Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Is Following Jesus Worth?

26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  — Luke 14:26–28 (NASB95)
Asian Access (or A2), a Christian missions agency in South Asia, listed a series of questions that church planters must ask new believers who are considering baptism. . .
 *  Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your father?
 *  Are you willing to lose your job?
 *  Are you willing to go to the village and those who persecute you, forgive them, and share the love of Christ with them?
 *  Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
 *  Are you willing to be beaten rather than deny your faith?
 *  Are you willing to go to prison?
 *  Are you willing to die for Jesus?
  South Asian nation struggles to shape itself, Mission Network News (1-17-12)
I have baptized a lot of people over the last 40 years or so.  I’ve used baptisteries, lakes, ponds, bathtubs, cattle tanks, even the Gulf of Mexico.  From each one, I really just wanted to hear that simple confession, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”  It never crossed my mind to ask the questions above, but I can sure understand the need.
In some places in the world, you really need a way to filter out the unbelievers, or provide a way for people to realistically consider what their baptism might mean.  Those questions highlight the cost of following Jesus.
In the U.S., we just don’t see the need.  In fact, we’d probably rather suggest to people that it’s not going to cost much, if anything.  To listen to some, becoming a Christian is just a step toward raking in boat-loads of blessings of one kind or another, including fancy cars and big bank accounts.
In scripture, and evidently some places in today’s world, people actually pause to count the cost.  They know it’s going to cost something - maybe their lives.  I don’t know about you, but this humbles me.  So, what do you think following Jesus is worth?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Six Flags Over Jesus

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   —  Matthew 28:19–20 (NASB95)

The predicament of the American church is that we live in a kind of Magic Kingdom. Like going to Disneyland, you buy your ticket, and once you are inside the gates, everything you experience is controlled. The rides, the food, the shows are all there to entertain and amuse you. All you have to do is be there and observe. . .
As Christians, we too are tempted to see our world that way. We can start thinking that our job is to invite a few fortunate others into the theme park, away from the troubles outside. But our job is not to increase the attendance at Disneyland; it's to tear down the walls and transform the world outside.  –  Richard Stearns, "Shedding Lethargy," Leadership Journal (Winter, 2012)

I’m not going to reveal a name here, but there is a church near us that my wife refers to as “Six Flags Over Jesus.”  She borrowed that phrase from somebody else, and truthfully, there are other churches that deserve it more than the one she applies it to, but there is something to it.  Large facilities, lots of entertainment, tons of people who go because it serves them in some way, etc.  It happens.

That doesn’t mean smaller churches are automatically better, for the truth is that people in small churches often wish for the same kind of things.  But perhaps it’s not so easy in smaller places.

I don’t know how many times we’ve had visitors who were church shopping.  They liked us, thought we were a friendly church, complimented the preaching and teaching, and felt that we were an overall fine church.  But they moved on to a bigger place.  Often they are looking for a church with a “youth ministry,” or something else already in place.  When I suggest that they stay with us and help build one, it bounces right off and refuses to stick. They want something already in place, already built, something they can just join.

Am I complaining?  You bet I am, but not for the reason you may think. “You’re just jealous of the bigger church.”  No, I’m sad for the people unwilling to sacrifice, to build, to dream, to work, to go through the hassle. It’s “serve me,” instead of “where do I serve.”