As we renew our mission to being Disciples of Christ, here are a few discipleship quotes to prayerfully consider from a year’s worth of sermons.
Do you know what you are getting yourselves into here?
One day, noticing the growing number of people following behind him, like a scene in Forrest Gump, Jesus suddenly stops, turns to the masses and says something like: “Do you people really know what this is all about? Do you really know what you are getting yourselves into here? Because I am not so sure the crowd would be this large if you really knew! Do you really understand what you are signing up for here? Do you really get this journey called, ‘discipleship’? Because, I have a sinking suspicion that most of you do not have a clue.”
The truth is, this road we call discipleship is a difficult and sometimes painful road. There’s even a cross involved. And we are going to have to carry it.
From A Bunch of Losers, September 8, 2013.
For those who believe discipleship is only about a ticket to heaven
Jesus is saying: “It is perfectly is to think and dream about going to Heaven one day. It is fine to have the hope that someday, somehow, some way there’s not going to be anything more to fear or dread. It is wonderful to know a time is coming when there is going to be no more crying, no more pain, and no more death. It is great to sing those old hymns of faith, such as “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Shall We Gather at the River,” and “I Can Only Imagine,” but if Heaven is the only place your hearts are, if going to Heaven and avoiding Hell is the only reason you are Christians, then you have missed the whole point of who I am and who you are called to be as my disciples.”
I believe Jesus is saying to us: “So don’t come to church looking to avoid a suffering world! Come to church and bear the sufferings of this world! Don’t come to church looking for some fire insurance. Come to church and let me lead you into the fire!”
This is exactly why I believe so many Christians are tempted “go after” those who love to preach about the end of days, especially those who say that it is coming in our lifetimes. For it is far easier to believe that God has already given up on this world. It is much easier to look at the destruction in the Philippines and believe that it is all a part of God’s plan, a preview of things to come! It is far easier to believe that earthquakes and hurricanes and tornadoes and poverty and wars are all part of God’s apocalyptic will than it is to believe that God calls us to selflessly and sacrificially suffer alongside those who are suffering.
It would be far easier to believe that Christianity is only about getting a ticket to heaven to escape this world than it is to believe that it is about selfless, sacrificial service.
From Heaven Can Wait, November 17, 2013.
Faith is a journey
It is no mere coincidence that all of the Gospels depict Jesus as we meet him in today’s Gospel—as one who is always on a journey, always going someplace, always on the way to see someone, always on the move.
I’m afraid many of us have erroneously learned along the way that this thing we call faith is something that we possess instead of some road we travel, some place we go. We have reduced our faith into some sort of transaction made or some sort of ticket in hand. Our faith is merely some sort of stamp of approval or some kind of Get-of-Hell-Free card.
When we invited Jesus into our hearts, who knows what we thought he was going to do in there! Just come in and sit still? Come inside, lay down and take a nap? Just stay with us, comfort and assure us until we die and go to heaven? We seldom understand that our faith is a journey with the Christ who is always on the move, always going places. Thus faith in Christ is always an adventure, an expedition to places that were previously, without Christ, unknown to us.
From Guess Where We’re Going, January 25, 2014
Our problem is not that we are not willing to turn the other cheek and forgive. Our problem is that we are so private, so unconcerned about anyone other than ourselves, that we never cause any confrontations.
Our problem is not that we are not willing to give someone the shirt off our backs. Our problem is that we are never around anyone who needs even our coats.
Our problem is not that we are not willing to go the second mile. Our problem is that we are never in a position to go the first mile.
Our problem is not that we are not willing to give to needy who personally approach us and beg of us. Our problem is that we do not know anyone in need.
Our problem is not that we are not willing to love our enemies. Our problem is that most of us have never created any. We are so self-centered, self-absorbed, and so afraid of any controversy that might cause us a little pain, we simply never put ourselves out there to make any enemies.
From The First Mile, February 23, 2014.
The downward way of Jesus
The scriptures do say that Jesus grew upward in stature; however, the gospel writers continually paint a portrait Jesus’ life as one of downward mobility. He is continually bending himself to the ground, getting his hands dirty to touch the places in people that most need touching.
While his disciples seemed to always focus on privilege and honor and upward mobility, chastising little children who needed to shape up and grow up before they could come to Jesus, Jesus argued that the Kingdom of God actually belonged to such children.
While his disciples argued about who was going to be promoted to be first in the Kingdom, Jesus frustrated them (and if we are honest, frustrated us) by doing things like moving down to sit at the lowest seat at the table, bending down to wash their feet, stooping down to welcome small children, crouching down to forgive a sinner, reaching down to serve the poor, lowering himself down to accept the outcast, touch the leper, heal the sick, and raise the dead.
While others exercised worldly power to move up, climb up, and advance, Jesus exercised a strange and peculiar power that always propelled him in the opposite direction. It is not a power that rules but is a power that serves. It is not a power that takes but is a power that gives. It is not a power that seizes but is a power that suffers. It is not a power that dominates but is a power that dies.
And today, we remember that, nearing the culmination of his downward life, Jesus comes into Jerusalem to save the world, riding a borrowed donkey with a handful of disciples stumbling, fumbling and bumbling behind him. The whole scene, in the words of Henri Nouwen, looks “downright stupid.”
This is the narrow and seemingly foolish way of downward mobility, the descending way of Jesus toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless–toward all who thirst and hunger justice and compassion. What do they have to offer? Not success, not popularity, not riches, not worldly power, but the way to life, full, complete, abundant and eternal.
From This Church Is Going Down, April 13, 2014.
And Jesus said to go and do this. Go out, move out, and reach out to strangers. Love your neighbors. Yes, this world is very frightening beyond our walls. And the truth is our neighbors are downright scary. But our neighbors are also thirsty. Welcome, engage, touch. Make yourselves vulnerable to another. For there is no other way to fulfill the purpose for which you were created—to seek and make genuine peace in this world. This is discipleship. This is following the way of Jesus. It is done face-to-face, hand-to-hand, person-to-person. We cringe. Because we know that this kind of hospitality is risky. It involves openness and intimacy with another.
From Ricky Business, June 22, 2013.
Why churches are losing members
I believe one of the reasons many churches are losing members today is because, for many, the church does not look like Jesus. I believe people still love Jesus and want to follow Jesus today; however, the church does not look like a group of people who have decided to follow Jesus. Church members do not look like a group of people who are on a mission for others but look more like some type of religious club created for the members in order to make them feel holier and superior than others.
This is perhaps why the first thing Jesus says we must do once we decide we want to follow him is to “deny ourselves.” We must learn that this thing called “discipleship,” this thing called “church,” is not about us. It is not about achieving a good, happy and successful life or even an eternal life.
Discipleship is not about receiving a blessing. It is about being a blessing to others. It is not about feeding our souls. It is about feeding the hungry. It is not about finding a home. It is about welcoming the outsider. It is not about acquiring spiritual riches. It is about giving everything away to the poor. It is not about getting ahead. It is about sharing with people who can barely get by. It is not about triumph. It is about sacrifice. It is not about gaining eternal life for ourselves. It is about dying to ourselves.
I believe the reason that many churches struggle today is because, in our attempt to entice, excite and gain new members, we have made the church all about us. We have said, “Come, and join our church where we have programs that are certain to benefit your life!” Instead of saying: “Come and join our church where you will be given opportunities to give your life away. Come and join our church where you will be encouraged to sacrifice and to serve expecting nothing in return.”
From Renewing Our Discipleship Mission, August 24, 2014.
Wise ones still seek him
I believe there is something within all of us, deep within our most selfish, indulgent and decadent selves, even in the heart of sin city, that yearns to associate with those who love others more than self, with those who humbly, courageously and sacrificially serve, expecting absolutely nothing in return.
And I believe there is something within even the most devout church cynic, even within the ones who have all but given up on organized religion, that desires to be more like Jesus. And they still are hoping that somewhere, somehow, some way, a church exists in this broken world that looks and acts like more Jesus than a country club for the pure and self-righteous.
From The Least of These or The Exalted of Us, September 1, 2013.