I grew up in an era where you went to Church with your masked smile and didn’t share the struggles you were experiencing. You were always fine, presenting a picture-perfect facade. As a pastor’s wife, I struggled to leave the masquerade behind. Carole Mayhall’s book, Come Walk with Me, was inspiring. I wanted to make it a reality. There were times I wished for Carole to step out of the pages of her book and walk with me. I found that discipleship was an offense to some church-goers. Regrettably, I’m sure there were many others that were missed along the way who would have loved someone to come along side of them. I pray for God’s program to succeed despite my shortsightedness.
As age and maturity progress, Scripture reveals more and more of our responsibility to carry our brother’s load through discipleship. We will stand before the Lord with regrets or triumphs. Triumphantly, let us enter into another person’s world, walking with them, talking with them, feeling with them, serving with them, mourning with them, celebrating with them.
After working on this post and wondering where I was headed with it, I happened across Beth Moore’s “Living Proof” blog post in which she responded to the Texas Church shootings. As soon as I read it, I knew I could stop typing. Beth wrote what I was thinking; Amazing isn’t it? So why listen to me when you can read Beth Moore’s words 😉 –
As we search for words for what has befallen us, maybe 9/11 is the closest we can come to marking the birth of a different era, one distinguished by, of all horrific things, terror. . . .Wise, responsive action must be taken in coming days. There are outcries for legislation that need to be heard and reasonable measures to be taken for church security but this is an outcry for the fortification of the souls of our people. This is a plea for an awakening to the demands for responsible discipleship in the generation that has been entrusted to us, for training up and equipping strong, able Jesus-followers, sturdy living stones, tenderized by the love of Jesus, strengthened by His divine power.
I’ve thought over and over in the last five years, “we’re unprepared for what has befallen us.” Our discipleship, generally speaking, is not matching the demand of our violent, unstable days. … We have churches doing no discipleship at all which would have completely flummoxed first century church planters and begged the question “Why bother?” Few of us have the patience or time to address for the millionth time all the ways we’ve flung our church doors open to the pandemic narcissism of our culture. Show them a good time. Do not dare call out sin or call for service or sacrifice or, God forbid, actual commitment.
Those are tired discussions and I’m not in the mood to have them this morning. The discussion I’m in the mood to have is about revisiting the paradigm for discipleship in the early church where Jesus-followers were equipped to both suffer and rejoice. Not one or the other. Both. Take a look back at Matthew 10 and Luke 10 where Jesus sent out His followers and warned them what kinds of conditions they’d encounter. Look back at Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians. They were taught to serve one another in extreme hardship and that it would not finish them. Rather, it would flourish them. If it killed them, well, they’d be in the presence of the Lord. They were equipped for the inevitability of affliction and not just how to survive it but how to abound in it. This is the heritage of the saints. New Testament believers were trained – not just told but trained – to weep together and laugh together. To remember Christ’s death together. To live out authentic resurrection life that could not be explained in natural terms. They were taught to battle demonic powers and principalities. They were taught how to grieve with hope. They were taught how to repent and be restored. How to turn from the sin that was hemorrhaging their witness and their tenacity in Christ. They were trained in prayer and taught how to keep the faith. They were taught to anticipate with great joy the vivid life awaiting them in Christ on the other side of death and that these are mere shadows compared to the substance to come.
The church in America is dying for this kind of discipleship, for the real, live fly-in-your-face thing that results in lives that matter greatly in their communities. . . .I’m the furthest thing from a pessimist but I don’t think it’s going to get better. I think we may get reprieves of mercy but I fear we have entered a travail we will not soon escape and that it will intensify. Here’s where my optimism comes in handy: I may not think our conditions are going to get better but I think the church is. Jesus-followers have what it takes to serve this world. We have the Holy Spirit. Now we need the training on how to allow Him to work effectively and fruitfully among us. We need discipleship fit for our days. We need the Scriptures. We need to be taught in our churches not only how to deal with our personal suffering but how to deal with our community suffering as a people. We need to be taught our right to joy and how it flourishes most beautifully and colorfully in a landscape of difficulty. . . .I’ve got no great ending to this post. Just earnestness. We wish things were different. They’re not. But we can be different. We can be disciples. Real ones. Trained ones. Tenderhearted ones. Fortified ones. Effective ones. Strong ones. Joyful ones. Courageous ones. Compassionate ones. And the world will be the better for it.
That was just what I needed to hear! How about you? The only thing I would add is, LET’S START IN OUR HOMES: Serve one another even if it means extreme hardship; weep together, laugh together; teach the Scriptures; Be kind to one another, forgiving, joyful, and showing mercy. We need to start disciple-making in our individual homes, today!