Dating Jesus. Could we be doing that? Whether we are aware or not, the church today is challenged by a growing population of attenders who, unlike Jesus or the early church, are more concerned about what the church can do for them or offer them than how they can engage in the kingdom principles of personal spiritual maturity and sacrificial efforts to advance the cause of Christ. One symptom of this type of “faith mentality” is that we have become a nation of “church shoppers.” This mentality applies equally to the way people respond to the call of Jesus, and it is far from the example of discipleship that Jesus set for His followers to replicate.
We don’t want to get too deeply attached where it may be awkward to comfortably break it off. We experience struggle with the concept of going “all in,”whether that means a personal challenge of being available to serve or assist in the practical workings of the church, the planned, generous and joyful giving of our finances to facilitate effective ministry, or even maintaining a margin of time and making it a priority to reach into the community to seek and serve the lost as Jesus did. Dating means we keep our options open, right? Being in some form of a relationship but still keeping our eyes on the horizon just in case there’s something better “out there.” It appears this “better” competition to discipleship and a deep life of real faith is a deeper priority for self. We keep ourselves from this rich engagement with Christ by much lesser things. One day we will look back and see what we’ve missed by a life only partially spent for Christ.
Real discipleship, a true sharing of Christ life, implies accountability. Not in the sense of “big brother” watching and judging, but the necessity of affirming and constructive counsel which can only be found in doing life together. We sometimes bristle at the thought of what could result from a greater transparency and resist being bound by some type of covenantal commitment, forsaking the depth and joy found in these very same relationship opportunities. People, relationships, are the true wealth of life!
Like it or not, in our consumeristic society, people’s relationship to a church is largely based on whether it meets their needs or checks the boxes of what they are looking for as a church. Inevitably what this means is that if things don’t change to suit me or my expectations aren’t adequately met, I can make a change too and you likely won’t even see me leave. As a Pastor, I absolutely hate it when that happens. As a leader though, we live with the tension of serving a people with a tenuous commitment. It’s so hard to help create a relational community when it’s so easy to be a consumer, make no investment in a faith community and keep your bags packed for the next best thing.
The church was intended to be a “contrast society,” whose principals are as constant as magnetic North yet often run counter to the cultural trends and imperatives. As our culture moves further from the moorings of a Judeo-Christian orientation, the biblical Christian community has the option to be that people of “radical nonconformity” as John Stott describes it. The apostle Peter calls us a “royal priesthood, a holy nation.” (1Ptr. 2:9) To be holy is to be called out, to be different.
In this climate of intimidation, those who align themselves with Christ must ask themselves what they have to offer. As a result of our response to and relationship with Christ, do we have something vital and life giving? Do others want what we possess, what we prize? When people look at you and me and consider what it might mean to be a Christian, are they asking themselves “If I became a Christian, would I be trading up or trading down?” Think About It.