In an article that appeared in “Christianity Today” in 1980, author Dallas Willard claims that the New Testament “is a book about disciples, by disciples, and for disciples.” And since our denominational label professes that we are not just a Christian Church, but actually a Christian Church of Disciples of Christ, it seems appropriate, perhaps even necessary, to ask ourselves if we truly are both. Willard says that the Christian church in the West has not made being a disciple a condition of being a Christian. In fact, he says, becoming a disciple of Jesus is an option that one has, but few choose. And this situation seems to have existed ever since Constantine embraced Christianity in the early 5th century. Being a member of the church became more important than being a follower of Jesus.   Think about it: when you think of the Christian Church, what are the things that pop into your mind: a building; worship services; rituals like baptism and Communion; membership and ministries; pastors and boards; and so on. Do you agree? Funny thing is, I didn’t even mention Jesus or His disciples. Let’s just face the facts: being a Christian today (even in the “Christian Church – Disciples of Christ) is a lot more about attending church and participating in its worship, programs, and business, than about following Jesus “in his example, spirit, and teachings.” These are the characteristics of a disciple, Willard claims. Today’s Christian church does not even make this a requirement of membership. Not only that. I’ve noticed that placing ANY requirement on church membership can get a pastor in a whole lot of hot water really fast! Jesus, we have a problem! It looks like we have a whole lot of churches with your name on the front of them in one form or another … filled with undiscipled disciples. Those millions of “members” of Christian churches may be disciples of many things, but for most of them, it would be hard to make the case that they place imitating Jesus all the time as the most important priority in their lives.        As Willard admits, when Jesus actually walked among us, the decision to become a disciple was simple (but not easy). Think of Peter and Andrew, James and John, on the beach. Think of Matthew in his tax collector’s office. Think of Phillip and Nathaniel encountering the Messiah for the first time. They all become disciples of Jesus. We know that because for each and every one of them, it was an immediate compulsion to drop everything, leave it all, and follow him.  People saw it. They were astounded by it, but they saw it. Think of Zebedee, James’s and John’s father, when his 2 sons suddenly dropped the nets of the family business and followed a man they had never met before.  I’m not saying it was easy to drop it all and follow Jesus. But I am saying it was a whole lot more simple than it is today. Today, to be a disciple, we have to find new ways to drop it all and leave everything to follow Jesus. But it is still a hard decision. Choosing to be a disciple means, more than anything in the world, wanting to be like Jesus. All the time. Everywhere you go. It means to take your current life, and devote everything in it to God, and in all that you do, to imitate Jesus. Deciding to be a disciple is a systematic and progressive process of transforming your entire life toward this one exclusive goal. And while we might say that Jesus never told us exactly how to do it … that would be a denial of the truth. Read the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. That will tell you how to be a disciple. The truth is, it’s right in front of us … we just aren’t ready or willing or able yet to abide by it.  So you might wonder: where does that leave me? Am I more “Christian” or more “Disciple?” I say, look at your ultimate desires and intentions – the ones that are deep in your heart and soul. I say look at your specific responses and choices you make to situations you find yourself in every day. That’s the best place to start, because if we’re honest, those things will show us what’s most important in our life. To be like Jesus … or something else.  God has gifted us all with one human life on this earth. Obviously, there are many ways to spend that precious time we have here. For me, it’s the “greatest opportunity in the world” to have the choice of being a disciple of Jesus. I know, as Dallas Willard knows, that it’s the only thing that will fulfill the deepest longing of my soul, and the greatest needs of the world I live in.  Which leads me to wonder … why would I choose any other way of life than to follow in the steps of Jesus. It’s the only way to complete my full potential, and the only way, as Jesus would say, the live the abundant life.  So what do you say Christian Church – DISCIPLES OF CHRIST … anybody else want to try to live up to our name?  Aspiring to become a “Devoted Follower of the Radical Gospel of Jesus Christ” – I am,
Pastor <>< Bob