I love the trailer to this movie because it encapsulates discipleship. Listen to a few of the lines and hear them not as some magician talking with his apprentice, but as Jesus speaking to a disciple:
“All over the world dark forces are gathering. You’ve been chosen to stop them.”
“You are going to be a force for good.”
“Great men have always been called. This is your calling.”
“This is crazy. But it is fun…”
If we learn nothing else from the story of Jesus, it is that our lives should be exciting with new experiences every day. After all, that’s why these fishermen left their nets and followed him—the prospect of leaving the drudgery of being a fishmonger and seeing the countryside with a Rabbi was pretty appealing. And Jesus has called us to be the Savior’s Apprentice. To leave the boring, normal life and enter into something incredible.
Discipleship or Drudgery?
But where is that excitement now? I see a lot of dull Christians. I see a lot of us who have traded the drudgery of our routine lives for the drudgery of the church. And we wonder why our teenagers leave their commitments in college. So many churches have a void in the 20-40 year old demographic. Because in our efforts to retain church members, we’ve lost sight of what it means to really follow Christ.
We live in a time when we have become increasingly comfortable with separating what we say we believe with how we believe. We have convinced ourselves that our beliefs are sincere even if they have no impact on how we live. If I did a survey and asked Americans, “Do you believe it is important to eat right and exercise?” most of them would say, “Yes I believe that.” Americans overwhelmingly say their health is important. But this summer, as fairs and carnivals ramp up, do you know what the most popular food will be? Deep fried anything. They deep fry oreos, bananas, pickles, twinkies, even a deep fried stick of
This past summer, I had deep fried Snickers, which, by the way, I think is exactly what manna from heaven tastes like. Some vendors even sell a bacon cheeseburger with a bun made out of 2 Krispy Kreme donuts. Do we think eating healthy is important? Of course we say we do, but when we eat like that, what do we truly believe? That healthy eating is good in premise but not important enough for us to follow strictly.
Do our lives really reflect what we say we believe? Or are we merely giving lip service to our faith? Because when we take following Christ seriously, it is like entering into an apprenticeship with Jesus—learning everything we can from him. A disciple is someone who is devoted to becoming exactly like Jesus.
The Great Omission
Unfortunately, the church has engaged in what I call “The Great Omission” instead of the Great Commission. Jesus lays out the mission to his disciples – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything I commanded.” But much of the time we rewrite Jesus’ commission to read more like a plan for washing clothes – “Make converts of people to a particular denomination or practice, baptize them, and leave to dry out. Repeat as membership needs.” Discipling is completely omitted.
But this isn’t how the early disciples took it. They did exactly as Jesus commanded. We see the early church proclaiming Christ, baptizing people, and then getting together to learn more from the apostles’ teaching and fellowship. They understood that being a Christian is the end result of a lifetime of discipleship. Acts records that the first people to be called Christians were not new converts, but disciples. These were people who were devoted to growing in Christ. They were willing to give up their lifestyle for Christ. They were willing to give up their selfishness for Christ. They were willing to suffer persecution for Christ. They were willing to die for Christ. They were worthy to be called followers of Christ. They were worthy to be called Christians.
Discipleship once had a very clear and straightforward meaning – it meant to follow around your Rabbi and try and do every single thing that he did. The disciples didn’t just try to know everything the Rabbi knew – they tried to become just like him. But it is not the same today. We cannot literally and physically be with Jesus. We cannot see him set an example of caring by showing compassion to the outcasts. We can’t sit around a fire, eating fish, and listening to his profound words. We can’t see him perform miracles and then be with us to teach us how to do the very same thing. So how can we be disciples? I believe the thing that we share with the original 12 disciples is desire. In the heart of a disciple is a desire above all else to be like Christ. The priorities, intentions, and attitudes are focused on becoming like Jesus.
Life as an apprentice, a disciple, a follower of Christ may not include photon bolts and fire balls, but it should be more than drudgery. Jesus is calling us to more than a life of fandom, of sitting on the sidelines, enjoying spiritual things and faith vicariously. He wants US—You and Me—to be a force for good. He is calling US—You and me—to follow him and go on this adventure of faith. Is it crazy? The world would say yes. But it is more than fun—it is the best way that we could spend our lives.
What would change about your life if you were to focus all your energies on becoming like Christ? What kind of reaction would you get from those around you? How would family members, employers, coworkers and friends react to you abandoning selfishness and entering into a discipling relationship with Christ? If we intend to become like Christ, that apprentice relationship will be obvious to every thoughtful person around as, as well as to ourselves. As we change we truly live up to the name, “Christian”.
Being a Christian means we are leaning and trusting completely in God, assured that God’s desire for us is the best way to live. And so, when we say “I believe that Jesus is the Christ” we are more than affirming some fact. We are following in the steps of our Rabbi. We are becoming our Savior’s Apprentice.