You Mean I Have to Go Back Next Week Too?
My grandson Austin started kindergarten this year and he enjoyed his first week. Over the weekend, his older brother asked mom if she would come have lunch with him. Austin answered, “Of course we will.” Jamie then explained to Austin that he could not eat with his brother because he would have to eat at his school. Austin: “You mean I have to go back next week too?”
It was evidently quite the shock for him. They were nice enough not to inform him that he would be going almost every week for the next 12 or so years.
And it reminded me of the difficulty church leaders have in discipling new converts. It is almost as if they are surprised at what God expects from his people. But Jesus once told a story to remind us that some new disciples would quickly fall away and others would let the worries of the world keep them from being productive. In spite of that reminder, it is remains frustrating to deal with Christians who do not see the importance of community, communal worship, and communion.
It is--and always has been--a problem. But I do think we can be more intentional with our new disciples in order to help them understand what God expects of them.
First, let’s be sure not to set the bar too low. It is as if we are so afraid of offending someone that we minimize the expectations. Following Jesus is a call to radical life. We die to ourselves and our sin in order to live a new life by faith in Jesus. Choosing to follow Jesus is not like joining a civic club made up of nice people doing good things for others. And we should be clear about that when inviting people to follow Jesus.
And second, stop treating baptism as an act instead of a death. When a person is convinced by logic that God requires baptism as an act or step that ensures salvation, it sometimes becomes more difficult to teach them to live in the Jesus way. It sets an expectation that following Jesus is just a series of actions. When baptism is seen as sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, then one expects to live a new life. Not just additional acts that you must convince them to do--or not to do--but a life to be lived as Jesus did.
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”