Currently, more than 50 percent of the people living in the United States claim to be Christians. But we don’t see millions and millions of Jesus-like people running around; rather, we see the byproduct of a society of people who increasingly don’t know Jesus and live in his way of life. It’s not the absence of church goers that leaves us with the problems we are now facing. Church goers abound. It is the absence of disciples. This fact is more poignant when we see how Christians have transformed society for the good in the past.
Consider the following quote from Rodney Stark about the early disciples:
Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with urgent urban problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.
This is an expression of what it looks like when discipleship is at the center of a Christian movement. Sadly, this is not the reality we find ourselves in. We find ourselves in churches with people who call themselves Christians but, by and large, are not living as disciples. Our society is in the state it’s in because we have abdicated our calling as Christians. We are to blame.
My thoughts have been fixated on what this says about the gospel. Can it be simply coincidental that when people heard the gospel in the early church, they become disciples of Jesus, but when people hear the gospel today in the United States, they believe discipleship is optional?
Is it possible (just give me possible) that we are articulating a different gospel than the one of the disciples and the early church?
And if it’s possible …
What do you think the differences might be?