If we want to be effective in reaching young adults, we need to raise the bar for what it means to be a disciple.
If you grew up in the church, the word “disciple” isn’t a foreign word to you. It essentially means “follower of Jesus Christ.” In Acts 11 we see that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. To be a Christian is to be a disciple of Jesus. However, many of the young adults in our churches and in our ministries would say that they consider themselves to be a disciple because, for the most part, they meet the cultural expectations of what it means to be a Christian: they go to church, they read their Bible, and they are decent human beings.
In our culture, unfortunately, we’ve redefined what it is to be called a Christian. We’ve lowered the bar so much!
Luke 14:25-33 has this to say:
Now great crowds were traveling with Him. So He turned and said to them: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, and even his own life — he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000? If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.”
Why would Jesus say all of this if being a disciple involved simply going to church and reading the Bible? Why does He set the bar so high?
Jesus sets the bar so high because He knows what He’s calling us into.
Jesus came to build His kingdom and battle for the hearts of mankind. That is His mission. His method? Us. His disciples. This is why the bar is set so high. He’s looking for builders and battlers, workers and warriors.
A person is not a disciple because they go to church and read their Bible. Jesus wouldn’t say what He says in Luke 14:26-27 if that were the case. To be a disciple is to join Jesus in His mission to build His Kingdom and battle for the hearts of mankind. That’s why the bar is set so high.
Giving our life to a project of this size is costly. We have to set aside our personal dreams, goals, and ambitions. Going to war is risky and sacrificial. We could lose everything! Jesus doesn’t want half-hearted followers. If we quit halfway through the building, what does that accomplish? If we retreat at the first sign of danger, what good is that?
Jesus’ teaching about the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25-33 is not an anomaly. Jesus says stuff like this all over the Gospels. Check out Matthew 7:13-14, Matthew 7:21-23, Matthew 10:16-25, Matthew 10:36-39, Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 8:34-38, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 9:23-25, and Luke 9:57-62 for a few examples.
If we want to be effective in reaching young adults, we need to raise the bar for what it means to be a disciple. It is going to take builders and battlers to reach the next generation.
Austin Wadlow serves as the college pastor at First Baptist Church in Denton, TX. He teaches at a weekly Bible study called Overflow (overflowdenton.org) as well as for other camps and retreats. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow