23 Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:23-25 (NIVUK)
Jesus most fundamental command was “follow me.” For Jesus, faith means to follow. This was Jesus test for the authenticity of a person’s faith. Jesus said that someone was genuinely His disciple if they were committed to follow Him, no matter the cost. Jesus also makes it clear that following isn’t short term. Discipleship is a way of life, its not for a limited time or with limited implications, but for our whole life and in every area of life. Which of course means that discipleship isn’t just for beginners; it’s for every believer, for every day of their life and every part of their life.
All of which means that discipleship can’t be just one of the things the church does; it is what the church does. Jesus makes that plain in his final command to the church,
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
CS Lewis puts the implications of Jesus command like this
“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.”
As a result of our REVisioning process we have reaffirmed that this why we believe Westlake exists, to make disciples, lifelong followers of Jesus. We don’t exist as a church to hold services, run ministries, preach sermons, or study the bible, rather we do all these things because we are committed to
““ENABLING PEOPLE TO BECOME LIFELONG FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF THE WORLD”
Discipleship is the greatest challenge facing the church in these opening decades of the 21st century. Perhaps no one in recent history has done more to remind the church of the crucial importance of discipleship than Dallas Willard. Dallas Willard complained that making disciples had been the “great omission from the Great Commission” and went on to write
“The greatest issue facing the world today, with all its heartbreaking needs, is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples – students, apprentices, practitioners – of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”
This isn’t just the great challenge facing the church in general, it’s the great challenge facing us as a local church. If we are really serious about “enabling people to become lifelong followers of Jesus Christ” then the challenge facing us is to discover how to effectively enable people to follow Jesus in every area of their life for the rest of their life. We are going to have to reassess everything we do and assess everything we plan to do by the criteria of whether it helps people to follow Jesus more consistently and persistently.
I can’t think of anything more worthwhile being committed to for myself personally or for a church. Dallas Willard went to talk about the cost of Non-Discipleship
“Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring” (John 10:10).
Dallas reminds us the stakes are high when it comes to discipleship. If we can effectively find ways to enable people to become lifelong followers of Jesus then they will experience the abundant life Jesus came to bring, if we don’t, they won’t.
In next week’s blog post as we look at why Westlake exists we are going to think about what exactly a “lifelong follower of Jesus Christ” is.