Basic or Premium Version?

January 10, 2015 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

The following text was written by a Pastor friend of mine (35 years) as he prepared his Sunday morning message. Well worth reading. This kind of friend is a gift of the richest fare!!

 Preparing for Sunday’s Message and wrote out the following thoughts on “Following Jesus.” 

 Just recently, I joined a new gym. I spoke to Andre and he explained the terms of membership. It was much like my previous gym. I could get a basic membership for $25 per month but for a few dollars more I could use the massage machine and bring visitors with me for free. The same approach is used by Amazon; you can sign up for free, but for about $100 a year you can get Amazon Prime that allows you many extra privileges such as free shipping and access to a variety of Movies and Music. For the avid reader you can sign up for Kindle Unlimited that gives you access to hundreds of thousands of Ebooks; you can read and listen to them for $9.99 a month. For another $15 per month you can join Whispersync for voice and seamlessly move between reading and listening to a book. There are probably other services they offer that I still haven’t discovered.

I hope you see the point. In the market place it is not all or nothing but you can decide which services you want and ignore the others. As the consumer, you decide what is good for you and without penalty ignore the parts that are not a fit. This climate has in many ways filtered into the church in America. Many churches have become Amazon clones and offer a variety of services that you freely choose to use or ignore, no questions asked. The lines become a bit blurred here and it is easy to feel the marketing shadow creeping in to shape membership commitments in the church. It is not so easy to say whether this is totally right or wrong.

Let’s take this one step further and ask if there are such options for “Following Jesus.” Can you sign up for the basic package with minimal commitment and be guaranteed a “fire escape clause” but for a bit more get a measure of joy, a sense that life has meaning, and a guaranteed future in heaven. For the really hard core you can sign up for the full membership with discipleship, scripture memory, and even some suffering for Jesus. It is clear that many approach following Jesus much as they choose their Amazon options. Has Jesus offered us these options or are they marketing ploys that religious franchisers use to sell Jesus?

Matthew’s Gospel makes it quite clear that following Jesus is quite different than the familiar marketing model. In fact, it is all or nothing! Jesus said if anyone wants to come to me the terms are not negotiable. You can’t sign up for basic or premium discipleship. You are either in or out! You either follow Jesus completely or you follow your own path (which is really Satan calling the shots without really understanding how he is using you). Every one who chooses to follow Jesus must exercise self-denial, kill the sinful passions that constantly pressure you to conform, and purposely and intentionally follow Jesus without reservation. Luke’s Gospel makes the demands even stronger, unless you hate mother, father, children, and even spouses you cannot be his disciple. Isn’t this a bit too radical??? Don’t we need some balance?

Almost eighty years ago D. Bonheoffer wrote, The Cost of Discipleship to combat such cheap grace. There is no basic membership offered by Jesus but for those willing to follow him at all costs there is life that throbs with his presence and Joy unspeakable and full of glory.



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