NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Decisions we make change our lives and impact our histories. Robert Frost captured the magnitude of our choices in his poem, “The Road Less Traveled.” He chose one way and realized, “knowing how way leads onto way, I doubted if I should ever come back” to the crossroads of the original choice.
My question is: Will Western Christianity — essentially Christians in the United States — shape history, or miss an opportunity by our level of commitment to Jesus Christ?
David Watson, an Anglican priest, wrote two sentences that have haunted me for 21 years: “It is widely held that the battle of the century will be between Marxism, Islam, and Third-world Christianity. Western Christianity is considered too weak and ineffective to contribute anything significant to this universal struggle.”
That’s a sobering accusation I’ve been unable to discredit. I fear that the church in America has wandered down one path when we should have taken the other. The path opposite our current direction is the path of a disciple.
I believe Jesus is in search of disciples but is having difficulty finding many in the evangelical church in America. We’ve turned churches into comfortable country clubs for members when, in fact, the church is designed for those who are not members. People shop for churches like they shop for automobiles or for groceries. People want something that fills their needs. We have missed the boat because we think Christianity is about us. It is not. It’s about God and His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. He has chosen Christians to play a significant role in showing the world what His Kingdom looks like.
We need to understand five things about discipleship if we are to move from the path of missed opportunity to the path of effectively contributing to the cause of Christ.
1. Disciples are called by the Master. You didn’t choose Him, He chose you (John 6:44). Christianity is the only faith system on earth where the Master determines His followers. Salvation is at God’s discretion, not ours.
2. Disciples have a personal relationship with the Master. This is the essence of the Christian faith. It is not cold doctrine. We are to be doctrinally sound, but our relationship with Christ is preeminent.
3. Disciples are under the authority of the Master. We can’t call Him Lord and not do what He says. Asking Him what you should do next without having yet done the last thing He told you to do is called disobedience. There are no multiple-choice questions with Jesus. He has a specific purpose for each life and expects you to stick with His plan.
4. Disciples become like the Master. Measure yourself against Philippians 2:5-8. How close are you to becoming like the Master when compared with Him?
5. Disciples are willing to sacrifice for the Master. If Jesus endured hardship and discomfort, why should we expect any less? Discipleship carries with it the obligation to risk and sacrifice. Jesus didn’t hide this, and in fact said that we’d be persecuted if we identified ourselves with Him.
Western Christianity has retreated from the battle for the souls of men to the hollow pursuit of self-comfort. “It is widely held that the battle of the century will be between Marxism, Islam, and Third-world Christianity. Western Christianity is considered too weak and ineffective to contribute anything significant to this universal struggle.”
These words still haunt me. Do they haunt you?
James T. Draper Jr. is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.