So, it is fairly easy to attract a crowd…put on a decent show, the right supportive programmes, be nice, and set the bar fairly low. Sure, there are some prerequisites in there…you need enough people to put on a decent show, the right programmes and a few folks to be nice, but by and large, that will get you an increasing crowd. More often than not, it will get you a crowd of consumers looking to take up your ‘product’ because it is one of the better ones in the area. It is easy for churches to appear ‘successful’ by doing this.
Jesus was pretty good at drawing a crowd too….look at the crowd he preached to and then fed. There was one day, however, when Jesus crowd deserted him pretty quickly. All, that is, except the 12 disciples. I’ll come back to that in a minute. Basically, Jesus began to teach difficult stuff. He told them that they’d have to participate in his death, to walk the same path as him, to suffer the same fate…that of taking up your cross and living a life for God. They thought it was too hard and they walked away.
As I said, the disciples stayed. Why? Maybe, just maybe, it is because they were disciples. You see, the disciples were in the process of learning from Jesus day by day. They were captured by his call to this life that they’d come to the point where it wasn’t about being part of the big crowd, of taking the easy way out, but it was about being wrapped up in the message of this Nazarene…the one who they were discovering was their Christ. As they walked and learned from Jesus, they’d got used to how high the bar was. They knew what Jesus was after and they had counted the cost and followed. Thats not to say they didn’t have some wobbles along the way, but they were committed followers. On the whole, when the going got tough, odd wobble accepted, these were the guys that went on to further the Jesus movement.
Disciple. You could define it as those who follow Jesus because there is nowhere else to go, because he is worth following, because we’ve heard the call to ‘come and die’. You could say it is for those who haven’t joined the Jesus Club for the perks and the eternal pension, but who believe that his way is the only way to live life. You could say it is for those who understand that being ‘church’ is to be a part of his body of people with him as head of the family and not the institution which entertains us on Sunday mornings and educates our children in the ways of Jesus for us.
So, amongst the crowds we find ourselves in:
1) who are the disciples/disciplemakers we already have? and, how do we mobilise them in the task?
2) how are we leading people to practice their discipleship rather than just wear it as a badge?
3) how central is the gospel of Jesus to our community? Does everyone know the gospel, what it means and how to share it?
4) how connected are people to group discipleship, learning together how to navigate the world following Jesus together?
5) how do we encourage and love the consumers enough to win them to the way of discipleship?
I wish I had all the answers, but a few questions are a good place to start, perhaps.