In reading All the Saints Adore Thee by Dr. Bruce Shelley this morning, I encountered a statement that stirred up a struggle I have been having lately. Shelley says, “Over the years Christianity has probably suffered more from half-hearted followers than from hard-headed scoffers.” This statement came in a reflection he wrote about Martin Luther.
But those words are resonating in my soul today, kind of like a tuning fork playing a specific note that vibrates glass of different shapes and designs. Why does it resonate so much? There is a tremendous struggle in the church with discipleship. Our culture has such little regard or time for full devotion in any aspect of life that has meaning. People become fully devoted fans of the trivial (see sports, books, video games, celebrities, etc..) but seldom invest their full lives in things of meaning.
Trying to bring a message of discipleship into that culture is so difficult. It is especially difficult, as a pastor, to not want to stomp and scream and yell at churches full of half-hearted believers who give God a piece of their lives and revel in the feeling of satisfaction it provides them. This is the kind of cheap grace Bonhoeffer wrote about and the hypocrisy that set Luther afire.
But, our job isn’t to brown beat people into discipleship, it never works that way. If we don’t come willingly, submitting ourselves fully to God, then discipleship can not take place. We have willingly laid aside this battle, which is painstakingly slow, deliberate and costly, for a far easier task of just bringing lots of people together and getting them to commit to a bare minimum idea of faith. Getting a small group of people to fully devote themselves themselves to Christ is far harder than getting throngs of semi-interested to commit to that which costs them little.
So that is my struggle today. I long to see churches filled with disciples, but know the investment to reach that point is so large and takes so long. It is hard to not want to skip the hard part and do what is easier and quicker.
Lord give us strength to do what we ought and to never settle and rejoice of things we nought. Grant us your strength for a long journey, your hope for dark days, and your wisdom to see through the illusions of quick fixes and cheap faith. May we give ourselves fully to you again this day dear Lord. Amen.