Disciples, not members!

4 11 2021

Working the polls on Tuesday, I came to yet one more tragic and disheartening realization about the church and us people of faith. Messed up theology, leads to messed up politics. And it is not only destroying our church, but it is also destroying our nation!

Standing in the rain, with a woman from a different political party, who embraced a very different understanding of what it means to be a Christian, I realized yet again that a distorted understanding of the Gospel, will distort everything else in a person’s life. And it will lead to a politics that stands in startling contrast to the way of Jesus. This is why for the past five years any responsible Church, and any faithful pastor, has had no choice but to address the deterioration of American political landscape. Because more and more, we are seeing that Church people are responsible for the state of American politics today. And for that reason, Church leaders have an important role to play in getting us out of the mess in which we find ourselves.

Whether talking about Evangelicals or “Mainliners”, no one seems to know or understand the Gospel! Evangelicals can quote Scripture as well as anyone, but there is little theological grounding and even less historical context to their interpretations of the Bible. Intellectual credibility is anathema to their understanding of faith and a walk with God; and discipleship involves little more than going to Church every Sunday morning, and spending 45 minutes singing to Jesus and telling him how much they love him! And while some are actively engaged in small groups, that can and often do provide the disipleship that is so needed today, most are not.

Those of us in the smaller, denominational churches are no better off. The average Presbyterian likely knows more about our “Book of Order” than the Bible. Worship is a place where people want to be inspired, not taught! And Sunday School is routinely given up upon confirmation, which usually occurs at some point in high school. People in denominational churches are more inclined to serve on a church committee than to ever darken the doors of a Bible Study; and so while we boast of an educated clergy, we’d prefer that their education not be forced upon our people!

So where is discipleship taking place in the Church today?

The answer, is “no where!” And that is why we find ourselves living in a country that claims to be Christian, full of people who claim to be following Jesus, but with a grossly immature and inaccurate understanding of what any of it means! We have churches with lots of ‘members’, but with very few disciples. And it’s killing us! It’s killing the church. And it’s killing our nation.

My poll-worker friend kindly offered to let me stand with her under her bright red tent, but then proceeded to tell me that when it comes to abortion, women lose their right to chose when they ‘spread their legs.’ She recently moved to Northern Virginia from Kansas, and so in her sweet mid-western style, she assured me we had more in common than we realized; and then went on to tell me that surely we both had faith in a Jesus came to save us from our sin, whose teachings were all about ‘law and order’, and whose ministry had nothing at all to do with challenging the Roman Empire. She willingly acknowledged that Jesus was concerned with the refugee and the immigrant, but then went on to say that they needed to be legal, and they needed to have some kind of skill that would be of value to their new homeland. And finally, as the rain continued to fall, in an attempt to display the compassion and empathy of Christ, she affirmed her personal desire to care for the poor and the marginalized, but then touted that age-old nonsense that such caring is the responsibility of people, not the government . . . apparently forgetting that in a democracy, the people ARE the government.

At some point in her preaching to me, she indicated that she was an active member in a local Evangelical Presbyterian Church. But I saw little fruit of one who is a disciple of Jesus. And as I graciously listened, biting my tongue and grinding my teeth, I saw no grace or mercy, a great deal of arrogance and fear, and nothing that even comes close to the humility or love that is central to the Gospel.

It is no wonder so many people have given up on the church. The witness of far too many is nothing that even comes close to the way of Jesus. And the understanding that far too many church people have of Scripture, God, faith, and discipleship, continues to lead to thinking that is so racist, sexist, homophobic, self-serving, and nationalistic, that is nothing that even remotely resembles the life of the one we call Savior.

So pastors, and churches: we have a great deal of work to do! Our people are destroying our witness in the world and tearing apart our our nation. And we bear a great deal of responsibility for this state of affairs. So we had better start doing a better job of teaching our people how to more carefully study what the Bible says; and then giving them the tools needed to interpret it, and to apply it to their lives. And we need stop being afraid to raise these issues in our preaching.

Our calling is to grow followers of the living God. Our responsibility is to cultivate ambassadors of the Gospel. And our mandate is make disciples, not members! And anything less, is anything but, ministry!


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4 responses

4 11 2021
Kathy Seikel

 Great blog! Can’t believe this landed in my inbox just as I finished reading an article about the corrupted belief systems of evangelicals in a other publication. I wonder how many of those who call themselves evangelicals actually attend church at all……I think I read in the Post recently that some 30% of those who call themselves evangelicals do not attend church regularly, leading me to suspect that many of them use the term “evangelical” as cover for the bigoted, narrow-minded and (yes) wholly un-Christian values. Here’s the article I was reading (and forwarding to a few st Aidan’s friends) when your blog arrived: https://religionnews.com/2021/11/01/study-most-white-evangelicals-dont-want-to-live-in-a-religiously-diverse-country/

Bravo to you for biting your tongue with that lady. Incredible self control…..yet I think the only way we’re ever going to heal the divisions in this country is by listening to one other, hard as that can be… Kathy

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4 11 2021
marilyn0915

Bob: I am right with you on this, Thanks for articulating what I see going on around us. And … I might add, the extreme Q “religious” folks are even more deranged in their views. Believe me, I have a niece and nephew from California who are into this. They were the ones who showed up in March to see Trump inaugurated. It was covered by Reutors.
Blessings to you all.

4 11 2021
marilyn0915

Bob: You are so right on. Yet, I have family members who are involved in the Q movement–a niece and nephew from California. Talk about cult behavior–even though they are the “fringe” on the far right, they speak of this in terms of Evangelical Christianity. These two were there at the Capitol for the reinstatement of Trump in March. Featured in a Reurtors news article. SMDH’

5 11 2021
Barb Eyre

Amen, Bob🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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