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Most of you know I spend a great deal of time reading about “mission,” what with being a Mission Pastor & all. On Mondays, I try to get your thoughts going about stuff I read. Today’s thoughts come from Brandon Hatmaker in his book Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture (Exponential Series)

These were the unintended messages I picked up on when I came back into church late in my high school life:

*You need to show up at church. We’ll sing and we’ll make some announcements and we’ll listen to the sermon. Here’s a notebook to keep your sermon notes in. Oh, yeah. Repeat the process on Sunday nights as well as in Sunday School and youth group.

*You’ll want to pray and fast and spend time in the Word and serve. We’ll just assume you know (or can figure out) what those really mean because it’s what Christians do.

*Most of your spiritual growth will come from your quiet time. You’re having those every day, right?

*You’ll want to be salt & light, so make sure to be the kind of person people are attracted to. What kind of people, you ask? Conservative evangelicals in the Bible Belt, of course.

*Your small group is vitally important. If you gotta make a choice, pick the Monday night group.

*Here’s the Bible. Read it every day. Where to start & what to do? You’ll figure out. Matthew Henry has a great commentary you can buy or you can pick up a copy of “Our Daily Bread” at the church every month. Those are pretty good.

*Here’s some copies of the “4 Spiritual Laws.” Keep them in your car or your Bible so you can be ready to lead somebody to Christ…if you ever really meet somebody who’s never heard of him or hasn’t walked an aisle or said the prayer.

Now don’t get me wrong. The people who were sending those messages loved me and wanted me to grow. I’m grateful to those folks, man. They just didn’t know they were sending those messages. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that I was picking up on them, either. I just had a sense that something wasn’t exactly right…or maybe that somehow I wasn’t getting it right because they all seemed to be. So, I kept silent about how it really wasn’t “clicking” for me because I liked these folks and they liked me and I pretty much figured that at some point the light bulb would go off and it would all make sense. All I needed to do was wait for that magic moment.

It never came…well, not like that. It was a much slower process. This guy started showing me things that were so clearly in Scripture about following Christ. Over a couple of years of lunches & coffees and weekend retreats and random conversatoins a lot of different messages were starting to shine through.

Stuff like I had a spiritual gift I needed to be using to help the body of Christ mature…and the passions and interests I had were clues to where I needed to be ministering. That there are reasons those spiritual disciplines will help you know Jesus, but they can look as different as every believer. You need to be in community with other believers…they’ll sharpen you and you’ll sharpen them, and that Sundays are a time to celebrate that sharpening so you need to be there to tell your story and hear others’ stories. It’s a good thing to challenge the status quo and if he’s flipping your life upside down and you start seeing the world the way He does, you might find it’s your duty to speak up in love. Know the Word so you can be free, because truth sets free and error will make you a prisoner, so soak up truth. Live your life in such a way that you can start a conversation about the Jesus you know, because the greatest truth in history breaking into four bullet-points might be giving it the short shrift.

See…this guy seemed to know that I was wanting the abundant life that Jesus talked about. That I had a desire to experience life as it was meant to be lived and that somehow, some way, if he raised the bar by showing me Jesus and what He said rather than focusing on the codes & to-do lists I was picking up on, I might just have my life transformed.

He was right, which is why these words from Brandon Hatmaker resonated with me when I read them:

When Jesus told us to go and make disciples, he meant that we would begin a new way of life. Yet most of us do not feel made new. Many of us feel like we’re on the hamster wheel of spiritual formation, and nothing is changing. We’re learning a lot, but we’re not experiencing an equal amount of transformation. Greg Ogden offers seven marks of discipleship that can be used to identify the gap between the biblical standard and the reality of faith:

1) From passive participation to proactive members.
2) From spiritually undisciplined to spiritually disciplined.
3) From private faith to holistic discipleship.
4) From blending in to a countercultural force.
5) From church is optional to church is essential.
6) From biblically illiterate to biblically informed.
7) From shrinking personal witness to sharing our faith.

(These are quoted by Brandon, and the footnote is from Ogden’s book, Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time.”

At first glance, this seems like a list we would deem more appropriate for pastors and church leaders than for the common believer. For the rest of us, we’ve lowered the bar too much, failing to embrace even one or two of these marks, much less all seven. If these are even a semblance of what truly marks a disciple, it’s time to ask if what we’re doing is really working.

So, a few questions over your coffee this morning, patrons:

First, do you think our Tribe is “setting the bar too low?” or not?
Second, if you feel like you’re on the “hamster wheel of spiritual formation,” what can be done about that?
Finally, do you agree or disagree with the marks in the list? What would you add/take away?