Asleep at the Wheel: Diagnosing Our Problem in Discipleship as the Church
As I have been reading the Bible over the Summer, playing a bit of catch up in my own Bible Reading Plan, I spent a good bit of time reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as the Book of Acts. This covers the life and ministry of Jesus as well as His earliest followers. As I read I was struck by the ways Jesus and His followers caused the world around them to take notice – some in faith, and others in overt rejection. There was little disinterest in Jesus and those who became followers of Him.
This observation though also made me lament our present reality as a church.
If Jesus and His early followers saw people drawn to Jesus and become redeemed, restored, and renewed people in Him, why is this not more the case today?
I think part of the issue is that we – the church – tend to rest on past experiences of God’s grace, or we rust our spiritual senses through a life of distraction and a culture of disillusionment that is prevalent throughout our world. The tragedy is that we think this is normal.
My spiritual mentor Mike Hearon with Campus Outreach back at Augusta State University where I went to college and came to faith in Christ, used to tell us and challenge us all the time, saying: “Some men die by bullets, others die from flames. Most men die, inch by inch, playing silly little games.” Modern philosopher Noam Chomsky has said that the vision of modern man is someone sitting alone in the dark staring at a screen.
Is that all life is meant to be? Is that why we are here – to survive and simply make it through the day and make plans to binge-watch TV shows? We know – even if it’s just at a subconscious level – that we were meant to live for so much more; to experience life differently than what is taken to be normal.
Some of us struggle with thinking that God is simply absent from our lives. But I wonder if it’s not us who, in our distracted, disillusioned, and digital world, are the absent ones in the relationship with God.
Are we as people asleep? Are we as Christians asleep? Are we as a church asleep? In Ephesians 5 Paul says to the church to watch their way of life and make sure it conforms to the truth, beauty, and goodness of Christ Himself; they are to “Walk as children of light.” He quotes the Old Testament Psalms to help them – the church – wake up to reality, “Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
I think sometimes we misunderstand how much time we actually have, and we get so comfortable just going through life, checking our boxes, going to church, living a good, moral lifestyle, parenting our kids, working, playing, and whatever else it is we’re doing. These things are fine but we are not saved just to keep our salvation to our selves in a privatized and periodic corner we visit occasionally and just go about living a decent life.
God saves us not only so we can follow Him, but also to use us to bless the lives of others. If we are asleep, then we’re asleep to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s work inside of us will grow dull, and then we’re asleep to anyone else’s needs around us. We’re just going through the motions and calling it life.
You and I can go through life every single day the same way for sixty-, seventy-, eighty- or more years, and call it a life, but that’s not really living.
We the church – the collective people of God – need to wake up to the reality of life with God, in Christ, by the Spirit, for the sake of the world that He loves (cf. John 3:16).
We need to revisit what it means to follow Jesus and become once again His people of irresistible influence for the glory of God and the good of our community.
In our next post, we will dive deeper into the solution available to us; Wake Up Call and Solution to Our Problem of Discipleship in the Church.
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PS – If you want to know more about the historical influence of Jesus and early Christianity, check out this great book by Baylor Professor Rodney Stark, which is an excellent book-length but readable treatment on this topic. Go Bears!