evening walk, but didn't realize it was going to last 2 days). Blue ribbons and tags marked the true route.

Two observations about the blue markers:
1.  Just because I believed the blue markers existed did not mean I followed them. I saw the blue markers. I was 100% certain they existed, but I still had to make the choice to follow them. I had to choose to align my direction with their instruction. Discipleship is more than believing in Jesus. It requires a second choice...aligning your life with his instruction.
2. I could have used a number of objects or creatures to orient my trip. I saw a porcupine. He seemed pretty intelligent and slow enough to track. I could have followed him. I could have let the path serve as my guide (unfortunately sometimes the markers went opposite the path). I could have licked my finger, lifted it high, and then trekked in the direction of the blowing wind.  I could have relied on my gut to tell me which way to go. I could have oriented my life to any number of 'things' that would have taken me in the wrong direction. When we chose to follow Jesus we are confessing that he knows the true path to life...not just life-after death, but "right now" life. We chose to orient our life to him inspite of all other appealing alteranatives.

Morning sun on the High Country Pathway
I pray you will be a Christian, but I pray more fervently that you will follow Jesus. Pray the same for me! The world would be okay with fewer Christians but could use a lot more followers. 
You may ask, "How do I follow Jesus?" I would recommend you start by getting a Bible with the words of Jesus in red letters. Work your way through the first four books of the New Testament and read everything in red. Write down themes and repetitions in Jesus' teaching. Let him teach you and not just save you.

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