-Peters & Waterman, In Search for Excellence
Here’s my problem. I actually believe our role as Christians today is just as significant as God’s servants in the Bible. Our call is no less real as that of Abraham or Moses, Peter or Paul. Moreover, the mission God has give us at MainStreet is no less significant than the mission of Jesus and his disciples… In fact, we’re merely living out the next chapter of the same story, carrying forward the same mission. We’re obeying the Great Commission.
So, my problem is that I view my life, my purpose, my commitment, my time as wrapped up in this same story I read in the Bible. I let the Biblical narrative shape my outlook on life. I let Jesus’ hard, demanding words to his would-be disciples shape my own attitude to would-be participants of our mission.
This is a dangerous road to walk down. There is no limit to the insane things God might ask of someone willing to go “all in” for his mission and cause! We pastors talk somewhat flippantly about “surrendering to Christ” — but surrender is a serious thing. It will make you a bit strange and ruin your life — in the best possible way.
So, what’s my problem?
The problem is that the biblical story and the American story are incompatible. American Disciples and Biblical Disciples are not the same. American Disciples tend to treat ministry, the church, and local mission as a side-hobby in their life, something to give a few hours to each month for a season of time. Biblical Disciples like Paul, on the other hand, see themselves as “slaves of Christ.” Slaves are stuck, there by God’s command, not by choice, and only God can release someone from their duty when he sees fit.
American Disciples think Paul or Abraham or Jeremiah or Jesus are religious fanatics, a bit overly zealous, or a part of an elite class of Apostles. Biblical Disciples, however, see these men as just other ordinary fools who have been snatched up into God’s great Kingdom movement, and wouldn’t entertain the idea of giving less than 100%.
I love Paul because he got the radical contrast between worldly sanity and kingdom insanity, between worldly wisdom and God’s foolishness. He would rather be a “crazy man for Christ” than a sober man by the world’s standards. He says to the Corinthians, ” If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do” (2 Cor. 5:13-14 The Message).
Jesus too was called a madman for his unflagging zeal in his ministry (Mk 3:21). There are points as a pastor where I’m almost afraid to expose the differences between the sanitized American Christianity and the off-kilter, counter-cultural movement of radical Jesus followers.
For instance, our culture’s obsession with family. A pastor using Jesus’ teachings on family for a sermon series on family relations and priorities would be fired from many churches. The fact is: Jesus didn’t focus on the family. He demanded a loyalty to his cause that sometimes split families, certainly created tension within families, and created a new family unit around himself called the church that often put disciples at odds with their own.
Try being a youth pastor and putting a student in the tough but real predicament where they must choose between obeying Jesus or their parents. Parents want them to be safe, Jesus wants them to go bring Bibles to the Middle East. Parents want them to take ACTs the same weekend as the youth group retreat. Ninety-nine youth pastors out of 100 will not have the courage to get into that hot water.
Or, another test case: Consider the number of students at Christian colleges who will go away to school for 9 months, get involved in a particular church ministry, and then abandon the mission to go back home for a 3-month summer vacation to do whatever summer job to pay tuition. Now, this seems normal from an American Disciple’s perspective. “Of course, a pastor shouldn’t expect a year-round commitment from college students,” we say. I’ve had pastors warn me of depending too much on college age volunteers saying “They are flaky and unreliable, and they will let you down — and even if you find a couple good ones, they’ll leave in 4 years anyways.”
But from a Biblical Disciple’s perspective, this situation is intolerable! If we are honestly letting the biblical narrative shape our decisions and commitments to Jesus’ mission, then college students are not immune from Jesus’ demands and free to view their ministry commitment at a church as a side hobby in their spare time. If the church they are involved with is drinking from the same well as Jesus, they will take to heart words like “No one who puts their hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom” (Jesus).
I’m not willing to lower the bar that Jesus raised so high. I believe college students can lead the church forward into a bright, bold new day in America. But they are also at the age where they’re facing the strongest pressure to conform to the American Way and get on the bandwagon — i.e., go to college, get into huge debt, max out credit cards, get the good job, buy the car they don’t need, and the house they can’t afford, so they can be slaves to the system the rest of their lives.
God’s looking for 12 men or women crazy enough to be all in, through thick and thin, come hell or high water, in good times and bad, when momentum is behind us and when the dying wind has left us adrift at sea in a leaky boat.
God’s looking for a few crazy people to view church as a critical mission post set up in enemy territory — that if we let our guard down for a moment, or get distracted by ‘civilian affairs’ (careers, family idolatry, materialism, etc.), our mission is compromised.
God’s looking for some Biblical Disciples who believe Jesus’ demands on us today are no less than the demands on his first disciples (probably college age) to drop their summer jobs and join his mission.
God’s looking for people willing to put the mission of the gospel far above their day job. If Jesus didn’t let a poor, grieving man take a day to bury his father, how much less will he put up with our pitiful excuses to relieve us from being fully engaged in his mission.
So, now you see my problem is God’s problem. The problem is that this post will be controversial and cutting (to American Disciples). The problem is that this post will sound like the ramblings of a crazy zealot for Jesus (to American Disciples). My problem is that I am out of my mind for Christ, and the rest of the world is too sober for their own good.
Are there any other fools for Christ out there? Let’s put our hand to the plow and not look back until the harvest is complete!
“It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do” (2 Corinthians 5:11-13 The Message).