“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
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.