The Disappearance of Christianity
Larger crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:25
Have you ever wondered why Christianity leads everyone to think that there's some elite group (usually missionaries) of people who must leave everything behind to follow Christ, while the rest of us get to live a mediocre existence with God's blessing? Why, Christ has called us to prosperity and high living, good jobs and sizable incomes, didn't you know? This seems to be the popular message of the day. Where is that cross we were just reading about? Hanging around our necks on a gold chain?
It is frustrating to realize that it is considered fanatical or extreme for Christ to say we must leave everything to follow Him when this is, quite frankly, just the first simple step to becoming His disciple, and all who would be one must make that step. I'm not saying that it's easy, just that it is essential in order to begin.
This is the gospel that has built our village and still rings in our hearts and ears today. We've come from Protestant and Catholic churches, biker gangs, the military, yuppie-ville, the projects "you name it" someone has been there. People who live here ran the spectrum from alcoholics and drug addicts to self-righteous goody-two-shoes. Some were abused, some grew up sheltered, one was a beauty queen, others street smart toughies, some were home-schoolers, others skipped school. The only thing we had in common when all of this began is that when Christ approached us in the midst of our varied lives and beckoned for us to follow Him we left everything and went.
The result of that obedience in people is amazing. We now live a life so full of joy and purpose that we have a hard time saying we left anything at all in comparison to what we have been given from God's hand. People, who would never have given each other the time of day, or even a second thought, are now closer than family as a result of the love God has poured out among us.
Christianity also has grossly distorted its focus on our individual walk with God. Albeit Christ does call individuals, but he does so with the purpose of joining them to other individuals in the unity He shares with the Father. (And I don't think The Father and Son meet twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday nights!) As a friend of mine said, "It's a Body for crying out loud!" There are so many teachings and doctrines that discredit and explain away all Christ intended in this. The Body of Christ in America consists of a bunch of individual people scattered everywhere trying "to stand for Jesus." They quibble over words and run each other through with their individual interpretations of truth, dividing over senseless things that have absolutely nothing to do with whether you wake up each day and love your neighbor as yourself or not. Christianity has done an excellent job at arming people against the thing they need the most - other people.
Christ's glory being revealed in the earth is contingent on people being together. The majority of the promises in the New Testament that everyone would like to claim for their individual walk as a Christian were not written to individuals but to a collected Body of believers. Today, it's next to impossible to find the fruit enjoyed by the Church in Acts because we are not being taught to live as the Church intended. People are floating around like satellites claiming their part in the "universal Body." But this is often just an excuse to continuing a theoretical walk and never having to deal with the living realities of the true Body of Christ, like daily exhortation, shepherds, discipleship, and accountability one to another. In short, most people don't want the possibility of someone actually speaking into their lives1.
According to the present-day version of Christianity Christ should be able to have an arm in Africa, a finger in Virginia, an eyeball in Cincinnati, and a toenail in Amsterdam; and this should leave people in so much awe that they drop everything to follow Him. Sorry, folks, but this just isn't working. The whole purpose of the Church was that there would be an expression of Christ's Body in each locality, enabling Him to reach the hungry and destitute people He has always sought out. These expressions were to be fully functioning with all parts intact, including eyes to see the needy, hands to feed them, and feet to seek them out. In this many-membered expression of Christ, His glory should be revealed in the LOVE the members have for one another, the way they care for one another making sure none have any lack and that all are pursuing righteousness.
When Christ called people He did say, "Leave all and follow Me". After He ascended to be with the Father His disciples said the same thing: leave all and follow Christ. Only Christ was no longer an individual man walking around. He had filled His followers with Himself making them the living expression of Himself in the earth, still walking around, loving and touching people, healing the sick, and giving sight to the blind.
Christ still asks us to leave everything. We are to trade our lives in for His life. That life is a many-membered one. There is no asking Jesus into your heart in the Scriptures, only forsaking all to follow. He still wants to touch the poor and the hurting, and to be found in the company of tax gatherers and prostitutes. He desires to give them an alternative to the way they are living. He wants them to come inside of Himself where they can be free. In order for this to be a reality, and not another theory, there must be an expression of Him for them to come in to. Sunday school and Bible studies do not free people. A DAILY walk with other disciples, encouraging, building up, and exhorting one another in love works. I watch it happen everyday of my life, and it is completely astounding. Come and see!
1 Many people actually avoid these things because of being grossly misused and abused by counterfeit Christs. To these people I would say that, while the accountability in the Body of Christ is very real, it is walked out with real love, not hypocrisy and fraudulence.