Half the Truth is Better than No Truth?

Here’s a confession: Before going to Seminary, I thought a good sermon consisted of a relatable message, easy to understand biblical principles with enough conviction to propel me forward (but not enough to wash me with guilt), all wrapped together with the words of a gifted orator. None of those components are inherently bad. But, in this season of pruning and awakening, the Lord began to show me a profound truth: Cherry picking scripture is one of the Enemy’s greatest weapons against the church.

I could tell you about the time a pastor stood up on a Sunday morning and used Romans 8:28 to tell the church it was okay to go out and purchase the new Apple TV because they could use it to host a Super Bowl party as a fellowship event. He assured us that Jesus was totally okay with that. (He also told us that Jesus was a fan of the New England Patriots, I should have known then that it was a lie straight from the pit of Hades!) Or the one about a church being called to suburbia. (I’ve heard that one WAY too many times… and every excuse in the book for why it’s true.) It would be a quite convenient truth actually… except that I don’t see it in scripture. (And I will address this specific issue a little further down the road. So don’t send me emails saying that rich people need Jesus, too. I agree with you.)

But, for this specific post, I want to focus on one specific passage… and if you know me in the slightest, you know this is the ONE passage you can’t slick-talk me on. I have studied it like no other passage… in the original language, through countless translations and commentaries. This passage, single-handedly, has led to sleepless nights, countless conversations, and the best form of transformational, constructive theology formation of my entire life: Matthew 25:31-46 (And, YES, I know it’s a final judgment text.)

A few days before the Sunday morning service in question, my husband and I went to one of our pastor’s small groups. After everyone had left, my husband and I began talking to our pastor and his wife about that week’s sermon. Our pastor wanted to ask us a question, specifically about this passage. He asked me, off the cuff, what does the passage say. My response, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

Immediately, he got so excited, like a sibling who tricked his brother into doing chores for a week. He proceeded to inform me that the passage doesn’t actually say that. According to him, it just says we have to do it for “ONE of the least of these.” He then proceeded to tell us how we’re not suppose to save everyone. I don’t remember much about the rest of what he said to be honest. I couldn’t get past the whole “we’re not suppose to save everyone” comment. But, I do remember getting back into my car and looking up the passage during our ride home. I remember continuing through the part about the sheep… and then getting to the goats.

I remember reading the particular section (verse 45) about how we’re ALSO told “whatever you did NOT do for ONE of the least of these, you did not do for me” (emphasis mine). I remember getting physically agitated at how someone could discount a POTENTIAL necessity to feed a large swath of people who are in prison, or homeless, those who are starving of famine in third world countries or the youngest, most innocent, of our own citizenry only getting one meal a day, which is provided by the public school system.

It also didn’t help that the following day, I went to the church to talk about the topic of the new building vs. church planting. At this point, the decision had been made to build a new space and I was trying REALLY hard to be okay with it. Context here is important: The prior Sunday, the sermon centered around sacrifice… to the point that the pastor challenged people to possibly re-think future home projects (like remodeling a kitchen) for the sake of funding the church/community center. So imagine how I felt pulling up to the staff parking area and seeing two brand new Lexus SUVs. I actually lost my cool in that moment, that’s when I was informed they weren’t purchased… only leased. Not quite sure why that made a difference because the optics of the situation don’t change. (And again, please understand, I’m sharing with you MY journey and what I was wrestling through. Did I have a problem with people having money? Nope. Did I have a problem with them buying an expensive car. Nope. Did I have a problem with them asking others to sacrifice and then seeing their sacrifice didn’t include a Ford (or some other less expensive car) instead of a Lexus… Yep. Not saying I’m right here. But, I also don’t see ANYWHERE in scripture where Jesus models this… AND THAT’S WHERE I WAS WRESTLING WITH IN THE CHURCH.)

Very long story summed up short…. we went to church on Sunday and our pastor gave the sermon. He talked about the sheep and how the need to save everyone doesn’t really exist. (To be completely fair, his message focused on how we only have to help the person right in front of us. This becomes very important in about 5 or 6 posts from now.) I tried to bare through it as best I could and PRAYED he would redeem the message when he got to the goats. But, here’s the thing: HE NEVER EVEN MENTIONED THE GOATS. He just stopped his sermon by giving everyone a free pass. I guess that passage stops at verse 40 in his Bible. (That was an intentionally snarky comment. I’m repenting. But, seriously, cherry picking scripture is NEVER okay. And this is FAR WORSE than using it out of context.) Based on His sermon, there’s no need to feel guilty about not helping everyone because Jesus doesn’t tell you to. For. Real. That was the end of the message. I didn’t even stand during the last song. I didn’t get up when everyone was dismissed. I didn’t respond to anyone when they said hello. I just sat there. My husband got the kids and came back. I was still sitting. He took them out to car and came back again. I just sat there. By myself. Jamie slid in beside me and asked if I was ready to go. I looked at him, tears streaming down my face and said, “I’m ready to hear the rest of God’s Word.” And then I wept. Little did I know that would be the last sermon I’d ever hear at that church.

Entering a Season of Unrest… and Uncertainty

There’s SO MUCH beauty in what Jesus has done with the ashes of my life. But, man… the next three years were rough. I wrestled with the Lord. I wrestled with the church. In this post, and for a few posts in the foreseeable future, I’m going to share my perspective of those three years. (And, at some point, my husband and my eldest daughter will share theirs.) It’s important to know a few things going forward: It is INCREDIBLY important to me that I respect all parties involved here. I will never give names of individuals or churches. But, for those who know us, some of these people and places will be obvious. The purpose of this blog isn’t to cause division. On the contrary, my hope is to provide perspective and to share WHY we feel the way we do about the direction of the church as a whole. We are not blameless victims in some of these interaction, but I also hope you see how the Lord has refined us, humbled us, and made us champions for unity. (Though it may not look that way for a bit!)

I’ve learned so much on this journey, each encounter refining me more and more. It has been a painful process that, at one point, led me away from the church, unable to enter the doors on Sunday morning. (It’s a very hard thing to watch someone preach on a stage about the need for repentance and holiness when behind closed doors they refuse to walk it out and those around them refuse to hold them accountable. Something not unique to my situation by any stretch of the imagination.) It happens more often than most people know. There’s a (growing) not-so-secret society of “un-churched” people like me who walk away from the institution because of sinful people. Most of us also know we shouldn’t walk away, because their sin, in the eyes of God, is no greater than ours. But, sometimes the hurt and anger are too great.

About a year after leaving Rhode Island, it became clear that our time at our home church was coming to an end. The problem, however, was reconciling this need to leave with scripture. (Personal preference isn’t a biblical reason.) While our family was church planting for six months, our home church almost doubled in size. On our first Sunday back, finding familiar faces proved difficult. Two strangers came up asking if we were new, wanting to “plug in.” Confession: I had to control myself from twisting up my face and saying, “I’ve been going here since day one. Step the heck back.”

Honestly, I became claustrophobic every Sunday morning. I started having mini panic attacks at church, something I wasn’t familiar with up to that point in life. (But, I became REALLY good friends with panic attacks over the next few years.) For the sake of my sanity, I decided to stick to focusing on my discipleship group as my service to the church community, which sustained me through the year. Until the topic of building a new gathering space came into play.

We had always been told by leadership that church planting was an equally viable and considered option. And we were probably one of the biggest advocates for church planting… and opponents to a new building. Fresh from the church planting world, we saw the beauty of the process. It is a sacred process requiring a dependence on the Holy Spirit for things a business plan could never provide. And with a price tag of $2 million dollars, and only an added seating capacity of 1,000 to 1,200, we didn’t see the construction of a new building as a smart investment. (They told us planting a church would cost approximately $120,000. So, in our minds we thought this was a no brainer. At that price tag… something we also questioned… you could plant 16 churches!)

In the end, they decided on the new building (at a price that, given their final numbers, could have planted over 100 churches). People were quick to criticize us for questioning the rationale for building a bigger space. (They decided to build a church and community recreational center hybrid.) We were met with a “if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us” mentality, which wasn’t completely fair. We were against spending millions of dollars on a building. But we weren’t against the people of the church. We had a hard time finding where the Word of God would support that kind of price tag. (We thought it was better to get groups of people from the church to enter into already existing community centers in their own neighborhoods.) But, we weren’t against people talking us through it and explaining how they felt the Lord led them to that decision.

Here’s the truth: At the time, we thought our family wasn’t called to a big church with flashing lights and loud music. It was easier to say what our family WASN’T called to than to say what it WAS called to. We were a mess. We had left this church 18 months earlier, after being told the Acts church was all but dead, to enter into an amazing church planting experience, where the Holy Spirit was so present… to come back to that same church who wanted to spend more money on lighting and sound equipment than they had ever spent on the homeless, or in a prison. This was almost impossible for us to swallow, and if given enough time, it WOULD have been the reason we left. It wasn’t. (But, given what was ahead, I wish it had been.)

What is (the) Church? (Part 3)

We’re All on the Same Team

The last post in this series “What Is (The) Church?” focuses on the ecumenical church. But before I begin, I must confess my predisposition on this subject. I believe in one church, as described in the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of the day, I think many Christians in western societies will concur with that belief… in theory. But, I believe our practice reflects a different belief, at least in part. (I’ll write more about that in the next post.)

As I began discipling these young women, something interesting began to happen. Young men began approaching me, asking if there was anything similar to my group for them. To my knowledge, there wasn’t. (My theology doesn’t lend itself to me leading/teaching men in that context. I will write more on that subject in the weeks ahead, but for now, just know the possibility of me replicating my group in that way wasn’t an option.) However, as the weeks and months went on, the need for SOMETHING was undeniable, so I approached my church with a proposal.

Confession: I’m pretty methodical in my approach to most things in life. (I’m also a 8w7 on the Enneagram, which I find to be a fascinating… and EXHAUSTING… combination!) When tackling an issue like this, I always look that the perceived need, the actual need (which may, or may not be the same as the perceived need), and then a remedy to solve the problem that best suits both the purpose and function of the church. In this case, the perceived need was a place for young men to connect for teaching, fellowship, and accountability. The actual need lined up pretty well with this, however, I began to see an underlying issue.

The church in New England is small. I know of youth groups in the south that are larger than my entire congregation. During that season, there really wasn’t a large young adult ministry outside of college campuses, run by para-church organizations. So, I asked my church to host an ongoing event called “Live It Out!” The premise was simple and ecumenical to the core. Our church, the largest in the area, would host the event once a quarter. I would bring in a worship band from Rhode Island (partly because I missed my friends, but also because their hearts for the Lord and ability to lead worship are second to none). We would always host a meal because food is important to this age demographic and there would always be a teaching component from a pastor NOT affiliated with our church.

At first, many people didn’t understand that last requisite, especially the staff at my church. But, the reason was simple. I wanted to create a space for young adults in the community to hear God’s word (with a message culturally relevant to their season in life), make connections with other young adults in their community… AND NOT LEAVE THEIR CHURCH HOME. The need for community within the young adult community was obvious, but so was the danger in creating a ministry within the walls of one church. A healthy church consists of young and old, men and women and let’s not forget racial diversity. The last thing I wanted to do was meet the need of a small group of people while simultaneously causing a crucial demographic to leave a large number of churches in the community.

Live It Out! lasted for about a year. The first event had 50 young adults. The second had 120. People were taking notice of both the growth within the event, as well as (and more importantly), the transformation taking place in the young men and women who attended. They were becoming more involved in their home churches. They were seeking fellowship with one another outside of the events. Many began volunteering with local organizations. God was moving. Our family eventually left the church, but the seed was planted. Others have come along to water it and there is growth in so many lives because of it. But, most importantly, the church was encouraged (and hopefully strengthened) by it. At a time when it often seems like we’re more interested in lifting the banner of our name (whether that’s an individual name or a the name of a specific church) higher than the name of Jesus, this was a reminder that working TOGETHER in HIS name eliminates so much of the temptation to underscore our own.

What Is (The) Church? (Part 2)

As the Lord continued opening my eyes to things seemingly removed from the book of Acts and the Epistles, He also began stirring my heart for the life of discipleship. In that season, I had the opportunity to work with young adults in two capacities and these experiences gave me a glimpse into both the beautiful and ugly sides of the church. Today’s post will focus on the first of those experiences.

For the first year following our return from Rhode Island, I threw myself headfirst into disciplining young women. (You can read about that here.) My original group started out with five young women and one hopelessly naive leader (that would be me). A few months in, we grew to eight. By the spring, approximately 8 months in, we grew to 12. At that point, I was sure of two things: First, these young women were hungry for expository teaching. Christian self-help and topical studies about decluttering their lives would never cut it. They wanted to know Jesus for who he was, not for what he could do for them. Second, I couldn’t do this alone. Teaching was one thing, discipling was another. I was trying to be intentional with each of these ladies, making myself available for late night calls and coffee dates… while being a homeschooling mom of four and seminary student. There weren’t enough hours in the day.

I started recruiting friends to help. I also started something called Discipleship Dinners. The concept was simple: Invite young women, as well as more “seasoned” ladies, over for a meal, followed by a brief teaching and conversation. During dinner, we would split up into two tables. Each group would consist of equal numbers from each age demographic. After dinner, the younger ladies would switch tables for dessert; this allowed everyone a chance to meet on another. After dessert, I would teach a brief lesson and then ask the women questions based on the lesson.

At first, there was reluctance to participate and those who did kept their answers surface level, safe. But, then my friend, Connie, gave a raw, unscripted answer, opening the flood gates. What followed was miraculously cathartic: real conversation based on vulnerability, wisdom, inquisitiveness, and a desire to grow. The more seasoned ladies saw how much they had to offer, something ALL of them questioned. The younger ones begged for more time to soak up as much wisdom as possible. These small dinners lead to a summer long Bible study with more than 60 multi-generational women. Ladies began connecting on their own. (Side note: If you’re ever tempted to match women up, I STRONGLY urge you to pray about it first. I mean, you should be praying about it regardless. But in by experience, the Lord is better at sorting those things out than me. We often make these decisions based solely on what we know, but there is so much going on below the surface. We see what people want us to see. Thankfully the Lord knows our hearts and He knows what we need. Let women interact. Let them hear one another’s stories. Let the Holy Spirit do its work. The most unlikeliest of women will be put together in the most beautiful ways.)

That summer was a turning point in my understanding of church. So often churches will silo their congregants, usually by age and gender. And if it wasn’t by the church’s design (for example a women’s conference), we’d silo ourselves. We stick to our kind; it’s just easier that way. But, pushing ourselves outside the limitations of our comfort (age, race, sexual orientation, etc.), we burst that bubble we’re living in… and it’s most likely a self-imposed bubble. It’s a scary place… being surrounded by the unknown, the unpredictable. It’s even scarier to allow yourself to lay bare, vulnerable, in an environment where you can predict little and control even less. An incredibly fun exercise for type A personalities. (That was sarcasm, just in case you missed it.) This was an important lesson for me.

What is (the) Church? (Part 1)

As the Lord continued opening my eyes to the things slightly skewed off-center in the church, He also helped me see the beauty of His design for HIS church. (And as an aside, this is one of the things we’ve come to see over and over again. So many of us, myself included, have made church about us and our preferences… and this goes well beyond our opinions about worship style and adequate child care on Sunday morning.) It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of the “seeker” model of church. I think the early church fathers would scoff at what we’ve made the Sunday morning service into. But, moreover, I think they would be scratching their heads at our reasoning.

When you look at church history, the concept of having non-believers at the gathering of the saints would have been non-sensical. The gathering was simply believers coming together for worship and communion. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the gathering intentionally excluded non-believers (but I could be wrong); I just don’t see much (any) attention given to their inclusion. Does it matter? Maybe. Maybe not. But, it’s something to think about… especially if their inclusion results in a deviation from the purpose of the gathering.

I once had a pastor ask me this question: What is your philosophy about church? What he really meant was, “What is the purpose of the Sunday morning service?” I won’t bother dissecting his constant references to the “church” as the Sunday morning service, or the building where it takes place, instead of the people entering said building and participating in the service. Culturally, we’ve created these deviations. He wanted to know my “philosophy” about the “target audience” for the Sunday morning service. His words, not mine. My response, “You lost me at audience.”

What followed was a pointed conversation about our objectives on Sunday morning. He believed our goal should always be 50/50: 50% Believers and 50% Seekers. First, I told me that I have a problem with the word “believers.” So did James. (I personally like the word “Followers” better, but it’s not about me, so…) I told him that goal was asinine, mostly because it wasn’t supported by scripture, but part of me also liked using big words in his presence. It annoyed him and I enjoyed his annoyance. (Not exactly mature. I admit it. Thankfully, I’ve grown up a lot a little since then.) After a little bantering, I said, “The percentages don’t really matter unless they affect what you say and do.” Then I followed up with this question:

“Would our Sunday morning services look differently if we stopped focusing on being ‘seeker-friendly’?”

I expected him to chew on that one for a bit. When I first heard that question, it took me a good 24 hours to wrestle through all the implications. It’s something to really ponder: Would we pick the same music? Would we offer as many programs? Would we allocate more or less time to outreach that takes place outside the church building? Would the sermons be the same? Is there anything we’re holding back because we don’t want to offend anyone? Would we spend more or less money (and time) on things like Easter eggs hunts and Trunk-or-Treats than we do serving the homeless? (And look… I have my own personal feelings about Easter egg hunts and Trick-or-Treating, neither of which I’m sharing because that’s not the point. I could care less what your conviction is. That’s between you and Jesus. But, the question is, are you spending more time and money doing the “fun” things without much (or ANY) attention to the ministries Jesus actually calls us to.

But, he didn’t even take 5 seconds to think about it. Out of growing frustration (and, I get it, I can be INCREDIBLY frustrating), in his most exasperated voice, he replied, “Of course, it would, but that’s not the type of church our elders want us to be.” And just like that, I was speechless. It doesn’t happen often folks. (But, interestingly enough, it happened quite frequently with this particular individual.) Over the next few years, I came to learn that bringing up the elders was like throwing down the trump card, usually used to shut down a conversation. But, my response has always been (and ALWAYS will be): What does Jesus want?

Out of the Mouths of Babes

During this season, our oldest child, Sydney, begged to go to youth group. I know it’s a rite of passage for a child who’s grown up in the church. You always see the older, “cool” kids sitting together during the Sunday morning service. You hear about all the fun field trips for youth group: amusement parks, movies, go-carting, late-night rave-style parties complete with DJ and glow sticks. (That last one wasn’t a humorous exaggeration… my comedic timing is pretty good, but I’m not exercising it at the moment.)

Confession: I said absolutely not. I think my exact words were, “Over my dead body.” But, my husband over-ruled me. His exact words, “You’re not being very Christ-like right now, if you ask my opinion.” (Well, no one WAS asking for his opinion, and I was a little disgruntled that he chose to give it as that moment. Second confession: I was WAY more than disgruntled. I was ticked.) But, he was right. My attitude wasn’t Christ-like. I should NEVER assume that even though things happen over and over, like a bazillion times… that they can’t change. They can. I’m proof of that. Sometimes I forget to extend the same grace to others that has been extended to me. But, then I remember that the grace extended to me was from Jesus, and I’m not Jesus…. so I cut myself a little slack. (I also want to confess that my feelings about youth ministry have changed. I had a pretty hard heart during that season, and it got a whole lot worse before it got better. But, it IS better now. So much better.)

So, we agreed to let her go to the first night, and by agreed, I mean Jamie won. But, the bright side: I had three “Proud Mama Moments.” The first happened as I sat at the back of the auditorium and watched the worship team sing Sweet Home Alabama as the welcoming song. My proud moment consisted of me NOT marching up to the front of that stage, grabbing Sydney by the arm and dragging her out of the building. (But, it probably had more to do with shock than any amount of self-control.)

I’m from the south and there are some songs Northerners should just never do. Sweet Home Alabama is one of them. Just, NO. (You probably thought I was going to talk about secular music being played in church, didn’t you? Wow, you guys are SO legalistic.) Just kidding… that bothered me, too. I’m not legalistic though. Honestly, I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a plastic spoon than listen to CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), but I do love a good hymnal throwback. Totally serious on that one.

I couldn’t make it through the first song, mostly because they were butchering it. As I walked out, the youth pastor chased me down. He wanted me to know that Sunday nights weren’t usually like this. It was only the first Sunday in the month, when they encouraged the teens to invite their “un-churched” friends to see what church is all about, loud music and crazy games like “Throwing a Pie at a Pastor” included. I don’t even think I responded. Probably because it took everything in me to keep from saying, “Well, it’s good to know you pull out all the bells and whistles for the kids who know nothing about Jesus so they can see what we’re actually about.” But, I didn’t. So, first Proud Mama Moment: I didn’t embarrass my daughter and I kept my comments to myself… my Herculean effort to promote unity in the church. (Self-Control: 2 points)

Moment number two came when I picked Sydney up. One of the volunteers, a parent I somewhat knew, came over to tell me how impressed she was that Sydney stood up and recited the whole passage about the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Honestly, I was a little surprised. Sydney was a shy kid; she would NEVER volunteer for anything. Later on, during the car ride home, I learned that no one at her table knew the scripture reference, including the two volunteers sitting with them who joked about not doing the prep work for that week… or any week. So Sydney told them the scripture. Days later, Sydney said she felt the bar we set at home for following Jesus was higher than it was at church. I asked her if she thought that was good or bad. At the time, her answer was “I don’t know.” It was a question we would ask her again 18 months later. But the answer would be completely different.

Moment number three stemmed from number two. After everything was said and done, Sydney made the decision not to go back to that youth group. She talked about it being centered around fun and games. She talked about the cliques and social barriers. She talked about how a decision to follow Jesus was never really underscored. In the end, after a long pause, she simply said, “It was just weird.” I remember feeling a sense of relief, but also this sense of sadness. Sydney had just left this life-changing season of ministry in Rhode Island. Small church, daily communion with other believers, serving one another, sacrificing for the sake of others knowing Jesus. Juxtaposing that against this entertainment driven, theologically limping, concept of church left her confused. I wish I could say that would be the worst of it for her… or us. It wasn’t. But, thankfully, with the bad, there was still a lot of good.

Conversion vs. Discipleship

My first year of discipleship included a steep learning curve, more mistakes than I care to remember, and a genuine beauty that has never been replicated. Numerous discipleship groups have formed since, each equally flawed and beautiful in their own right, but that first group will forever hold a special place in my heart. It was the gift of life, a breath of fresh air into a set of lungs that had forgotten how to breathe… or maybe the truth… they had never truly been taught how to.

My oldest daughter began singing at a young age, but never learned the correct way to use her diaphragm until years later. She always had this sweet, angelic voice, but with the guidance of a skilled instructor, she learned technique. She learned how to protect her vocal chords and how to tap into a powerful sound. Subsequently, she gained a confidence in her abilities. This is also true with discipleship. I grew up in the church, but was never taught how to disciple someone; I simply invited people to church. I went to VBS, but never told anyone about Jesus. I memorized all the books in the Bible (because my VBS teacher promised a Happy Meal to any kid who could accomplish the feat. I was the only kid who did, but I never got that Happy Meal… which may be where my disappointment in the church truly began!), but never sat down with someone to study the books together. I never discipled someone, because I was never discipled.

Years later, an elder informed me that discipling someone was as simple a ordering a pizza and talking about life. (This was also the same person who told me the Acts church was all but dead. ) Well, this I know for a fact: Discipling CAN take place over a pizza and will include talking about life, but it most certainly is not exclusive to those two components. Discipling is teaching. Discipling is what Jesus called us to in the Great Commission: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, TEACHING them to observe all that I have commanded you.

As our first year back from Rhode Island came to a close, the Lord started to open my eyes to His Word, to more and more discrepancies and inconsistencies being taught in the church. PLEASE NOTE: The accusation isn’t false teaching. Honestly, that would have been easier to deal with because scripture is clear about what to do in those cases. This was something completely different. It was more about how only part of the truth was being revealed… the parts that were easier to digest.

A great example of this came one Sunday morning as our associate pastor talked about an upcoming Baptism Sunday. His pitch for people on the fence (I’m not even going there… being “on the fence” about baptism deserves its own post!) included the admission that “following Jesus is as simple as proclaiming him as your savior and being dunked in some warm water, because ours is heated.” RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING… we made following Jesus easy, comfortable. I was flabbergasted. I was speechless. So speechless that I sat in my chair until every last person left the sanctuary and I asked the pastor to clarify his statement. Did he simply misspeak? Was he confusing conversion with discipleship? Did he really believe that becoming a disciple was merely about baptism?

There was no accusation just a need for clarification. I asked him what he really believed about the importance of discipleship when it comes to following Jesus. His answer: He went to his office and came back with a book called The Master Plan of Evangelism. This answer left me with far more questions than clarity. (And for the record, I already own the book and LOVE it. My problem wasn’t with the book.) In that moment, I was looking for a conversation, not a referral. I wanted to look at what scripture said, not some author’s interpretation of scripture. More importantly, I wanted to know if our church placed an equal emphasis on discipleship as it did conversion.

Over the next few months, the Lord would continue to reveal this chasm between conversion and discipleship, all the while, showing glimpses of the true example Christ placed before us with his disciples and with the early church. The growing challenge in this season was to fight off the temptation to point fingers, because the truth was simple: I knew there was a disconnect between what I saw in scripture and what I saw lived out in the church, but I had no clue of anything past that. But, in His faithfulness, God would continue to grow and prune my heart, allowing me to see His truth… and my own sin.