An overwhelming majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians. While the mainline churches have been in decline for a number of years, Jesus’ popularity remains intact. So why does the culture—and in many cases, the church—look so different from Jesus?
If so many people are Christians, why don’t they live and love others like Jesus? It’s probably because they haven’t become disciples of Jesus.
It’s not that hard to be a Christian. You go to church and a weekly Bible study. You decide to “get saved.” You get baptized. And then you keep going to church.
You listen to the sermons, volunteer in the nursery, and bring your best casserole to the Sunday potluck. How hard is that?
We may give lip service to personal sacrifice and “picking up our cross,” but how much of a sacrifice is it really to be a “Christian?”
Honestly, not much.
At the risk of oversimplifying things, this is what the typical Christian life looks like in much of the church. And frankly, it’s not a bad life.
It’s just an incomplete view of the life Jesus is calling you to.
Why Christians Don’t Become Disciples
Jesus calls you and me to become his disciples—students who learn from him how to live in God’s kingdom. He asks us to live as he lived and love as he loved.
Unfortunately, only a minority of Christians have accepted that challenge. Most are content to consume whatever goods and services the church offers and leave it at that.
But why? Why are so few Christians following Jesus as his disciples? Here are 4 big reasons.
1. Discipleship requires change
Lately, I’ve been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian and pastor who was executed for participating in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler. And Bonhoeffer stated clearly one of the big reasons people don’t become disciples:'The call to discipleship is the call to change.' - Dietrich Bonhoeffer Click To Tweet
Change is hard. And changing your address, your job, or your even your motor oil is hard enough. That’s why we pay movers, headhunters, and mechanics to do the heavy lifting for us.
Changing your mind? Your habits? Your heart? That takes “hard” to a whole new level. It requires you to take a close look at yourself—and deal with your junk.
Most people just aren’t up for it.
2. Discipleship requires trust
To become a disciple of Jesus, you have to trust him. You have to trust that he knows better than you what needs to change in your life and how to go about changing it.
That’s not easy, because trust is about letting go. It’s about relinquishing control. And humans are control freaks, especially when it comes to how they live their lives.
We don’t like to be told how to live our lives, or how spend our time and our money. We like to be in the driver’s seat—which is why Jesus is only asked to ride shotgun.
3. Discipleship requires humility
There’s not a lot of humility in the world. We put things like self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence high on a pedestal. We like to look out for number one.
We idolize celebrities who are self-righteous and athletes who are self-promoting. We’ve elevated the cult of self to an art form. But that’s not how Jesus rolls.
As his disciples, Jesus calls us to be humble. Not that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less. That’s not easy.
4. Discipleship requires persistence
Michael Hyatt had a great podcast recently on the power of persistence. It is probably the single greatest factor in whether you succeed or fail in life—and as a disciple.
In today’s world, people are hesitant to make commitments and when they do, they often don’t follow through. They lack the stamina to finish what they start.
Some may even be outright lazy!
But being a disciple requires persistence—a willingness to stay in the game no matter what. To follow Jesus’ lead even when it feels like you’re getting nowhere—or have better things to do.
Jesus is calling you to do more than simply show up on a Sunday morning. He’s calling you to become his disciple. To learn from him how to live life to the fullest extent possible.
And that is something worth showing up for.