Discipleship may yet turn into the evangelical designer accessory of our time. Think about it: Jesus, java, mentors, workbooks, sign-ups, practice, learning, deep talk. It all sounds so…spiritually subversive, which creates a strong attraction for those wanting to connect with vintage Christianity. In fact, discipleship has been packaged that way for folks who might buy weathered skinny jeans from thrift stores (when they could have paid less at Target). I’m not taking swipes at more stylish brethren. I love preaching in jeans, hiking boots, and sport coats. I like the small, relational angle of church with everybody doing ministry. Something about grass-roots Christianity excites me. I like all that spiritually subversive stuff (Check out my website, Gospel Outfitters while it still exists). The fact is, if someone said to me, “Dude [we say dude around here], let’s have a 5 a.m. Bible study on the book of Leviticus at Alum creek,” I would seriously consider it just because it sounds so rad.
And yet there are thoroughly uncool parts of discipleship as well. Focus is one of them. If you’re a junkie for variety, the mundane, roots-down approach needed for spiritual formation will try your patience. The novelty will wear off. A few years back, I started an early morning men’s fellowship group. All the cool elements were there—a couple of guys, opened Bibles, a secluded location, a God-awful early time slot, plenty of coffee. Enough time has passed for us to learn there’s absolutely nothing sexy about any of it. Our meeting no longer has that new car smell.
In fact, I’ve found that focus is a challenge for folks all across the spectrum of discipleship. Take Charlie. He’s interested in being discipled. One of the early things we stress is church attendance (Heb. 10:24-25). Knock the approach as old school if you will, but we’ve noticed a definite qualitative difference between those who regularly meet for worship and those who don’t. Charlie has a problem with this because he finds church boring. He doesn’t get much out of it. Besides, he has other commitments and responsibilities during that one hour on Sunday. I’m sympathetic. It sounds like me when I was trying to make a case for not wanting to go to school in the fourth grade. What good will multiplication tables be later in life, anyway? Addition and subtraction are good enough. I already read on my own (comics). Besides, school does nothing but stifle creativity (you can learn more with Play-Doh at home). I laid out my case about the educational system being irrelevant and boring and made points that my parents hesitantly agreed with. Some they couldn’t answer at all. “I hear you,” they said. And then they made me go to school for the entire twelve years.
That was one of the best things they ever did for me.
So when it comes to some areas of the Christian life, we don’t stress inspiration, but continuity and focus. Like tithing, character development, Bible reading, prayer, holy living, etc. You can mix these things up and spice them differently, but you have to face them with a degree of consistency that leads to establishing them in your soul. Too much of a static approach in the short-term will be like uprooting and moving a tree around your front yard for the sake of variety. That stunt will sooner or later kill your oak sapling.
Plant. Water. Wait.