“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
– Jesus of Nazareth, Mark 8.34-35
The passage cited above from the Gospel of Mark is still one of the most challenging instructions in all of scripture. It would be easy or easier if this was a part-time challenge. But it’s not. It would be easy or easier if what Jesus meant was to simply be a member of a church and show up one or two times a week for the same worship, Bible-study, fellowship meals, etc… But that is not what he meant.
Don’t get me wrong. Worship, Bible-study, fellowship meals, etc… They’re all good and necessary things if we are living the life of Jesus in its fullness that we are called to. The problem is when we mistakenly reduce discipleship to these limited activities. Too often though, I think we are guilty of doing just that…including myself. And I suspect that some of it has to do with the fact that such activities don’t place much of a demand on us. At least not the sort of personal cost involved when when pursue the very sort of life that Jesus lived and taught.
A few weeks ago, I read a tweet that asked “Don’t you get tired of being a full-time minister and a part-time follower of Christ?” My first thought was “I do.” And I felt that way (and still do) because I know that I can choose to be a full-time follower of Jesus and still be a minister (preacher, pastor, evangelist, etc…) yet if my choice is not intentionally made to be a follower of Jesus first, I most likely will be just wind up being a full-time minister and a part-time follower of Jesus.
The same is true for churches. I tweaked the tweet question a bit and posed the following question to the church I preach for. “Don’t you get tired of being a full-time religious organization and a part-time follower of Jesus?” My intention was not insult or disparage anyone. I asked the question both pastorally and prophetically because I know the reality. Churches are by nature a religious organization. But they can also be a religious organization that’s sold out to being a full-time follower(s) of Jesus. But that requires intentionality in what they do, the choices they make, the goals they set, etc… But without that intentionality, church will most likely wind up being a full-time religious organization and a part-time follower of Jesus.
Now here is the caveat. To find the life Jesus spoke of, Jesus said we would first need to lose a life. What life is it that minister’s need to lose? What life is it that church need to lose? These are the questions we must face, the questions Jesus is confronting us with, if we are to be his followers…to be his missioned church.