Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stop It! The Problem With Quick-Fix Discipleship

I saw this MadTV skit on a recent post from Michael Hyatt, and it got me thinking about discipleship. Take six minutes and watch the whole thing (RSS readers: click through to view the video):

Think of all the times you'd like to tell this to someone struggling in their devotion to Christ:

That bitterness you're feeling towards another person? Stop it!
That struggle with pornography? Stop it! 
That depression you've been going through? Stop it!
That dysfunctional family system you're in? Stop it!
That deep-rooted fear and insecurity you're experiencing? STOP IT!

Or perhaps the Nike phrase "just do it!" is the proactive equivalent:

You're not reading your Bible? Just do it!
You're not praying as much as you'd like? Just do it!
You're struggling to find deep relationships in the church? Just do it!
You want to give up your day job and pursue God's call in your life to full-time ministry? Just do it! (Okay, this last one feels apt)

The video is hilarious because, deep down, we know that this isn't how life works. We struggle. We fail. We can't just "stop it" or we would. Paul puts it eloquently in Romans 7:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Of course, there are moments where this simple-yet-profound exhortations are completely appropriate. If there is a sinful habit that is ongoing, yet the offending party lacks a sense of urgency towards repentance, a strong "stop it!" may be the jolt they need. If someone has a Spirit-given dream and passion that will further the kingdom of God, yet are stifled by their own fear and insecurity, a simple "just do it!" could kickstart a Jesus-y movement that changes the world. I've practiced it and I've preached it.

Paul continues to share about his struggle until, at the climactic point of frustration, he blurts this out:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
God is gracious to save us from our own failings and frustrations, to offer us grace and a second chance even when we can't just "stop it." This doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue stopping it, whatever "it" may be. Paul reminds us earlier in Romans that grace does not exist so that we may sin all the more. No, it is poured out lavishly into our hearts so that it may overflow and spill out onto others.

Are your using the "stop it" or "just do it" mentality with the students you disciple? It is so easy to tell students exactly what they need to start or stop doing, to fix their problems with a simple solution, a pat on the back, and a promise that "I'll pray for you." It is far more difficult and time-consuming to enter into a student's life with a humble posture, listening for the Spirit of God to guide and direct for moments to exhort. One must earn the relational equity and be discerning in those moments of exhortation and rebuke.

True discipleship is never a quick fix. Life is far too complex and messy for that. Discipleship requires us to enter into a student's life, lovingly pacing alongside them and leading them in the ways of Jesus as we journey towards His kingdom together. If you're relying on quick-fix solutions and pat answers in your discipleship, I have two words for you: stop it.

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