(This post is the 5th and final blog in a series about the nature of discipleship in our churches today.)
Making disciples is what the Church was made by God to do. In this series I explain why we aren’t doing it well (Read it here) and two things that stand in our way (read about them here—Roadblock #1: the Christian message that is too easy to be good, and Roadblock #2: we have traded acts for facts).
But there is hope! Blog #4 reminds us that the first solution is that we must tell the full story!
Last but not least, here is Solution #2 for helping the Church do a better job of making true disciples of Jesus…
Solution #2 Reintroduce Rigor
If we want to be a church that effectively makes disciples of Jesus—people who actually value doing what God asks disciples to do and who actually live lives that impact the world around them—we must (must!) reintroduce and value rigor. Good old fashioned rigor.
American culture is drunk—to the point of absolute delirium—on ease. From fast food to self-parking cars to compact computers (disguised as telephones) that keep us constantly connected, we have made “ease” the most desirable quality for life. Yet none of this has made us happier or healthier. And the proof is in the pudding. Life may be getting quicker and easier, but it isn’t getting better.
The same is true for discipleship. Ideas like “Knowing God in 40 Days” and “10 Easy Steps to Life Transformation” are appealing but, simply put, they don’t work. Knowing God and being transformed into the image of Christ is neither quick nor easy.
Here’s proof: think about the most Godly, contented, peaceful, and joyful people you know. Has their life been easy? Do they do things quickly? Heck—are they young? Nope. None of the above.
Jesus took his closest followers on a three-year journey of discipleship. Three years. And even after all that time they were hardly scratching the surface. But upon Jesus’ departure they welcomed the Holy Spirit as God’s guide for life and obeyed the Father in a hostile world (one like most of us have zero experience with). Even their deaths were at the hands of enemies who hated their God and their fellow believers. Easy was not a word they used for life or discipleship.
So why do we think it’s a word we should use?
A good friend recently reminded me of a much better word: Rigor. I could not tell you the last time I have even heard the word rigor to describe the Christian life, much less a desirable American life.
Definition #3 in Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable.”
Let me remind us again of how Jesus himself defined being a disciple:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”
Sound like a rigorous life?
Any life in which we give up what comes naturally to us is a life of rigor. And the life Jesus wants for us does not come naturally. But, though our culture would try to convince us otherwise, the life Jesus wants for us is far, far better than the un-rigorous life we all prefer.
The rigorous life Jesus has made us for is one in which we do nothing out of selfishness (Philippians 2:3), value everyone as much as we value ourselves (Matthew 22:39), prioritize nothing above God (Exodus 20:3-6), and love and pray for our enemies – our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Tough list, huh?
Yes. However, the goal of discipleship – of pursuing God’s Kingdom on earth—was never ease. And because we are a rigor-less people, we often stop truly following Jesus before we ever experience just how good, freeing, fulfilling, powerful, and true doing so is.
And our families, friends, society, and world pay the price.
Jesus was willing to do something excruciatingly difficult because of the results his act of rigor would yield. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Why would he not ask us to do something similar?
And why would we not experience similar glory?
But only when we understand discipleship and embrace it as it really is.