From church hopping and shopping to razzle dazzle entertainment and marketing gimmicks, a consumer mentality has infiltrated Christianity. (If you missed Church Mart, Part One read it here.) Does this attitude hurt our faith and the church or is it a needed adaptation to our culture?
In his book “Bible Study Methods,” Rick Warren touches on how our culture’s need for entertainment has influenced Christianity. “When carried over into spiritual matters, it (entertainment and marketing) becomes self-centered religion and is definitely not biblical. That’s why so much is being said today about following Jesus, but little is said about the cost of discipleship. We offer prizes to get Christians to come to church when they ought to be coming because they love the Savior.”
The truth Warren hits on in his comments is this: a consumer mentality in the Christian faith is in direct opposition to the attitude of true discipleship reflected in Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 we’re told that we are “not our own.” We’ve been “bought at a price.” Likewise, in Romans 14:7-8, the Apostle Paul reminds us that “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”
My life verse – which I often fail miserably to follow – is Galatians 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ. This is the heart and attitude of the Christian faith. There is not an ounce of “what’s in it for me” mentality.
In the classic devotional book “My Utmost for His Highest,” Oswald Chambers elaborates on Galatians 2:20. “These words mean the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands, and the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus… not following my own ideas, but choosing absolute loyalty to Jesus… The passion of Christianity comes from deliberately signing away my own rights and becoming a bondservant of Jesus Christ.”
You won’t find that on EBay. Our culture does not hold up dependence, submission, and subordination as ideals to attain. In fact, it promotes just the opposite. Independence, self-gratification, and “me-first” are king!
What did Jesus say about all this? Luke 14:26-28 is just one of several passages where Jesus talks about discipleship.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
This passage highlights at least four vital characteristics of discipleship:
1. Priority – Jesus must be more important than everything else in our lives, including family.
2. Lifestyle – Following Jesus is not something we do just on Sundays or in the morning during our quiet time. We are to following Him every minute of every day. It permeates our life, it isn’t simply part of our life.
3. Obedience/submission – For Jesus, the cross was the ultimate and complete act of obedience to the Father.
4. Conscious Choice – Jesus told us to “count the cost.” Are we willing to pay the price of following Him? Unfortunately, many of us say “no” and miss out on the unlimited blessings.
Is discipleship like Jesus described necessary for Christians? Can’t we be a Christian without being one of those “sold-out disciples?” In his book “The Complete Book of Discipleship,” author Bill Hull says that because of cultural pressure, “we evangelicals accept and even encourage a two-level Christian experience in which only serious Christians pursue and practice discipleship, while grace and forgiveness is enough for everyone else.”
Jesus gave a final command before He ascended into heaven. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” For Jesus, discipleship was not an option. It isn’t an upgrade for those few Christians who want to invest a little more of themselves.
Christianity without the living Christ is inevitable Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer