Sloppy discipleship is everywhere. Literally everywhere…
I know… that’s a harsh, blunt and somewhat unpastoral statement, but I’m just a bit over it. I’m tired of excusing laziness, apathy and busyness in the name of being pastoral. I’m weary of conversations with long term believers that lack any kind of new learning and insight, or even the anticipation of something resembling joy and passion.
And what does a culture of sloppy discipleship breed?
You guessed it… More sloppy discipleship and when we’re all playing then no one gets to question it and say ‘hey isn’t the life of faith supposed to somewhat more challenging, inspiring and even demanding?’
But really – is this what we want?
It struck me today again as I was reading a piece in Eternity magazine about Jordan Peterson’s presence at the PragerU 2019 Summit (just $1500/ticket…) I must confess I have never read a Peterson book or listened to a Peterson lecture. He just doesn’t feel like my kinda guy. That said, I know many Christians seem to laud him as a hero and prophet, even though he makes no claims to faith. In fact it was his reason for not believing that sparked me to write this post.
When asked why he is not a Christian he responded with:
I thought, well … who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God? If they examined the way they lived, who would dare say that?”
Ouch!… That’s a brutal statement. Who would have the audacity to claim that their daily life actually reflects a belief in the kind of God they espouse? It stopped me in my tracks and caused me to reflect again ‘what evidence is there of God in my own everyday life?’ Some days I think I can sleep easy and other days not so much.
But by and large I feel we tolerate a lot of insipid and lack lustre Christian living as the norm and we get excited when someone actually starts to live with heartfelt passion. What’s with that?
The article goes on to quote Peterson again saying “So while I try to act like I believe, I never claim that I manage it.”
So to some degree Peterson is refusing to wear the badge because he is unable to consistently live in such a way that he could legitimately call himself a Christian.
And this is where it gets messy…
Because it’s kinda the point of the whole thing – that we can’t do it and there was this bloke called Jesus, the whole deal with the cross, forgiveness, grace etc… But maybe we have allowed grace to be a ‘get out of jail free’ card for people just too lazy/busy/indifferent to commit to rigorous discipleship?
If you’ve been feeling like I’ve been sinking the boots in a little with this post then you’re right I have – quite intentionally – and if you happen to be one of those insipid and lazy Christians then take it as a rocket…
When a person refuses to follow Jesus because he doesn’t feel he could actually live up to the call, but many of us claim to follow but with no evidence of transformed lives then we need to examine ourselves and ask what we have created.
Is this really Christianity?
What does that mean practically?
I feel like we have this default yardstick of Bible reading, prayer and church attendance – and to a large degree they have been inadequate metrics for assessing discipleship. But while they are poor measures they are good practices that if done with consistency will generally give us a foundation for living faith more consciously each day. If we position ourselves in a community that wrestles with the scriptures and that isn’t afraid to ask hard questions of application then we may well find ourselves inspired to live this counter-cultural life of discipleship. Of course the opposite is true too – remove yourself from community and spiritual disciplines and that will have the inverse effect.
In my business I have a basic rule that I try to embed in anyone who works for me. That is ‘we work as if we were Jesus and we treat the client as if they were Jesus.‘ It’s a really simple guide, but its actually helped me articulate a business philosophy as well as enabling me to behave in a Christlike way in the everyday challenges of life.
I would agree with Peterson when he said, “So while I try to act like I believe, I never claim that I manage it.” I too certainly wouldn’t claim to ‘manage it’ like I would hope. The difference between us however is that I have had a grace encounter that reminds me that I am loved, forgiven and saved no matter the ‘standard of my work’.
When we get too hardline on the performance end of discipleship we can actually miss the point of the cross, but when we swing too far into grace territory we can feel unable to call people to live lives that look more like Jesus.
And so the eternal wrestle continues – how to call people to radical discipleship in a culture of beautiful grace
Its gotta be possible.
That’s an interesting post.
” I thought, well … who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God? If they examined the way they lived, who would dare say that?”
Ouch!… That’s a brutal statement. Who would have the audacity to claim that their daily life actually reflects a belief in the kind of God they espouse? It stopped me in my tracks and caused me to reflect again ‘what evidence is there of God in my own everyday life?’ Some days I think I can sleep easy and other days not so much.”
A hiccup that’s been growing for me is along the lines of ‘where is this God who makes all these claims and did all those amazing things through Jesus and other first century Christians?’.
I can beat myself up for my failings, try to work up joy – maybe even feel something like it, pray the right prayers, squeeze my eyes tight shut to try to believe what I prayed, read my bible daily, get up early, fast, and – well you get the picture. My friend with cancer still died, people round me don’t get healed or become Christians, etc etc. A friend I respected as a leader and father once said that it’s a war and sometimes we lose battles, but where does the almighty God lose battles? When I asked why the dead didn’t get raised when I prayed for them then he said “if it had been Africa then they would have been” before apologising.
I don’t believe Jesus is a fantasy, but I no longer believe it’s a simple case of discipleship and all will be well.