I don’t think I am exaggerating here. I would suggest that the common approach to what the American church has called “discipleship” tends to be a very self-absorbed, personal development track for which the primary motivation is to “feed me.” This is not biblical. At least that is what I am suggesting in SUGGESTED SHIFT # 3 (IN ORDER FOR US TO ACTUALLY BE MAKING DISCIPLES).
Now in this we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Whether individual or family, married or single, child or adult, have kids or don’t have kids, young or old. Do you look for a “church that meets my/our needs,” or do you look for a people with whom you can both learn and live the ways of the Kingdom as well as together share them with those who may not even be following the King yet going to both neighbors and nations.
Is your motivation when it comes to “church” more about “feed me” or more about “feed others?” Get honest with yourself here, because the answer to this question is found in why you are even a part of the local church expression of which you are a part.
Say you are single. You looked around for a church family with a happening singles ministry. They gathered. They had events. People were becoming not-single thru this ministry. It looked good to you. And you really liked the band and the speaker. A perfect fit. You may have even invited some friends to join you. But what I have described above is not you as the church engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs.
Say you are a mom and dad. You looked around for a church family with a happening student ministry. They gathered. They had events. Students behaved and dressed and spoke well. Even though they ate peanut butter from someone else’s armpit during some skit on the first night you attended, you were cool with it, because they gave away great prizes to the kids. A perfect fit, right? But what I have described above to you is not you leading your family to be the church together engaged with God on His mission daily making disciples. It is you as a consumer choosing a church that feeds you and meets your needs. I would go so far to even suggest this – if we as leaders don’t actually live out the intended mission of God in front of and alongside those middle and high school students, a whole lot of them will not stick with the hollow consumerism that attracted them to be a part of a local church expression once they get into college and are met with many other attractive options.
Wait a second!!! You scream out as you exclaim, “I HAVE NEEDS, TOO!!!” or “MY FAMILY HAS NEEDS TO!!!!” I know. I do, too. Our family does, too. I just don’t want my kids growing up having their attention spans grabbed for a season with an attractive ministry. I want them to have their hearts gripped for life by a Savior who loved them first and now compels them to live with a beyond-me purpose – the only kind of life, in fact, that can even keep their attention and truly fulfill.
[SIDE NOTE: I am not suggesting that a happening singles ministry or a hip student ministry are bad things. God uses them to transform people in Christ a lot. I am focusing here on motivation and purpose.]
We must not forget what Jesus and Paul both taught about our needs being met and our life being full. Consider these Scriptures:
38 “If you don’t go all the way with Me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve Me. 39 If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to Me, you’ll find both yourself and Me. [Matthew 10:38-39, the Message]
11 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that My joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. 12 This is My command: Love one another the way I loved you. 13 This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. [John 15:11-13, the Message]
12 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. 13 Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. 14 And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. 15 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. 16 Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! 17 Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. [Colossians 3:12-17, the Message]
It sounds counter-intuitive, but our personal needs are only truly met when live loved and give love. Our needs are only fulfilled when we trust that we have been loved first by a God who was willing to demonstrate that love through sacrifice, and we then live daily to give His love away into the lives of others. And not just through a service project. But through deep relationships in which “on earth as it is in heaven” is beginning to blossom, among both the “lost” and the “found,” via shared life together in the daily rhythms of our lives.
Relationships that do not just provide refuge and a false sense of security, though. Relationships that purposefully and intentionally push us toward disciple-making and mission engagement and selfless living because that is the mission around which those relationships have united and for which they ultimately exist.
We must move from “feed me” to “feed others.” And probably more appropriately, from “feed me” to “share what has been given to me with others” so that we can experience the love and life as Jesus intended. We will look at that 2nd person plural way of thinking in the next shift…