When Jesus met his disciples on the mountain in Galilee following his resurrection he charged them to change the world. In his authority they were to go make disciples of all nations. They were to accomplish this by teaching them the things he had taught them, along with all the Holy Spirit would remind them of when he came.
They certainly thought "discipleship" was all about presenting Christ and calling people to leave their selfishness and sin to follow him. Today we've got it all turned around.
We've traded a discipleship culture for a consumer culture in far too many churches today.
In a discipleship culture the church calls sinners to Jesus. In churches aligning with a consumer culture they market Jesus to the sinners.
Discipleship declares Jesus as Lord. Consumerism advertises Jesus as Life-Coach.
A discipleship culture recognizes the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to do the Work of God in the lives of people who are transformed to live out the Love of God. The primary call is to leave the life of sin to find real life in Christ. Jesus said it best: "If any would come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."
When a consumer culture takes root in the church the whole trajectory of ministry changes. The simplest way to describe it is this: satisfaction, not sanctification, becomes the goal. We buy into the idea that people first must be happy in order to want to be holy. But this is certainly backward.
Scripture is clear: holiness before God is impossible apart from a saving relationship with God.
Discipleship begins when God the Spirit uses the Gospel to transform a sinful rebel into a forgiven disciple. The discipleship culture is all about the Gospel, from its regenerative power to its progressive sanctifying effect. This means many things, but in this conversation it simply means those without Jesus will never be "healthy" without him, no matter how many of their problems get solved through association with the church and God's people.
I am all for being attractive and accepting of people, but let's be clear: we are called to make disciples - Christ-followers! - who are transformed from sinners into saints, and filled with a passion for God's glory.
The church has never been free to shape its own mission, craft its own message, or choose its own tools. Jesus charged us to go make disciples by teaching them to obey what he has taught us. Does this seem too basic, too simple, or too old-fashioned to compete with the complexities of modern life? Absolutely! But God has chosen to work in a way that puts all the focus on him, and grants him all the glory when the simple accomplishes the significant.
Christ has asked us to partner with him in the greatest rescue mission ever. Let's not be so attached to our consumer-driven culture that we forfeit the chance to one day hear him say "well done!"