Archive for July, 2013

All the Wrong Things


All the Wrong Things…

Mark 9:31″…for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. 33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest.”
It seems to me that the gravity of this faith is in our willingness to give ourselves away to serve a Kingdom greater than any of us. We have somehow managed to boil this faith down to a matter of personal salvation and decision-making status in our communities. How did that happen? Yes, it’s about our salvation, but it’s also about our ability to give ourselves away. As I heard a Biblical scholar once say, “Jesus is talking about climbing the cross for the sake of others…and his disciples are arguing over organizational charts”. As true as it was then, how often do we find ourselves caught up in all the wrong things now? How many con gregations split over who gets credit and who gets to call the shots? How many people walk away from their communities of faith because they have been sold the lie that their withering criticism and “gifts” for evaluating the labors of others are some kind of spiritual gift? How many do they chase away from faith before they walk away? Before we get really upset, let’s not forget that many have been taught that that way of practice is what it means to “serve the Lord”…and they have been taught it all their lives…just like the disciples in our passage were.

A statistic worth looking very hard at (though I can’t immediately cite its source) is that of children who are raised in homes that self-identify as “Christian” homes, 90% make a decision for Christ. When studied at age 35, only 22% of those people who made that decision have marks of Christ-following. There’s something wrong with our algorithm for disciple-making, and I think it’s at least partly wrapped up in what’s going on in that passage. And there’s something wrong in our lenses, or hermeneutic, for “church”. People are discipled en-mass in classrooms with curriculum, instead of being disciples by coming alongside Christ-followers one-to-one in daily living. They get an hour on Sundays…maybe. But they don’t get hands-on connected to the Kingdom. We fill them up with words like “leader” and think that “corporate leadership” is a foundational Biblical principle. But “leadership” is only used once in the New Testament is a positive way…it’s actually used neutrally as a spiritual gift found in some and referring to roles in the church that are married to responsibilities, not status. Jesus, himself, only uses the word “church” 2-3 times in Scripture. In one clear usage of the word, he says, “I will build my church”. “Disciples”, on the other hand, is used at least 280 times. Jesus tells us to, “Go, and make disciples…”. The difficult thing is getting people to follow the leadership of Jesus Christ…the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are supposed to be making disciples of Christ and releasing them into the harvest. We have to be willing to disciple them to make disciples and then to let them go…to release folks. If God doesn’t bring the life to the things we, and subsequently they, plant out there…and there should be a lot of little things being planted…then we have to be willing to let them die…and keep planting.

We get so bogged down in the survival of our congregations that we forget that it isn’t about the survival of our congregations. That’s Christ’s business. We spend so much time on the right organizational chart…who’s going to be at the top…and we fail to connect that to what’s going in our passage from Mark 9.  And we fail to see how much that grieves Jesus’ heart…God’s heart. It isn’t about organizational charts, or who’s going to be the greatest. It’s about the urgency of the mission that Christ has called us into. It isn’t about leadership.  It’s about people learning to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Leadership linked to responsibilities is a by-product of obedience. What’s called for is selflessness and servanthood.  As Neil Cole points out, if we truly disciple only two people per year, and teach them to disciple two people per year, then do the math…there’s a long runway, but in twenty years, one million people will be reached with the Good News of the Kingdom of God. That’s the mustard seed thing. How many people are reached through our Sunday school classes?

So…I am wondering, who is sitting around our supper tables, and who are we walking beside each day? Who are we drawing into relationship with Christ on a daily or nearly daily basis? It’s crazy to think that we can do that with a hundred people. It’s crazy to think we can do that with even fifty people. But we can do that with two people per year every year…and teach them to do the same. How much commercial curriculum teaches that way? If you know of some that does, let me know. In the meantime, the Bible is a pretty good source for teaching, especially when coupled with engagement with the mission.

But…what do you all think? What’s your sense of where the wheels have come off and where we have managed to get so far away from the Gospel?