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August 10, 2016

Discipleship And What People Really Want


Transformation. Accountability. Community. ECO’s own John Terech was the one who first shared those words with me and others of us at a discipleship training in Greenville a few months ago. He shared and told his own story, making all kinds of connections with our unfolding ECO story, born out of his weekly experiences with CrossFit. Now I’m getting a taste of it, too.

This isn’t a commercial for CrossFit, but the worldwide fitness movement (13,000 licensed operators serving at least two million exercisers)* has something to teach the American Church.** Transformation. Accountability. Community. These are the watchwords of Crossfit. That means these three words describe what the leadership and participant members are committed to, who they are going to be on the way to reaching their personal health goals.

  • Transformation – People don’t want to stay the same. They want life, and to see their lives change . . . for the better. In order to see that, you have to want it. You have to want it enough to work and sacrifice for it, or let’s just stop wasting each other’s time right now. Jesus had a few conversations with would-be-followers along those lines.
  • Accountability – Well, we probably don’t want that. But we all know that without that, we’re not going to make it. There will be no transformation. There may be momentary change, but not a lasting and sustained, transformed you. Without accountability, in time, we’ll return to where we were, because we never actually stopped being who and where we were. How is that diet going? With accountability, on the other hand, your future may well lie beyond your current ability to imagine.
  • Community – we all want that! . . . at least we think we do. Life is lonely. Better together . . . that is, when truly together. True community results in a whole series of transformations in various dimensions of life . . . and not just as individuals but corporate transformations. And, as we said above, transformation does not occur – change neither goes deep nor is sustained – without accountability. If there is no accountability, and thus no transformation, you have pseudo-community. A lot of churches are like that.

Jesus and CrossFit

Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Being a part of Jesus’ bigger-than-CrossFit-worldwide-movement is, likewise, a transformation-accountability-community proposition.

For the transformation to come, it requires your decision that you are not happy with the way things are with you. You are ready for lasting, sustainable change. The denial of self – that is, saying No to the self-serving, willful self, taking it out of the center, placing Jesus Christ at the center, and saying Yes to him – is the place you begin. And this decision and action is a regular, daily thing . . . an over and over again death that leads to life. That’s what “picking up the cross daily” is about.

The call is to you as an individual, but when you say Yes you find you are not alone. Therein resides the accountability and community. If you are truly saying Yes, you wind up surrounded! On the other hand, if it’s just “me and Jesus,” you’re kidding yourself, haven’t even heard his call, let alone said Yes to it. And you certainly haven’t changed.

Back to “What People Really Want” and a Surprise

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:28-30

Now that’s a clear and uncompromising call to come and follow, just as much as the call to deny self is. In fact, can one ever come to the Crucified One without a surrender of self? And is there any call ever uttered by him in the New Testament that is not a call to come and follow?

Rest. In the deep meaning of the word and as a posture in life, this would be nothing short of a complete and utter transformation for most of us.

Take my yoke and learn from me.

Now it’s sounding more like a work out. Getting in spiritual shape with our personal trainer. But this one, while relentless, is humble and gentle. We’re breaking a sweat, on our way to looking and becoming like him.

The thing about the yoke is that it is made for two. It is His. He stays yoked as we get strapped in next to him. We pull together. We find it easier and lighter than we thought. We find he’s doing most of the pulling, at times perhaps all of it. (And what exactly is the difference between taking up the yoke daily and taking up the cross daily? Maybe they are one and the same.)

Come to me, all you who . . . there’s the community. Only those who want it, who are ready. No transformation without the accountability that is community.

A Call

Transformation. Accountability. Community. That’s what people want. We want to experience the God we can yoke up with, find rest in, and live for with others who want the same.

ECO’s Discipleship Initiative for 2016 participant churches has been all about these three things. 2017 will offer a similar opportunity for you. Look for more details in the August newsletter!

* Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times, November 27, 2015, “When Some Turn to Church, Others Go to CrossFit.”

** John is threatening to write a book about all of this at some point.  Stay tuned.   

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