I want you to finish this sentence: I go to church because…
Luke 9 and 10 are very interesting chapters to me. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out His 12 disciples into surrounding towns to heal people and bind demons. Luke 9:23-25 He [Jesus] said to all, “Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me! Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it, but whoever insists on keeping his life will lose it; and what profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?”
In Luke 10, Jesus sent out an additional 70 people to do the same thing. The invitation from Jesus was clear: Die to yourself and remember, you’ll be like lambs among wolves. Jesus does the most remarkable thing that you would probably not see today. He takes 70 people, gives them the authority of God to heal and bind demons, sends them out. Let’s talk about this. This is not a highly educated bunch, they are still raw. They haven’t spent much time with Jesus. There is passion and power and they’re just going for it. This is a huge adventure with all kinds of risk. Their focus was to give the people what Jesus gave them. Passion, power, grace. Honestly, what does this sound like? It’s barbaric. Reckless. Little out of control. Does Luke 10 describe the Christians you know today? Probably not.
Today’s church, today’s Christians are not barbaric, not reckless and out of control. Please understand I am not suggesting being irresponsible. But I am suggesting their experience is everything but an adventure. They call their youth groups ‘Extreme’ because they had pepperoni on their pizza and stayed up till 1 am. They’re too busy building their kingdom so they have no time to build God’s kingdom. When they are asked to do something they are frozen because they need to be ‘educated.’ They wrap their kids in Christian bubble wrap to make sure they are safe and secure. They weed people out of church volunteerism and leadership if they are too messy. All of if, all of it becomes domesticated and civilized. Their focus isn’t on what God gives, they focus on what God requires. Rules. Laws.
If Jesus were here today and invited people into His mission, the religious would be scared, afraid and offended. Why? Too raw. Too risky. Too barbaric. Can we review what happened to Jesus and the early disciples? John the Baptist was beheaded. Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus. Andrew was crucified in Bulgaria. Bartholomew was crucified in India. James was stoned to death in Jerusalem. The other James was beheaded in Judea. Peter was crucified. Philip was crucified in Jerusalem. Thomas was speared to death in India. Stephen, the next great man of God, was stoned to death. Jesus, the central figure of our faith, was beaten and crucified.
Scripture address the experience of many early Christians. Some were laughed at and their backs cut open with whips, and others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning and some by being sawed in two; others were promised freedom if they would renounce their faith, then were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in dens and caves. They were hungry and sick and ill-treated-too good for this world. And these men of faith, though they trusted God and won his approval, none of them received all that God had promised them. TLB Hebrews 11:36-40
Does that sound civilized to you? Honestly reading scripture, when did we ever get the idea that following Jesus is safe and secure? When did we ever get the idea that it’s about God healing us to be healthy forever? When did we ever get the idea that it’s about our success on this earth? When did Jesus’ invitation change from, ‘Die to yourself and go’ to, ‘Be civilized, be careful and follow 7 principles to success?’
At MRC, we fight for the freedom of others. The reason so many people report that their Christian experience is boring is because they never ‘died to themselves’ to join the Jesus mission that is full of risk. MRC was created to help people find and fulfill God’s plan for their lives. This is what is required from us to join Jesus in His mission, ‘God, I die to myself, how can I advance your kingdom?’
I challenge you to finish this sentence: I go to church because…