The Price Tag of Discipleship

At the conference Jerry and I attended in Tucson last week, I was reminded again of the pain and suffering that is often always required of those who sincerely and fully commit their lives to God and to His work. The price exacted from ministers and their families prostrate_in_worship_sm6674053_stdis extensive and if truth be known, there has not been a church staked, but what a woeful, sometimes frightening charge has been levied. Blood streaks the foundation stones. The salt of tears muddles on altars, and to the discerning who walks about in the now beautiful, filled to capacity, auditorium (or the frankly faltering, half-empty shell of a church) may be seen shifting shadows of death and may be heard the faint din of despair.

A heavy price must be paid to follow Jesus. Unfair of me, though, to suggest that only ministry pays such price, for did not Jesus say in Mark 8:34:

Article continues on my devotional blog here.

14 thoughts on “The Price Tag of Discipleship

  1. Shirley-
    If I am sleeping, drooling and snoring, I doubt any type of lecture will be all that effective!!! But yes, I have heard that such a sight has in fact been amusing on some levels. It has happened a few times before unfortunately.

    Jay-
    As for the use of the word lecture, I couldn’t get the word sermon to come out of my brain and onto the “paper”!

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  2. Mike – I love that you reffered to the sermon as a lecture. I don’t know if it was intention. I do know it was very amusing.

    Jay, perhaps your thinking the word lecture was a Freudian slip, in that Mike was acknowledging he needed a lecture because his head was lolling, mouth was drooling, and loud snoring was ready to rumble. Quite a vision. (I’ve seen a few such sights in my lifetime. 🙂 )

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  3. Jay said: “On the other hand there are many people who desire to not be noticed when they first begin attending a church.”

    As he well knows, I surely tried while down in Missouri. Fortunately, between him, the pastor and family, and other members of the parrish refused to let me slip through unnoticed.

    Shirley-
    As for finding a church home, no I have not. We went for awhile to the First Assembly of God (the large church I mentioned), then we just fell away from it. I don’t know why, exactly, but I do know timing is one thing. With my work schedule, I can not make the first service, and the following service falls right about the time I crash and fall into sleep in preparatin for another early workstart night. The constant standing up and singing can help some, but during parts of the lecture, no matterhow exciting it might be, I find myself nodding off, and in the sitting position I tend to snore, which I find rude to subject others around me to, much less the pastor. I have yet to find the solution to end such excuses at this time.

    Watch for email.

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  4. Greg the explorer

    I’d be interested in your opinion of Oral Roberts Shirley.

    Greg, I have no personal knowledge of Oral Roberts. If there is truth in the scandals surrounding him, he is not worthy of respect.

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  5. I suppose small vs. large is open for interpretation. I would have to say I would consider under 200 small, and over 1000 large. Then there is the middle ground. In the end it doesn’t matter as much how large the worship service is. It is more about not letting people slip through the cracks. In a small church it is much easier to notice a new face and ensure they are plugged in.

    On the other hand there are many people who desire to not be noticed when they first begin attending a church.

    We learned early on here in Lake Havasu when we were in our first tiny place, that more than one person did not want to be recognized, and I believe those people struggle greatly with a church in its infancy. They want to be able to “hide” among a large group. In a way, I understand that. Although it is wonderful to be recognized and publicly acknowledged, it is also nice to just sit, worship, and be unnoticed.

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  6. Nita

    I believe there is always a price for revival. There can be no birth without birth pains. A congregation may not even know of those that arise at 4:00 A.M. in the morning to pray for a harvest of souls. Someone is paying a price, though many will not see or know. When the church gets the vision of the pastor and there is unity, great things happen. Those that are paying the price are in fact the last to find fault but their focus is on being a disciple of Jesus. There is nothing like a home missions church to enjoy knowing that you are making a difference. But when that church begins to grow, it is also great knowing that there are others coming behind to fill in the gap. I love the small and large alike.

    Hi, Nita. Great points again. It’s true there is something special about a home mission church, when you’re right down there in the trenches and working at ground level with people. It is rewarding in a unique way…especially when you see people grow and develop in the Lord.

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  7. Shirley,

    While there were some differences in the small church in MO (one of a zillion in a town of about 5000), and the large church here in IA (about as many churches, but for a population area of around 300,000) they were both along the lines of (and here may show my ignorance) a more evangelical nature, as I see it, in a broad sense anyways. Jay may be able to better delineate the difference of that small church from some of the larger ones than I.

    Mike, through the years I have observed a vast difference in churches within the same denomination, and within churches that were essentially the same size as another. What is the cause of this? Reasons are many, of course, and sometimes I think it is impossible to discern the specific cause for these differences. Right away, though, I can think of a couple:

    A. The personality, spiritual depth and leadership style of the pastor plays a significant role in the “feel” and effectiveness of the church. Churches (as do secular businesses) rise and fall with leadership.

    … I can hear people howling now, so let me hasten to add that is not always the case. I have known competent, godly ministers, whose churches did not seem to flourish as did others. The reason I italicized seem is because I know that God’s judging of effectiveness and flourishing may be quite different from mine.

    B. Dedication, friendliness, talent, spiritual depth and general involvement of the local church body plays a big role on whether or not new people are attracted to the church; indeed whether or not visitors even visit one time.

    Having pointed out my quick thoughts on how churches of similar size may be quite different, I do acknowledge that size itself makes a difference. A church of 1000 cannot have the intimate, personal atmosphere of one that has 100 in attendance. Just can’t happen.

    A personal question and a little nudge from me: Have you yet found a church home? Please do, if you haven’t. It’s important that you and your family regularly attend church. Find one that sticks close to the Bible in its teachings.

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  8. Greg the explorer

    I like a large group thing every now and again but my personal preference is for a small group of around 40-80 adults. (our current community…which is supported by our ‘mother’ community) ranges between 12-30 adults, and I would certainly like to see it grow – but not through more people just coming, but through personal relationship where everyone in the community is reaching out to their friends and neighbours.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard of our Australian “Hillsong” and it’s pastor Brian Houston – but he is the major ‘mega church’ and prosperity doctrine teacher in Australia. As a reflection of his style and ethical standards he twittered recently with great pleasure about the honour of meeting Oral Roberts in his own home in California.

    I hope I’m not upsetting any fans of Oral Roberts but a bigger fraud and charlatan I could not hope to find anywhere.

    I woudl consider a small church to be below 200 – middle 300 – 600 – large 600 – 900 – very large 900 – 1200 and mega anything over that. I don;t think that you can really be church at those mega numbers. The disciples had to split things up when they found themselves the pastors of the worlds first megchurch of 3000! and yet todays pators seem to think (in America anyway) that 25,000 people is good.

    Small groups with less people per pastor are better – but then you wouldn’t have the one person gaining all that glory for bring together all those people…and the requisite million dollar lifestyles

    Hi, Greg. I agree with you that it is impossible to pastor many hundreds of people. You can’t even remember names of that many families. In our own organization all of the very large churches (at least to my understanding) have daughter works, and this has been a very effective way to reach more people with the gospel.

    Jerry and I met in Tulsa at Bible school. I worked part time for Oral Roberts, although I never met him.

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  9. I can relate with you. We attended a very large church in Billings. Not really my thing. Don’t get me wrong, the music was awesome, but you had to try really hard to get involved. I guess I just enjoy a smaller church.

    Jay, what are you calling smaller? What numbers are we considering here? Is small less than 200…less than 100…less than 500?

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  10. Throughout my life, I have struggled with the spiritual and religious aspects of life. I grew up in a small town, and for the most part lived across from the Catholic Church there. I was put off, first by very strict doctrinations fo such a church, but those same ‘great people’ on Sundays (or saturday nights for that church), were also often the biggest jerks the other 6 days of the week.

    I tried a multitude of churches with little feeling of anything. I enjoyed the small group discussions, but overall it was a personal feeling of “me” and “those in the church”, separate not together.

    When I was 23 I took a trip down to Southern Missouri to see my oldest and best friend, as well as sort out some personal stuff. Living in the parrish house with him and the youth pastor, next door to the church, caused quite a bit of stirring inside me. I was reluctant to befriend anyone out of my personal nature and experiences with “churchfolk”. But after a little pushing, I could see their acceptance there as real, including all but forcing me into the Easter skit.

    Then I came back up to Iowa to the big city and found a church, much larger in size. The intimidation factor was huge. Lots of groups, multiple services to accomodate the masses of people. I don’t know if its just the way of people in certain areas, but that small church in Missouri seemed more like a home to me than where I am now, and where I had been prior.

    Hi, Mike. Thanks for sharing this experience. Question: When you went back to Iowa, did you attend a church of the same worship and belief style (denomination, maybe) as the small one in Missouri?

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  11. Nita

    Helen, You seem to have a lot of hurt and bitterness in your life. The closest you will feel to Jesus is when you forgive someone that has hurt you terribly. Bitterness will destroy all goodness in a person. It makes you look for the negative and pick apart things that are said. I pray you have a wonderful day with Jesus. I too, love you and pray that you abound with Christ.

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  12. RE: Your answer to Greg.

    I dislike the large church for some of the very reasons you have said that you like it

    1. Everyone who attends church has not been “won to Jesus.” But since people think they have, their true need to understand that Christianity is about knowing Him may slip between the cracks.

    2. Choosing hurts people. Only the best singers get to sing, the best preachers get the preach, the best leaders get to lead, but the biggest lover of Jesus may go very painfully unchosen. Yes, that may be his cross to bear.

    3. A church that wants to teach living by faith ought to do so by example not by forcing people to sign pledge cards. A pastor who is worried about how he will pay the light bill is not living by faith. Yes, it takes money; build tents: Paul did. Ask yourself this, who chose the building? If it was the board, the board should pay for it. If it was the congregation, the congregation should. Some mega churches are a monument to the pastor. If so, the pastor should pay for his own shrine.

    4. I’ll spare you this one. Trust me, you don’t want to know.

    5. Go to a ball game to get that “full auditorium” feeling. Beter to have one or two gathered in Jesus name than an auditorium full of people who are not. Winning people to Jesus is a lot of one-on-one work.

    I’m not really arguing with you, Shirley. Everything you said is valid, but so is what I said. Part of the real problem (and you mentioned this) is that we make too big a distinction between clergy and laity.

    As I see it (and I admit I haven’t seen much), what you do best is write. Too bad you have to spend time crunching numbers. I love your devotional blog, where you nail it every time. I love you, Shirley. May God bless your ministry in every way (that is, may you see many people come to Jesus.)

    I agree with much of what you are saying, Helen. By the way, Jerry and I have built lots of “tents.” 🙂

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  13. Over here in Australia we have a growing love for the mega church among some Christians..along with their focus on the ‘prosperity’ that is ours when we become Christians. A total reversal of Jesus call for us to take up our cross and follow him, a total reversal of the least shall be the greatest, a total reversal of ‘the son of man has no home’.

    It makes me sad…and a bit angry, to see the direction these wolves are taking people…and they have a growing influence in the US and Europe as well.

    Greg

    Hi, Greg. You raise an interesting point concerning Mega churches, and to be honest I must confess that I am attracted to large meetings. There is something about the energy and the expectation surrounding them that is appealing to me.
    While I have never been associated with a Mega church, I strongly prefer that our small, home mission work flourish and grow into a large one, even though I don’t expect anything in the Mega range.

    There are a couple of reasons I feel this way.

    1. A larger church–other things being equal–means there have been more people won to Jesus.
    2. It’s easier to do things well when there are many people from which to choose.
    3. There is not as much financial stress when the church is larger.
    4. Staff is not “spread so thin.” (Example: I play the keyboard for our worship service, then when Jerry preaches, I take the children to their room and teach them. Gauging carefully the time, I try to have the children settled back in the auditorium in time to play again for the closing of the service. I do the bookkeeping, communication…on and on……)
    5. I like the “feel” of a full auditorium as opposed to a scantily filled one.

    But…is not all that part of my suffering, I now ask myself?…except that more people mean more have come to know the Lord, as I pointed to in number 1.

    I know your point about Mega churches and the prosperity doctrine is different, and in the main I agree with you.

    Thanks for your comment.

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  14. Sister Buxton,

    Thank you for posting this. You’re right, there are always going to be things that aren’t easy or pleasant that happen in the lives of people who take up their cross and follow Him. Sometimes things hurt, but God always comes through and makes something beautiful out of it. I’m glad He molds us!

    Jennifer, my heart swells with pride (the righteous kind 🙂 ) when I think of you and other children of home mission pastors–especially those such as you who, too, have their heart in God’s work. It’s not just your mom and your dad, Jennifer, who are working and suffering and sacrificing for God. It also is you.

    I, too, was a Home Missions child, and I can relate fully to the challenges you are facing. You will be a better person, though Jennifer, because of your sacrifices and because of lessons you are learning, and because you have entered into the suffering of Jesus Christ.

    I love you truly.

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