Why Discipleship is Boring
Want to kill the mood in a group of Christians and maybe put them to sleep? Start talking about discipleship. The more I talk about discipleship the more I feel like I’m trying to tell people about the difference between toenail clippers and fingernail clippers.
This is a problem. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples–those were his final instructions. Is Jesus boring? I’ve come to firmly believe that changing the tone of the conversation on this topic is essential to the future of the church. But why do people think discipleship is so boring? Here’s three reasons.
1. People don’t know what discipleship is.
I frequently hear people refer to discipleship as an item on a list with evangelism, justice, community service, small groups, and a myriad of other “Christian” things. But Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to make evangelists, service workers, volunteers, parents, and leaders–he knew if they really made disciples all of these things would be covered. Discipleship is the umbrella under which all of the Christian life resides–or it should be. Saying discipleship is one thing on the list is like saying being healthy is important but so is exercising and not eating fast food. We don’t have a cohesive picture of all of life as a Christian because we’ve reduced the thing that is supposed to cover it all to learning more.
2. People don’t have a good paradigm for pursuing it.
This is deeply related to the first point. We often think things we don’t really understand are boring. Ask people to define discipleship in ten seconds or less and most people will struggle. People have a vague, and often truncated, idea of what it is but they lack clarity. It’s hard to be passionate about pursuing something that isn’t clear to you. When a pastor stands up and delivers a murky, generalized vision it doesn’t create momentum and movement. But if he gives clear, God-given vision it can do that in a heartbeat. God gave us His direction through Jesus–we are supposed to make disciples. What we lack is the kind of clarity that helps that happen.
I believe two words provide a definition/paradigm that is clear enough to give motivation and momentum–unique conformity. All those who claim to follow Christ are called to conform to Jesus and His way. At the same time, we are all created to be unique and our discipleship comes through our uniqueness, it doesn’t wash it away. Paul even tells us that the church is supposed to be like a body–each part is unique or the body doesn’t function right. Unique conformity is easy to understand, and to share with others, but you can pursue it your entire life without arriving or wearing it out. Imagine if all Christians understood the call to be uniquely conforming to Christ and churches facilitated that movement!
3. People haven’t tried it.
Because people don’t understand, many Christians haven’t really tried discipleship. They’ve tried church services, Bible studies, small groups, community service and more (all great parts of discipleship if they’re understood that way), but they haven’t tried discipleship. Discipleship is an all-in, all the time, holistic life devoted to Jesus. Unique conformity touches every part of who you are and how God is working in and through you. But our truncated view of discipleship has led many people to dabble in religion without going all in. Like putting your feet in the ocean isn’t the same as body surfing, participating in some Christian activities is not the same as discipleship. No wonder people think it’s boring.
Turn It Around
We’ve allowed the greatest adventure of life to become a subject we’d rather avoid. We need to make discipleship exciting again. Being a disciple of Jesus shouldn’t be boring, and if it seems that way to us we need to get clarity on what it is and actually try it.