Is this us: Do we sit in the pews with pious looks making religious sounds all the while watching the clock waiting for it to be over!  Every Sunday the game starts all over again and we rarely miss – we have season’s tickets all paid for with our tithe.   We root for Jesus.  We root for the preacher.  We root for the choir.  We listen to the sermon.  We lift our voices to the choruses and some of us shout amen!  But why – Oh why is Hockey Night in Canada better???

Dallas Willard writes; “Most problems in contemporary Churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ”.(Devotional Classics, Foster and Smith, p. 14)  Why do we go to church?  Our parents did.  It’s the thing to do when you have kids.  It’s a good place to belong.  The kids can find the ‘right’ kind of friends there.  Does anyone join out of conviction or desperation or brokenness?

Was the early church like this?  The Bible tells us it was extreme; “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.…” (Acts 2:43-45)  There were no cliques – everybody cared deeply for everyone else;  “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all . . . ” (Acts 4:32,33)  This is nothing like what church is today?   What happened?

Jesus didn’t sugar coat the demands that following Him would place upon people; “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.'” (Luke 9:57,58)  Jesus put the cost of discipleship out front and ‘on the table’; “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10: 37-39)  No one could say Jesus was following a ‘seeker friendly’ market plan.  We don’t imitate Jesus when we look to bring more people into our churches.

Dallas Willard argues that by making converts to a particular faith and practice and baptizing them into ‘church membership’ as opposed to discipleship our modern approach to church has watered down Christian life to making people mere bystanders. (Ibid, p. 14,15)

Not having made converts disciples, it is impossible for us to teach them how to live as Christ lived and taught.  That was not part of the package, not what they converted to.  When confronted with the example and teachings of Christ the response today is less one of rebellion or rejection than one of puzzlement; How do we relate to these?  What have they to do with us?

It is impossible for us in the church to teach others how to live as Christ lived and taught not only because our new members didn’t sign up for it but also because we don’t have a clue or inclination to do this ourselves.  Are we all fans gladly cheering on the evangelists and missionaries but don’t ask us to seriously get in the game.  Leave that for the professionals.

What is the cost of being a fan as opposed to being a disciple?  At first glance we could say; ‘Not much beyond our tithe and maybe some extra guilt ‘free will’ offerings for famine and disaster relief.’  Yet Dallas Willard points out that the true cost is enormous – an abundant life; “It costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10).  The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him . . . ” (Ibid. p. 16)

You get what you pay for.

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