A close relative of mine is Buddhist. That in and of itself may not sound strange. But what is unnerving is he used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Baptist.
Talk about one extreme to the other!
There is a growing trend in American Christianity. People are leaving churches and embracing eastern religions, especially Buddhism. While I don’t pretend to know every reason why some Christians are abandoning their faith, there are major clues which paint an increasingly alarming picture. And based on what I see in many gatherings, I am afraid it will continue to get worse.
I am tempted to go on a long rant as to all of the problems in today’s churches. And while you might be thinking this is going to be just a gripe session against the church, in actuality, my goal is to reveal the problem and leave you with some ideas on how to prevent it from happening to your church….or even you.
First, the problem.
Churches are seriously lacking in the one concept that serves as the foundational principle of “Christianity”; discipleship. Without it means your church is simply a place to get together on Sundays, sing some really cool and “hip” worship music, hear a motivational talk, and go home thinking all is going great!
Discipleship, however, is anything but that. In fact, discipleship has nothing to do with those things. Discipleship is the shaping and disciplining of one’s mind, spirit, and at times, even your body. It means following the teachings of our Master, Jesus Christ. Telling God how wonderful he is may make us feel good. But it gets us nowhere in the kingdom of God.
Just ask the Israelites.
They had one awesome worship service every sabbath. Yet, God was so disappointed with their level of commitment that he allowed them to be overthrown. Praise and worship may sound good. But it means nothing without discipleship.
So why are people turning to eastern religions like Buddhism? It really is quite simple. Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions teach a message that demands the person completely absorb themselves into the teaching. While I, a committed disciple of Christ definitely disagree with the foundational teachings of Buddhism, I have to admit they offer practical advice and teaching to live a “good” life. Not convinced? Compare a Buddhist magazine to a Christian magazine. You will immediately see the difference. One deals with issues such as selfishness, hatred, pride and an assorted number of issues. The other deals with how to improve the church praise team.
People who are seeking for something of substance will gravitate to those areas they feel will feed them. They are not finding it at church, youth groups or most other gatherings. Therefore, they are leaving and grasping something that offers some truth, even if it is mixed with great falacy.
Recently, while serving as an “associate pastor”, I approached the lead pastor with the desire to take one year and teach the teachings of Christ; a complete focus on nothing but the “red-letter” words of Jesus. He declined. Instead, it was yet another series of lessons on “end times”, then another series of lessons on how to get God to give us our desires, followed by a lesson on how America was founded by Godly people. Each sermon drew a huge amount of applause. It was a year later when he decided to finally do a series of sermons on discipleship. It turned out to be a two-month “package-deal” on discipleship, a course like learning how to serve as a parking lot attendant or usher. Not much applause in those sermons.
Therein lies the great problem for people looking for something to ground them in this crazy world.
1. Discipleship is not PART of Christianity. It IS Christianity. Your church should be completely dedicated to learning how to be like Christ. Want to study “end-times”? Go find a book. Heaven knows there a million of them out there. I suggest a laser-like focus on learning how our master thinks and acts. Don’t treat discipleship as just a topic. Make it the core of your church.
2. Learn the commands of Christ. Jesus said to go unto the world and “make disciples.” That means teaching people how to be like the master. A church that teaches the material of the master will not lose members because of a lack of spiritual truth. Instead, you will be fortifying the kingdom of Christ.
3. Hold a Discipleship Conference. Find a teacher who understands the mind of Christ and how to impart it to others. Make it the foundation and cornerstone of your church.
4. Finally, be a committed disciple.. Seekers will see the light that lives in you and want to know where you received it. God will open incredible doors for you to disciple others for the kingdom.
God has empowered you for great things. The kingdom lives within you. Be the disciple you were created to be and help change the world for Christ…and save a brother or sister from turning to something that may seem right, but in the end leads to spiritual death.