Lukewarm Disciples Part Two

“Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and he is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give him a section of their time, their money, their thoughts, but he isn’t allowed to control their lives.” ~Francis Chan, Crazy Love, p.72

None of self, all of thee!As I consider my own discipleship to Christ, my own calling to deny myself and take up my cross and follow my Lord, I don’t want to be mediocre about any of it. I don’t want to hold anything back. I want to give him and “it” — my discipleship — my all.

And if I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m doing that simply because I’m a preacher.

Hey, look at everything I gave up. Look at all of my sacrifice. Look at the tremendous risks I took. I left my radio career. I sold the house and moved to Austin to get theological training, trusting God to provide. And now I’m preaching the Gospel. I’m teaching Bible classes. I’m ministering to people. I’m promoting church programs. I’ve given it all to God.

The honest truth is that I’m not sure I’ve really given up anything. It’s not really risky or hard, it’s not really a sacrifice to preach at Legacy. It’s a huge upper-middle class church in a suburb just minutes away from our families and stomping grounds in a wonderful part of Texas in the wealthiest country in world history. I get paid tons of money, I have a massive house with a pool, two nice cars, health insurance, a savings account, and an air-conditioned office with a big desk and a swivel chair.

I look at Manuel and Yvina Calderon and the work God is doing through them at Siempre Familia in the Rosemont area of Fort Worth and I see sacrifice. I see front-line Christian ministry. I see people being impacted, lives being eternally changed, by the Gospel. I look at David and Olivia Nelson in Kharkov, Ukraine and I see real risk and hard-core faith for Christ. I see them leaving everything behind to take Jesus to people who’ve never heard.

When I look at myself, I’m sometimes afraid that my discipleship doesn’t add up.

I’m not comparing myself to these missionaries. I don’t think that’s right. And I don’t feel guilty about the house and the cars. I use those to God’s glory and to bless other people in Christ’s name. I just don’t want to become complacent. I don’t want to settle. Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say: I don’t want to settle.

Because it’s easy to settle.

It’s easy for us preachers, I think, to slip into a very un-Christ-like mentality and pattern. Eugene Peterson describes it in Working the Angles (I think, I don’t have time to look it up) as church chaplains, holding the hands of the saved. Just kind of babysitting the faithful. Making life comfortable for the saints. Working to help the Christians feel better about themselves and their church. Religious shopkeeping.

That’s a pretty comfortable life for a preacher, too.

I don’t want that. I want all of my life — every moment, every action, every reaction, every interaction — to be lived not from a sense of self but from a sense of God. I want to hold myself to the high standard of my calling as a disciple of my risen Lord. I don’t want to compromise. When I’m writing a sermon, when people come to me for advice, when I’m teaching a class, when I’m counseling a friend, I want to give it my all from a deep sense of the God who lives in us and whose Spirit is working to transform us from the inside out. If my primary orientation is of my God, then I must be committed enough that when people ask me to do or say something that will not lead them into a more mature participation in Christ I refuse. I don’t compromise.

But it’s so easy to settle.

Not everybody I talk to wants to jump all the way in. Not everybody in our church is willing to go all the way. Chan says I have to “sprint up the down escalator, putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward.” Peterson says it’s hard because the people who would rather we just settle into a nice, comfortable Christianity and Christian ministry are all “nice, intelligent, treat us with respect, and pay our salaries.”

I . Don’t . Want . To . Settle .

But it’s so easy to settle.

Allan

4 Comments

  1. Rob's Dad

    Talk is cheap. Nobody jumps all the way in. But if you are out on the edge where it’s dangerous you might fall in. Or keep someone from falling in.

    You’ve got a pool?

  2. Allan

    You’re wrong. I’m sorry, you’re wrong. Maybe you’re just trying to draw me offsides. But saying “nobody jumps all the way in” is a cop-out. It’s our way of justifying a lukewarm discipleship.

    Come on, plenty of people have jumped all the way in. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther. Jim Dobbs. David and Olivia Nelson. Manuel and Yvina Calderon. Peter, James, John, Philip, Thomas. Salvador Cariaga. The apostle Paul. George Hall. You know somebody, you’ve at least heard of somebody, who’s jumped all the way in. People do it all the time.

    Jesus wants all or nothing. That’s clear from Scripture. You don’t just kinda follow Jesus. You don’t just sort of declare Christ your Lord. The idea of a “non-fruit bearing” Christian or a “mostly committed” follower of Jesus is something we’ve made up in order to make Christianity easier. So we can follow our own course while still calling ourselves “Christians.”

    Neal Postman from “Amusing Ourselves to Death”:
    “Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”

  3. Jesse

    Man, I soooo get this! Seems that when we really sacrifice, God so often blesses, and then it slowly starts to feel like LESS of a sacrifice – if we’re honest with ourselves (God works our perspective pretty good). Then the Spirit calls through our conscience that maybe we need to sacrifice a bit more – if we’re listening for it. Hence, I believe, the call to ever growing sacrifice, and why the text is so true about to whom much is given, much will be expected.

    It’s “easy” to “sacrifice” / give (anything – time, money, stuff) when God’s already poured it out to us. My challenge / fear (deep, deep down) is what if He took it all away…would it be so easy then? Could I be the widow that gave her last two mites?

    It’s easy to hand a twenty to the benevolence basket when I just took a hundred out of the ATM and know there’s more where that came from. Would it be so easy if it was my LAST twenty?

    It’s easy to give a few shirts to Giveaway Day, when I have at least 30 more in my closet back home. Would it be so easy to give if I only had 5 or 7 shirts? And when have I ever given my FAVORITE or BEST shirt to GAD?

    I agree…there are many that do jump all-in. But I think too many don’t. And for some, “all-in” is a moving target, i.e. my “all-in” today might only look “half-way” in a year a two. I hope it does, in fact.

    I know this, b/c 10 or 15 years ago, my all-in was showing up twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, leading a few prayers and songs, and not getting busted doing anything too bad. Today, that’s bare sustenance for me. In fact, it’s not enough.

    When we go all-in (whatever that is for oneself), like until it hurts…God’s right there to heal it, and then it doesn’t hurt; and THAT’s a pretty good leading that the all-in line moved, and maybe we’re ready for the next step in our all-in walk. That’s when the tough choices have to be made: all-in or not?

  4. Jocelyn

    I think you hit the nail on the head and it was very well said. This is an issue I think most (American) Christians have or will struggle with and I am glad that the leader of my congregation is so aware and “does not want to settle”. Thank you for the post. You always get me thinking. I especially appreciate the part about not feeling guilty for the blessings God has given us…but also to not get distracted by the blessings and to use them fully for His good. Being a Christian isn’t easy, but it’s worth it!

    Excellent comment on Jesse’s part too. When our Chritian family opens up and talks about things with each other we can really learn a lot and also be challenged to grow. Thanks!

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