Disciples, Decisions, and Distractions

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  February 1, 2014

     Jesus said to go into all the world and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, how often do we overlook the profound nature of this simple commission in the 28th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel and focus on our efforts on the decisions, donations, and distractions that frequently pollute our faith.
     In the Disciples of Christ tradition, we place a lot of emphasis on the personal decision for Christ. “Do you believe that Jesus is the Messiah and do you accept him as your personal Lord, Savior and friend?” The answer is a simple “yes” or “no” and on the basis of this decision, we profess formal membership in the church. Some faith traditions go further to require special prayers or creedal confessions to sanctify the decision for Jesus Christ. Yet, Jesus never told us to do that.
Sometimes we get caught up in the institutional maintenance of the church. We know we need to build the church. We have bills and salaries to pay, ministry obligations to meet, and these require donations. Jesus did encourage everyone to give to the ministry, and do so generously. The commonly held biblical standard is simply the ’tithe,’ or a full 10% of earned income. Yet, Jesus never told us to hinge all our efforts, all our worries, or all our energy on maintaining donations. It simply is not part of the Gospel message.
And then there are all the other distractions. We get caught up in making sure this program is on track, we stress over functional realities such as board meetings and making sure the people who unlock the church remember to lock it when they leave.  We sometimes get stressed about who is using our church or, frequently, who we wish were here and do not see hanging around any more. We like to distract ourselves with doing really churchy things like making sure the fellowship hall is clean, showing up on time Sunday morning, keeping an eye on the trash that is left in the parking lot, and saying nice things to visitors who walk in the door. All these activities have their place, but if that is all we do, how many disciples are we really making?
Jesus said to make disciples. The word has a very specific meaning that has nothing to do with getting people to articulate a formula decision. It has nothing to do with making sure somebody is responsible for the donations and all the accounting they imply. It has nothing to do with keeping the fellowship hall clean or making sure the worship bulletin is error-free. All these distractions, donations, and decisions have their place, but they should never be used in the place of our true commission—disciple-making.
A disciple is simply a highly dedicated student. One who sits at the feet of the teacher, places everything else as secondary priority, and seeks to learn. A disciple is one who follows the teacher in all of life; emulating the life of the teacher, practicing the deeds of the teacher, learning to be as much like the teacher as possible. A true disciple is bound in sacred covenant to the teacher.
The decisions, donations, and distractions we allow to dominate our faith actually pull us away from true discipleship because they give us the false illusion that once a decision or donation is made, and once the distractions are satisfied, we have done our job as Christians and can move back into our secular world with the confidence that God will be pleased with what we did.
Discipleship, on the other hand, is not about what we do. It is about who we are. It is not an action plan, but a life lived in action!
Jesus called us to be disciples and disciples is who we all need to strive to be. The other important things— decisions, donations, and the like—will come out of our discipleship and love of God!