I want to thank Jonathan, JT, and everyone at GCD for inviting me to be a consistent contributor to the greater “discipleship” conversation.
Why Millions Are Leaving the Church
Just recently, while speaking at the AND conference at Granger Community Church, I made some comments that I believe fit the spirit of GCD. The first is that the problem with the church is not how we do church; fixing the church isn’t a matter of trying to “do” church differently. The Church is something that God builds completely and utterly as “disciples” are made. As millions leave the church, and the unchurched remain uninterested in “doing church” with us, I believe the real issue at hand is discipleship–what a true disciple is and what they do.
In the Early church stories recorded in Scripture: “people held [the disciples of Jesus] in high respect, but were actually afraid to join them.” “[The disciples] turned entire regions upside down.” “Word about [the disciples] echoed how they had turned from idols to serve the living God.” (Hugh Halter translation)
The disciples (i.e., the peasants, prostitutes, woodworkers, soldiers, rabbis, and riffraff) were taking on not just the message of Jesus, but the life of Jesus, and although they were an intimidating bunch, people just couldn’t stay away, so THE CHURCH GREW!
It is with this dilemma but also this great potential, that I finally wrote my “discipleship” book called Sacrilege. Most know me from our church leadership books, but the simple truth is that it’s almost a waste of time to talk church leadership if you don’t reframe what the bedrock of church is–the disciples of Christ Jesus. If disciples are consumeristic, materialistic, individualistic, and religious, that’s what our churches will be like. If our disciples would rather watch an episode of 24 or have dinner with their in-laws than open their home to the lost, leery, or least, then our churches will continue to be wasted space and wasted time. But if our disciples are redefined around a very important concept, then everything will change.
What’s the wild concept? Simply this. When Jesus said “Go, and make disciples,” he actually meant it! And his definition of a disciple was “a person that lives like I lived.”
Apparently most of us think a disciple is someone who knows about Jesus, studies about him, worships him by singing, or attends large gatherings of other people who are trying to learn and worship him. What we don’t think of is someone who plans to live like Jesus.
This is why Sacrilege could make a difference.
Sacrilege is about the Incarnational life of Jesus. In it I expose Jesus as the least religious person you could ever meet. I point out how his non-churchy ways and his absolute sacrilege with the Scriptures, the Sabbath, sin, sinners, and a host of other kingpin issues, were exactly why people were drawn to him. But the book isn’t about Jesus. It’s about us and how seriously we take his invitation to re-orient our lives around the whole gospel of kingdom life.
Sacrilege is a walk through the Beatitudes as a grid for Kingdom living; and each chapter should begin to erode away some long held beliefs that have made us very ‘unlike,’ Jesus. Yes, there are some pretty hard challenges and you may even find that you’re afraid for your people to really live out what I’m suggesting. You may even find that you have to think through long held practices of Christian leadership or your own form of pharisaical life.
But as honest and as heartfelt as I can say it, I believe most Evangelicals and Mainline Christians have no clue what true incarnational life looks or feels like; and until they get it, our churches, and your church will continue to fail the harvest, including your own children. Why do I think Sacrilege can make sense out of the mundane Christian paradigm? Because it made sense to my own 16 year old daughter. She sent this message to my church community on Facebook recently.
“So today I went to Starbucks with 3 of my girlfriends and dedicated myself to reading my Dad’s latest book, Sacrilege. After just finishing the introduction and the first chapter, I’m already feeling a stronger connection to Jesus. Lately my life has had some pretty rough patches and I haven’t been able to be my normal happy, lovin’ self. At this point I feel so happy and I feel as though maybe things are starting to look up, and I’m finding faith in God to lead me to bigger and better things. I just want to thank my Dad for the amazing life he has blessed me with and allowing me to find Jesus on my own, and I truly believe I have. I love you, Dad, and I hope you have a safe trip. I’ll be praying for you.
That said it all to me, and I hope the heart of this book will help change everything about how you live and what God does with your life.
How to Use Sacrilege
First, Sacrilege is only for the stout-hearted or those who have become jaded with their past and present experience of church and Christianity. I would not give it out as a Christmas gift to the whole church. You will for sure get strung up! Find a handful of friends who are serious about their future and their faith. Grab some jaded buddies that have left the church; even give it to someone who has never been in a church gathering, and read it together for a month or two as a learning experience. (There is a free study guide at www.missio.us) Your posture should be, “I’m starting over with Jesus and I wanted to include you in my processing of the real story.”
If at the end of the reading, your friends have a smile on their face and burning heart, then a practical next step is to grab the TK or Barefoot Primers on the same website and begin living the life of Jesus. There’s plenty of help for you on our site and I’m happy to answer questions via my Facebook “Hugh Halter.”
As you consider your own life and faithfulness to Jesus, I pray you’ll become a sacrilegious disciple with me!
Hugh Halter is the national director of Missio and pastor of Adullam in Denver Colorado. You can find out more about Hugh at his blog or follow his thoughts on Twitter. His previous writings include The Tangible Kingdom, And: The Gathered and Scattered Church, and The Tangible Kingdom Primer (Workbook).