I was having a conversation with some fellow seminarians recently that got me thinking (believe it or not). This group of classmates was a mix of vocational ministers and laypeople and we were all discussing a recent trip to one of Houston's megachurches.
During our trip to this megachurch, the senior pastor led some sessions on how and why they do church the way they do. Many of his points were discussion worthy, but the one that I want to address here is his statement(s) about small groups in homes. He, if I understood him correctly, basically said that studying the Bible in homes does not work on a big scale.
I think the heart of his argument was that it's difficult to provide quality Bible teaching in an environment that is conducive to learning on a convenient schedule that fits the lives of SEVERAL families. (Enough qualifiers there?)
What seemed to stand out to me and some of my classmates was the idea that groups in homes are hard, so they "don't work" and we shouldn't pursue them. At least one of my classmates echoed the "megapastor's" sentiments that home groups pose too many problems logistically to be very effective.
This made me wonder, "What about Acts 2?" and "When did anyone ever say discipleship would be easy?" The message of Scripture, and especially of Jesus was that following Him would be difficult, painful and most likely inconvenient. Where did we lose that along the way? (Maybe I should remember from Church History...)
It's as if we've become tailors fitting Christians for the crosses they're to bear, "How's that feel? Nice and snug, but not too tight? Let me know if it's uncomfortable and we'll change it. We want you to feel the support and comfort of the cross, but not the suffering or persecution."
Hear me, I'm not arguing for self inflicted pain or asceticism. But it seems like a lot of church "strategy" is focused on making discipleship easier for people to embrace and fit into their lives. I know that we need to find ways to engage the culture, but I also know that we're not called to easy street in Luke 9:23.
Hear me again when I say I'm guilty of the very thing I'm indicting here. I just sense a dangerous trajectory in ministry that I'm sure has been around for years.
And I don't want people to lose sight of the fact that ministry and discipleship will probably be messy and will often be hard.
Jesus warned us:
Luke 14:25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
I know I haven't experienced a fraction of the persecution that I've read and heard about, so I hope to not offend those who have from where I sit. I simply wanted to put out a reminder and a caution.
When Jesus said "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30), I believe He's referring to our Spiritual efforts. The work there is finished (John 19:30)! Hallelujah! Jesus has done the heavy lifting for us!
But following Him while on Earth isn't an effortless piggy-back ride as we seek to proclaim His great gospel with our lives. The commandments to love God with all that we are and our neighbors as ourselves aren't just mental exercises (Luke 10:27).