July 15, 2011 Discipleship and Urban Ministry
“Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say?” Jesus said this (Luke 6:46). It is the foundation of Christian discipleship, to listen to or learn the teachings of Jesus for the purpose of putting His thoughts into action. Jesus explains the principle by describing the difference between having a life built on a strong foundation or one that is unstable. (A house built on a rock versus a house built on sand).
A week ago I met with a Christian who asked, “Why don’t Christians minister to the poor in the city? The Bible clearly teaches that we should take care of the ‘least of these’.” He attends a large Evangelical church which follows the modern trend of church growth models. My response to the curious Christian was, “Because we are building churches rather than making disciples.” Which I believe remains the deepest wound in the modern landscape of the church today. For nowhere did Jesus tell us to manufacture churches, though He did tell us to make disciples.
So Jesus would say that the one who calls Him Lord should demonstrate their relationship through Christ-like actions. The purpose of church, Bible Study, worship, fellowship, and everything else God gave us to help us become His people is to learn to do what He says.
Living in the poorest inner city for nearly a quarter century I see the indifference of the Evangelical community to this ravished area as a sign. A sign that our Christian leaders falter when it comes to doing work that does not aggrandize their own position or name. Again being ruled by the modern golden rule: “build or maintain that bigger building”. But what about discipleship? What about teaching people to call Jesus Lord and to do what He said? Should we not be teaching God’s people to do what Jesus taught us to do, to live more as He lived, and to honor God through Christ-like action?
Just a couple of paragraphs following Jesus teaching about the house built on the sand, John the Baptist sends disciples to Jesus to find out if He is the savior. Jesus recites aspects of His ministry to John: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (luke 7:22) Now we may be limited in our ability to carry out some of the activities in Jesus’ list. But one stands out as doable – preach the good news to the poor. Evangelicals, for what ever reason, primarily remain entrenched in the middle and upper middle class. We hold most of the churches resources captive to massive egos and monstrous development projects. While we ignore the poor.
Placing ministry to the poor in our land should be a high priority. The fact that it is not is a symptom. Like a fever accompanying the flu taking care of the symptom will not solve the problem. What concerns me more than anything in this monologue is that the Church and its leaders are failing the mission. What we need is DISCIPLESHIP!! We do not need to send people into the streets of the city because someone wrote a blog. We need to go because God’s people want to go and cannot be restrained from obeying the things Jesus said. We need to go apart from programs, and allow Christian action to flow from His church without a marketing strategy or an acronym. We need to answer the call to Make Disciples, and let the disciples call Jesus Lord and have the work behind them to back that up.