Everyone follows, give themselves to, and trusts in whatever they believe will give them Life.
It’s a big statement. But, if true, it means that everyone is a disciple of something, including you. It doesn’t matter whether someone is religious, reads the Bible, or has an awareness of their pursuit; everyone pursues Life.
This Sunday at church, notice the person in front of you. Even though you are members of the same church, attend the same service, sing the same worship songs, and listen to the same sermon, chances are you’re not there for the same reason.
In an average church, there are at least five types of disciples. Each one in the same building, at the same time, hoping to find life (fullness, peace, purpose, etc.). It’s not a bad place to look. Jesus identified Himself as Life (John 6:35, 14:6) and said that He’d come so that we could have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). So, who are these five types of disciples?
1. Disciples of Knowledge. To these individuals, information is king. They go to church to be educated. They may know 1 Timothy 4:16, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” For these disciples, each new insight gives a glimpse of life. They believe that more understanding will give them more life. Often they choose a church based on the pastor’s preaching and doctrine. After years of pursuit they bear the fruit of doctrinal pride, legalism, and arrogance.
2. Disciples of Comfort. To these individuals, convenience is king. They go to church because they believe that God will reward their faithfulness with “the desires of their heart” (Psalm 37:4). Though seldom aware of their motivation, they seek to make a deal with God. They hope their faithful pursuit of God will obligate Him to make their life go the way they want. They choose a church that doesn’t require much, so that doing their duty isn’t too taxing. After years of pursuit they bear the fruit of subtle pride when things are going well and anger at God when they aren’t.
3. Disciples of Kindness. To these individuals, love is king. They go to church to connect with others who care and to refuel their tanks before going out into the hostile world. Their mantra is love and they frequently remind others of Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Each week, they are focus on how to practically care others. Their beliefs make it difficult for them to accept Jesus’ harsh treatment of the Pharisees or His teachings on Hell. They choose a church based on whether the church is kind to others and who engage the needs of the poor. After years of pursuit they bear the fruit of limited social change without connecting others to the Savior.
4. Disciples of Emotional Experience. To these individuals, experience is king. They go to church to experience the intense emotions that come through worship music. Romans 12:11 motivates them to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor.” However, they mistake intense feelings for abundant life. Because their “hit” comes at church they seek out services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday evenings, etc. In choosing a church, the quality of the worship experience is paramount. After years of pursuit they bear the fruit of passion for church, but are unable to connect their worship experience to the reality of their everyday life.
5. Disciples of Christ. To these individuals Christ is king. They want to know Christ, even the fellowship of his suffering, to become like Him in death, so that they can find true life (Phil. 3:10-11). They go to church to connect with other Christ followers. They desire to learn, but they also desire to serve. They pursue life by surrendering their life for the benefit of others. They choose a church where they are challenged and given a place to meaningfully minister others. After years of pursuit they bear the fruit of Christ-like character in themselves and new disciple makers in the Kingdom.
This matters because all of us share a common aim—true LIFE. There is nothing wrong with wanting to know more, to experience a smooth life, to love others, or to experience God emotionally. In fact, one cannot be a mature Christ follower without sound doctrine, love for others, and a passion for experiencing God, but Life is only found in following Jesus to the cross (Luke 9:23-24). Just as a small navigational error on a long trip causes big problems, our pursuit of Life must be focused on Jesus.
So, when you look around at church this Sunday, don’t forget someone may be looking at you. Why are you there? What do you pursue to find Life? After reading a post like this, the “right” answer is obvious, but Jesus reminded us to recognize growth by the fruit that’s produced (Matthew 7:16). What fruit is flowing from your life?