Summary: Most people think that following Jesus is hard, or perhaps even impossible. This message looks at reasons why people believe that and begins laying out some new directions for Wildwind this year.
Why Following Jesus Seems Hard
Part 1 in series The Shape of Things to Come
Wildwind Community Church
September 6, 2008
I have been telling you for a few weeks that I was going to be talking to you about some new things we’re going to be doing at Wildwind this year. This is the sermon where that is going to happen. However, I have to tell you, talking directly about our church has always been hard for me. Wildwind is like my kid, in a way. It came from my mind and my heart as Christy and I struggled and wrestled with God’s plan for our lives. Just like a child, it has been interesting for us to watch what the church is becoming. And just like a child, we aren’t always completely thrilled with everything we see, but we love it with a love that is boundless. Just like a child, it is not perfect. We see its flaws, but rather than feeling angry or disappointed in it, we root for it all the harder, love and pray for it all the more.
I’m going to talk to you about Wildwind Church today, but not until after I’ve talked to you about Jesus. And as I talk to you about Jesus I’ll talk to you about Wildwind. Because if there’s any announcement I want to make about this year, it’s that we’ll be continuing on with the focus we’ve established on Jesus through our series we just finished on the Sermon on the Mount. This church only matters if it’s pointing to Jesus, teaching Jesus, declaring Jesus, always trying to get Jesus right, and get Jesus into the heads and hearts of its people so that more and more it’s Jesus working through their hands.
We have done a lot of things right since starting Wildwind. Our focus on extending God’s love and mercy and grace to everyone is right. Our focus on simplicity and not getting bogged down in a million programs and ministries is right. Our focus on small group ministry and connecting people in relationships is right. Our focus on preaching in an accessible style that pushes people to think, but one that doesn’t water down or sell out the gospel is right. Our focus on making sure people are welcomed in a laid-back non-pushy style is right. Our focus on asking members to make commitments is right – churches that ask their members to make specific commitments nearly always grow better and deeper than churches that do not.
We have done a lot of things right at Wildwind. But there are some things as a church that I think we haven’t done right. One of those is take discipleship to Jesus as seriously as it deserves to be taken. What is discipleship to Jesus? It is learning from him how to live the kind of life he lived.
Now you might hear that and think, “Uggh! That sounds really hard. I can’t live the kind of life Jesus lived.” But my friends, that’s precisely what Jesus called us to do. Committing our lives to Jesus is nothing more, and nothing less, than enrolling in his school of living. And to understand why that’s important, you must understand that you are enrolled in someone’s school of living at this moment, whether you realize it or not. You are living according to how someone taught you to live. School teachers and professors. Parents and pastors. Friends and psychologists. Oprah Winfrey. Television. Politics. A treasured songwriter. Someone, and probably a number of someone’s, have already taught you how to live your life. Americans value individualism and we each want to think we’re doing it our own way, but that’s just not true. You are living right now under teachings you received from someone else. What that means is that you have already been formed spiritually. If you are a selfish person, that comes from the way you have already been formed. If you are gracious and gentle and kind, that comes from the way you have been formed. If you are impatient and critical and demanding, that comes from how you have been formed. If you struggle with lust or anger or jealousy or fear or guilt or greed or resentment or a dirty mind or loose lips or whatever – all of that comes from the way you have already been spiritually formed.
So when we talk about following Jesus – when we talk about enrolling in his school of discipleship, we are talking not about spiritual formation, but about spiritual transformation. We’re talking not about being formed, but being reformed! See, the reason people come into churches and hear a few sermons they don’t like and then go away mad is because they did not come to be transformed – they came to be entertained. If you come to church to be entertained, then you will leave church angry any time things are said that challenge you to change. But if you come to church to be transformed, then you will leave church disappointed if things are NOT said that challenge you to change.