Our Default Settings
- Many Christians have been infected with the most contagious virus of modern American life, what sociologist Robert Bellah calls "radical individualism."
- In Christianity this radical individualism concentrates on personal obedience to Christ as if all that matters is "Jesus and me," but in doing so, miss the crucial point of the Christian faith.
- For Christianity is not a solitary belief system.
- Christianity is all about us and not about me.
[Harm of Radical Individualism, Citation: Chuck Colson, The Body (Word, 1992), p.32]
After a week of reflection and one meeting after the Grow Your Church Seminar the most important aspect of last weekend was not stated in so many words but it was the principle of relationship building. The central message was the need to build relationships that eventually will lead to the building of God’s kingdom.
Building the Kingdom is about making disciples. The primary responsibility, the default settings of the church it is to create disciples.
Let me define the word disciple and the word Christian.
Never in the New Testament is there a difference between the Christian and Disciple. In fact the word Disciple is used for those that believed and in Acts 11:26 we get the first use of the word Christian:
- “ … So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” (NIV)
- The whole point of the New Testament is discipleship training.
- In fact the New Testament is a training manual on being Christ's disciples.
- To assist in that training we must have the correct default settings.
- Computers are programmed with basic settings regarding type size and style, margins, columns and so on. These are called default settings. So when we start a new document they always come up the same.
- God has default settings for His kingdom.
- We can either have discipleship settings or non-discipleship settings.
- Listen as Carol reads two passages that give us God’s default settings for the discipleship and for His church.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
- I believe that non-disciple default settings have contributed to the decline that is happening in the Church across America.
- Most Christians would agree that we ought love and obey God. And churches set the Great Commandment and the Great Commission (the 2 passages that Carol just read) as their main purposes.
- Even though we say these directives ought to be defining who we are as Christians - we are not exhibiting these qualities.
- We may be promoting spiritual maturity but are we creating the environment in which radical change and transformation can occur?
- Are we fulfilling the Great Commission?
- Do we truly love God with our whole being and our neighbor as we are called to do?
- The church has provided classes on discipleship as if it were an elective for Christians.
- Discipleship has been treated in the church as an option. And because of that the church has become impotent and powerless.
- Very few Christians share their faith - giving the excuse that they don't want to be a fanatic. We don't want to offend anyone.
- It is highly unlikely that Christians return good for evil or bless those who curse them, and pray for those that use them or persecute them.
- We complain and moan about others. When the Word is expounded with words we don't want to hear we quit going.
- Few of us are devoted to spiritual disciplines like prayer and the study of the Scriptures. We think that reading the Upper Room is enough food for our spiritual lives each day.
- Here are few interesting statistics that we were given last weekend:
- 26% in Bible Belt and 19% of the population are in worship on any given Sunday.
- 70% of the youth drop out of the church between ages 18-20 years of age.
- From 1990 to 2012 there have been 125,000 churches closed.
- 88% of those interviewed believed that “the church exists to serve my needs and the needs of my family.”
- George Barna has done a number of studies surveying the Church and in one of the latest surveys by the Barna Institute I was stunned by the findings - they were worse than I imagined:
- About 52% of believers interviewed do some spiritual growth but on a rather inconsistent basis.
- Only 17% meet weekly for accountability with a few other disciples.
- Few attend a church that specifically and intentionally offer spiritual growth training.
- Most of those interviewed are too busy pursuing other passions - kids' soccer, skiing, summer cottages, etc.
- Not one adult surveyed said that his/her goal was to be a committed follower of Jesus.
- The sad part is the world has a hard time recognizing Christians from non-Christians.
- When the world can't see the difference we have a problem. The problem is simple the church is not changing the world.
- The starting point for turning this trend around is to understand what it means "to go and make disciples."
- To those first disciples - discipleship meant making a serious commitment to follow the Leader - Jesus Christ. From the 1st century disciples we can infer some principles for discipleship today:
- Discipleship must begin with a commitment to the Lordship of Christ. He must be Lord of our lives
- Without this relational dimension, everything else that follows is weakened.
- We must have a servant-master relationship with us being the servants.
- It is never about me – it what God wants. He is first.
- Jesus saw that His disciples were fully taught so that they would become like Him. Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
- The 1st century disciples' total focus was becoming like Christ. Our focus must be the same – to be like Christ.
- You know how when a person scratched a chalk board (of course we don’t have chalk boards anymore) so for some this is hard to relate to. I have moments when someone says – well there is no way we can live up to being like Christ so why try?
- That is a cop out folks – well I can’t live up to that so why try? Why try? Because we are commanded to live like Him.
- Don’t excuse your laziness for – “get er done.”
- The early disciple made no excuses about it isn’t in my reach to be like Christ. They never thought of it as impossibility. Paul writes:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
- Have you ever said it is impossible to be like Christ? If you have then you are not willing to do what Christ commands.
- Finally in the first century church there was a clear nonnegotiable expectation that every disciple:
- Would reproduce other disciples – new birth, spiritual birth, being born again – however you want to put it. They reproduced.
- Then they would train disciples or apprentices
- This was the essential default setting of the early Church.
- Before we can make disciples - we must be a disciple. He chose us - we must be willing to follow Him. We must be committed to being transformed.
- We must have the intention to live as Christ lived. There are a couple of things that block our attempts to live as Christ lived.
- The worst thing we can say is - "nobody can live like that." If we say we can’t - we won't. Not trying may be the worse sin we commit.
- The other sin is our desire to be in control. We don't want someone else to be in control and that includes Christ. He must be Lord.
- If either of those problems hit home with you then I got news for you - "you are not alone."
- Here is what Paul and the other disciples put into practice so they might be true disciples:
- Humble ourselves before the Lord
- Turn our lives totally over to Him.
- Forget what is behind and press on.
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
- Choose whom you will serve today.