It is probably not a stretch to say that right now has been the most challenging...
What would Jesus do? I was a teenager in youth group when those WWJD bracelets were popular. But I always thought it was a funny question. After all, when considering whether and whom to marry or even date, the question is totally useless. Jesus was intentionally single and celibate. WWJD is a question of discipleship. But what really does “following Jesus” mean? See, theology is vital! To understand what Jesus’ call to follow him meant, we have to understand his world a little bit. In those days people did not distinguish questions of morality from politics, economics, religion, or anything else.
Ancient lives were integrated or embedded as scholars say, not compartmentalized as we have it. Jesus came proclaiming that the kingdom of God was here, and that he himself is its king. These claims were not first and foremost about worship practices, or moral behavior. Jesus’ claims of the kingdom were fully integrated and demanded full allegiance. Entering into the kingdom of God was understood, by Jesus, as a kind of exodus. You had to exit your world, leave behind everything, follow Jesus through the wilderness, eventually to reach the place that he has prepared beforehand for us all for the sake of his mission of taking over the world ruled by sin and rebellion. Jesus came to reconcile all things to himself.
Being a disciple means joining in that mission and learning from the king. This will have a very high cost! Jesus tells us to do a cost-benefit analysis before following him (Lk 14). As you look at your life, what would you not give up to see the kingdom of God come?
Discipleship is not mainly about asking WWJD when confronted by a moral dilemma. Discipleship is about taking on a whole new identity, a new political allegiance, a new religious allegiance, a new economic allegiance, a new moral allegiance, a new technological allegiance, a new imaginational allegiance. Discipleship is the most difficult thing we could ask of our congregations. It necessarily costs us our lives (Mt 10:38). Jesus was crucified for claiming to be the king. And yet, without discipleship, without following Jesus, without joining his kingdom, there is no body of Christ. If we do not renounce all that we have, we cannot be Jesus’ followers—we are like useless salt (Lk 14:33-35).
Does your church expect disciple making? Is following Jesus a supplement, a recreational activity, a value-added benefit to increase the quality of life? Expecting to make disciples means leaders must model the life of following Jesus. Discipleship is not a program in addition to worship services. Discipleship is the only appropriate response to the good news of Jesus’ kingdom.
Our Theology Preconference at the 2020 National Gathering will have more on these questions!