Summary: What discipleship really means.
When I was in college I thought that an area of ministry that I would enjoy doing, and that perhaps God was leading me to, was to be a chaplain in the armed forces. I spent time talking with a pastor who had been a chaplain. I read some material about being a chaplain. Eventually, I actually went to a recruiting office and took some sort of test that would determine my potential. You know, I don’t remember a lot about that day, and obviously I haven’t joined the Navy at this point and probably won’t, but as I think back to walking through that office I remember some of the incentive posters and slogans that were posted. You see them in malls and other places where recruiting offices are. Signs that offer $50,000 towards college, or a $20,000 signing bonus. Join the Navy and see the world. Fly high in the U.S. Air Force. We’re looking for a few good men. All sorts of incentives and phrases that catch the eye and put visions in our minds of success, and adventure, and having a sense of pride. But you know, one thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen much of in a recruiting office is a sign telling the demands of sacrifice that come with joining the service. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a sign that says, “When you join, you’re going to be leaving your family and very possibly dying in a country on the other side of the globe.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sign that says, “Join us and prepare to get yelled at, mocked, and tortured, and that’s only in boot camp.” Why not? Because it’s a recruiting office. You generally don’t go telling someone all the things they have to give up and all the bad things they can expect when they join if you really want them to become a part of your group. You want to show them all the good things, you want to put your good foot forward.
A while back we put together a 5 minute DVD to give to our guests telling about our church. We had a nice message from Pastor Keaton, some footage of several of our ministries, shots of our recently updated facilities, and testimonials from some of our church people telling what they liked about our church.
There were some things that we didn’t put on that DVD however. There were some testimonials that we didn’t add. We didn’t put a list of things that we expected from our members on that DVD. We didn’t say, “Now, if you come, we do expect that you’ll put money in the offering plate every Sunday, we want you to be ready to mow the yard each week, and also you’ll need to plan on scrubbing the toilets once a month.” No, we put our best foot forward. We put things on there that would make the viewers feel welcome to become a part of our church family. Why? Because we like seeing new people come to our church.
In the book of Luke we read a story about a day when Jesus has the opportunity to recruit some new disciples. And it’s quite strange the way that Jesus handles that opportunity. Most pastors are working very hard to gain new members. We try to persuade them that this is the church for them. But when we read this story it seems as though Jesus spends most of the time trying to dissuade these men from following Him. Let me read it for you, and you’ll see what I mean.
Luke 9: 57-62… As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Doesn’t that seem strange? Here people were volunteering to follow Jesus, and all He would seemingly say is, “You won’t have a place to sleep,” or, “Let your dead dad take care of himself,” or, “You’re really not fit to follow me.” Isn’t that weird? Jesus totally rejected the idea of putting His best foot forward. He totally missed it when it comes to recruiting, didn’t He?