Sorry this post is a day late. Thursday was an enormously full day – my first full day in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I can’t wait to fill you all in soon. Until then… I asked my friend Chris Davis to share some thoughts. Chris is an awesome man of God whom I truly respect… and he and his wife Victoria just welcomed their new baby son into the world! How exciting!
I know you’ll be blessed by his words. He writes regularly at his blog, ChrisDavisBlog.com. You should check it out and keep checking it out. Thanks again, man, for contributing to my blog! You are awesome!
Ever since I gave my heart to Jesus as my Savior I’ve had a heart for discipleship. For those that don’t know what that means, it is typically referring to recently converted Christians and the process of teaching them about Christ, the faith, His word and how to live as a Christian. I’ve seen two extremes in discipleship.
1. A church takes those that recently gave their hearts to Jesus and puts them through a multiple week study course of breaking down Scripture. While this is an outstanding approach, it can oftentimes be overwhelming and deter people from the faith due to discouragement of not being able to follow along with the program.
2. Most churches have no discipleship program. I usually describe this as taking someone and shoving them into a dark room, shutting the door behind them leaving them all alone and telling them to navigate through the room with no lights or assistance. An impossible feat with potential for much damage.
There are also people that would label themselves as Christians that have been a part of the faith for years, but still struggle to feel like they are the type of Christian they should be. Christianity is something that many people have a lot of questions about but are often too afraid to ask. If they do ask, they are often met with blank responses or a quick response of the wrong answer. The church must be prepared to answer the questions of recent converts, or even strong believers that don’t know where to stand on certain topics and even be willing to admit when we don’t know and navigate to the answer together with the individual.
The Bible is full of many commands and teachings and it can sometimes be difficult to wonder if your are following them properly. Jesus summarized it best and also presented the most simplistic approach to discipleship in Matthew 22:36-40:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This sounds pretty easy, but what does love mean? I believe this current generation values relationships and is constantly looking for authentic connections with genuine people. It is often preached in churches that if you look at your checkbook (who even uses those anymore??) and see where your money is going, you’ll see what you love. While I agree with this in theory, I believe it’s even more true for our time. I have no problem loaning money or simply giving it away to someone in need, but to sit down and actually spend time with someone and open up to them? That’s love. To love the Lord your God is to spend time with Him. This means spending time in prayer and reading the Bible, His words to us. Anyone can throw money into a collection plate (although even tithing seems to be becoming taboo among modern Christians) but how do you spend your time?
If you love God, it will be reflected on how you spend your time. I can’t honestly tell myself I love my wife if I don’t communicate to her, pay attention to her, or tend to her. In this same way, spending time with God will allow us to better understand what it means to follow Him.
Another point on this topic that I feel compelled to make because it really bothers me: I hate when you ask people why they love Jesus and they say, “because He gave His life for me”. While this sounds great and really “Christian-ese,” how fickle is it to love someone because they did something for you? I feel like that’s a slap in the face to God and makes Him seem like this magical piggy bank in the sky that we love because He does things for us. I love God for who He is. Adam and Eve knew Him as the Creator, their love for Him was simply for who He is. If God never does anything for you, He is still deserving of your love simply because of who He is.
The next point – to love our neighbors.
Who among us can actually say that we love our neighbors? I am ashamed to say that I can’t even tell you my neighbors names sometimes, so I definitely fail at this. While Jesus may not have meant your literal neighbor, the point still remains. I love spending time around people that have recently given their lives to Jesus because they are often on a mission to save the world and are filled with this almost annoying (because it’s convicting) sense of purpose. They join church outreach programs and look for ways to impact the community. Over time many of these people come off of almost a spiritual high and can sometimes stop reaching out or often disappear. This happens when we begin to serve out of obligation rather than love for our neighbors. You know this turning point is coming when you tell yourself “I have to go here” or “I have to do this,” rather than “I get to go here” or “I get to do this.” As exemplified by Christ and His sacrificial love for us, love requires sacrifice. If you can’t sacrifice your time, your most precious commodity, for your neighbor or someone in need, do you really love them?
I believe the second point is completely contingent on the first one. Our love for people must come out of our love for God. It is completely okay not to have every answer for every question that you come across in Christianity or from someone inquiring about the faith. If we follow these two commands and love God and neighbor, you will find that the rest of the gospel becomes more clear as you grow deeper in Christ. Regardless of your job or title, we are all called to be disciples of Christ or followers of Christ. Let’s correct the disconnect of discipleship that too many church suffer from and LOVE!!
So, whats love got to do with it? EVERYTHING!