My daughter is a genius. She is only 5, but one day she will be a brain surgeon, will run the country or will do something else really clever. She is great to have around when you are shopping because you can ask her what else you were going to get and she remembers from a conversation an hour earlier.
She is attending a Christian holiday club this week and there was an opportunity yesterday for the children to recite the Bible memory verse to win a sweet. Knowing how addicted to sugar my little girl is I asked her afterwards why she hadn’t put her hand up to have a go. This is what she said:
‘I remembered the first bit, Jesus said, but I couldn’t remember the rest.’
I wonder how many Christians would say the same? We know Jesus said things and we know roughly what some of those things were but perhaps we aren’t really sure on many of the specifics.
At Orchard Baptist recently we challenged people to read a gospel and then we talked during the next Sunday service about what we had noticed. Most people who contributed to the discussion said that they were surprised by how hard and direct Jesus was at times. I wonder how many of us have an image of Jesus as gentle meek and mild? Where does that image come from? Is it representative of who Jesus is? I don’t think it is, but neither is hard or harsh Jesus is a fair description either.
The real Jesus wants to make disciples, not gain followers.
A person wanting more followers will always pander to needs and try to do what is popular. The person making disciples wants them to become more like Jesus which means sacrifice and change in life and this will involve a leader doing what is unpopular at times.
Sadly many churches operate on the followers model seeking to attract people to swell their numbers. This is very similar to the bribery tactic businesses use on social media: ‘Like our page to enter a competition’. Some pastors are so desperate to have more followers that they are afraid of upsetting people and they run the risk of burning themselves out serving their customers every need.
Some church leaders don’t care where their new followers have come from as long as it increases their own numbers. Many pastors don’t help themselves either, one of the first questions we often ask each other is ‘how big is your church?’ Is this how ministers keep score? Surely the real question should be ‘how many disciples are you making?’
Imagine the conversation where Jesus explains to modern church leaders why he only chose 12, why he left when the crowd tried to make him king and why he taught so bluntly on one occasion that the crowds left him. Jesus wants to make disciples, not just gain followers.
Will you take up the read a gospel challenge? If you will, please comment below to let me know what surprises, challenges and encourages you find as you read? Can we come back to following the real Jesus and live in the way he wants us to. I’m fed up with the how big is your church culture, let’s make disciples and see the Kingdom of God grow.
My biggest shock in recent years was the realization that Jesus’ primary concern is not that I should be comfortable. I was going through a hard time and was pretty frustrated with God. I was doing what he had called me to but was facing all kinds of opposition and stress. I cried out to God, ‘Why would you let me go through this?’ The answer came to me over a period of time as it dawned on me that Jesus’ followers often had a hard time. I had bought into consumer Christianity which says that if you are a good Christian then life will be easy as God gives you the good stuff. The Bible says the opposite, ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3.12).
When we read the gospels and follow the real Jesus then we are set free from our false assumptions about who Jesus is. This means that we aren’t disappointed when Jesus doesn’t do the things in our lives in the way we would like him to. It also means that we begin to live for the things that really matter.
I am learning to let Jesus be Lord and to set the agenda rather than for me to follow the watered down nice Jesus that Christianity has invented. May we rediscover who Jesus really is and may we try to become more like him as we take up our cross and follow him.