It has been my experience that most of those who are active in the life of the church, in our time, are afraid to have serious spiritual conversations with other people. Why is that so?
Last week we talked about the central calling of all Christians to follow Christ, and the ordinariness of our responsibility to help others do the same. Indeed to not want to help others is perhaps a sign that we are not yet fully followers ourselves. It looks so simple in the life of Jesus and his apostles. “Come and see,” Jesus said. And then, “follow me.” Some did and some did not. It was undoubtedly ordinary Christian behavior, for many centuries, for Christians to do the same as their Lord. How did we let it become so difficult? What are we afraid of?
The first answer I would give is this: the church has greatly confused the central work of her corporate life. The vast majority of her efforts and resources are not going to the primary work of sharing the gospel until conversion, and then to the adequate nurture of those who are born again of the Spirit of God. Organizational participation has taken the place of heart change. Ask a true unbeliever to a church service, especially if they come once, and few ask another. The experience can be embarrassingly painful, and often ends the relationship with the outsider. Equating church attendance with beginning to follow Jesus is a grave mistake.
Further, my experience over a lifetime is that we (the church and her clergy) have also taught people that they do not know enough to be true Christians. Leaders model complex behaviors and teach complex theological opinions that confound many of those in the body of Christ. Keeping church traditions, almost all man made, are given priority over gospel living. Faithful worshippers, some who have attended over a lifetime, think that they do not know enough to help someone else. Or they think that to ask someone to come along with them to learn to be a follower of Jesus requires some supernatural calling along with superior knowledge.
Third, the ordinary churchman has no experience of direct, life on life discipleship. He or she has never seen it nor experienced it. To meet regularly with a few others, all who are seriously trying to understand how to live the Christian life, is not what they have learned. They have no natural, ordinary, path or pattern to invite someone to walk along with them. They are thus embarrassed or afraid. Sometimes both. Fundamentally the problem is this: they have not been discipled. They may indeed be deeply committed in an interior and personal way, but they do not know how to help another.
Is there any way to break free from this reality? I believe the Lord stands ready to give the Holy Spirit to anyone who desires that freedom. Pray and ask God to guide you to someone who knows what “make disciples” really means. And then ask someone else to join you. Two or three people is enough. What are we afraid of?
Next Week: Two or Three