WE are a consumer-society and we like to meet our personal needs by the route of plenty of choice. That mindset in the church stands opposed to the disciple’s call to put Jesus’ needs of us first. [Bullring, Birmingham: Image Birmingham Mail]
What it isn’t
PART of working out what something is, is working out exactly what it isn’t. We like to think we are disciples of Jesus – doing rather well at it really – but He might ask us some hard questions. Jesus always seeks to discover where our hearts are, and that’s the area where we most frequently get in a muddle.
Could you put a tick against any of these categories?
I have my favourite seat? We are all creatures of habit, and the Sunday routine has a way of defining us. Probably more than we would like. The disciple call is a call to step outside our comfort zones and little securities we create. Jesus, it is said, didn’t have a place to lay his head. His call to us is not a military on-exercises austerity, but a willingness to be flexible and be available to be deployed.
Sunday-only. Disciples have to develop the capacity to live for Jesus 24/7 and live a spiritual life which is joined up with everything else which is going on. There’s a feel-good factor about Bible teaching but being a disciple is about growing, and growing happens in all the interactions that follow a Sunday gathering – small groups and different spheres of serving in and outside the church context. A Sunday mentality belongs on the repentance list.
Consumer – is this church meeting my needs? This is one of the biggest blockages to the 21st century first-world church, and it’s one of the main reasons we are not doing our mission well. If our focus is on what we want, it cannot be on what Jesus wants. If our priority is to meet our needs, how can we meet Jesus’ needs? For some of us, this is the biggest crunch.
Set in our ways? I am and to be honest, who isn’t. This goes back to our human gravitation to habit and self-made security. At many times I have been a leader of change but at the same time, I find change difficult. I complain even when the supermarket changes its aisle layouts again! However in our lives as disciples, we encounter a God who is always doing a new thing. The church of Jesus Christ is always evolving – the same gospel, much the same theology, but the way we express it and the connection points with others are being led by the innovative and creative Holy Spirit. It’s a hard act to follow, to give new meaning to a well-worn phrase.
Church-centric One of those ‘set in our ways’ positions is to see the Christian life as church-centric. Back in the day, it always was. It was a world of famous preachers and preaching centres, of meetings of various kinds and it led to living in a kind of ‘church world’ that had little room or indeed time, for others. As disciples, we are not just ‘on a mission’, we are the mission. That takes a change of mind-set.
On a different ‘mission’ Mission in the UK spiritual climate does not see quick results. It takes faith and perseverance. So we have this tendency to find other missions and niches which seem to work better for us. The latest directions in ministry, church specialities, overseas connections, particular emphases – none of these are intrinsically wrong but can become idols or sources of imbalance. The enemy is adept in pushing us a bit too far and too fast until a good direction turns into misdirection. As disciples of Jesus we must retain a sense of balance – and the mission to which Jesus has called us. We are probably where we are for a reason.
This just how I am. Cranky and at times overwhelmed with issues I don’t want to share – it’s a picture we all relate to. We all come into the kingdom carrying some baggage – not everything gets sorted out at conversion. There will still be people we need to forgive, lifestyle issues we need to address, untrue perceptions jostling with the truth of God’s word – a good example is my image of myself (poor self-esteem?) set against how God sees me as His loved and precious child. We all struggle with these things at first and need some help in repenting of what needs to be put right, forgiving unconditionally those who have lashed us with words or actions and basically getting right with God according to His definition of ‘right’. The early church knew this and took a lot of time and trouble to catechise new believers thoroughly before baptism. I have observed emotional and spiritual freedom to be one of the most significant factors in people making the transition from staying as relatively unfruitful believers, to being released as growing and effective disciples.